The startling reviews of Tropic of Night announced Michael Gruber as
one of the most talented thriller writers to debut in many years. Now, with the
much-anticipated publication of Valley of Bones, Gruber fulfills that
genre-bending promise as perhaps no writer since Graham Greene, with a genuinely
exhilarating thriller that simultaneously offers a profound, deeply provocative
exploration of the nature of faith itself.
The setting is Miami. Rookie cop Tito Morales arrives at the Trianon Hotel to investigate a routine disturbance call -- and, to his shock and horror, watches as a wealthy oilman plunges ten stories and impales himself on a nearby fence. Soon Morales is joined by detective Jimmy Paz, famous throughout the city for solving -- or at least providing a plausible solution to -- the so-called Voodoo Murders that left Miami burning months earlier.
Together Paz and Morales enter the hotel and discover, in the dead man's room, a most unusual suspect, an otherworldly woman by the name of Emmylou Dideroff. She emerges from a rapturous, prayerlike state and admits that she had a motive for killing the oilman. Ultimately, she says she wants to confess, and asks for a pen and several notebooks in which to convey the details of her confession.
What Emmylou writes is nothing like what Paz expects; he enlists psychologist Lorna Wise in an effort to make sense of things that go beyond Emmylou's explanation of the murder: details of childhood abuse, of other crimes committed, of regular communion with saints -- and with the devil. Is she mentally disturbed or playacting in hopes of getting declared unfit for trial? Or does she really believe herself to be an instrument of God? And why is it that so many people -- including Paz's biological father -- are suddenly interested in the contents of these notebooks and in preventing them from becoming public?
As Valley of Bones moves toward its startling and dramatic finale, Emmylou's "confessions" lead Jimmy Paz, Lorna Wise, and Tito Morales down a series of unexpected and dangerous turns that puts them in the path of perhaps the most terrifying evil imaginable and forces each of them to confront questions about faith, love, and the possibility of the miraculous.
The cop happened to look up at just the right instant or he
would have missed it, not the actual impalement, but the fall itself. It took
him a disorienting second to realize what he was seeing, the swelling black mass
against the white stone and glass of the hotel facade, and then it was finished,
with a sound that he knew he would carry to his grave.
After that, he took a minute or so to sit on the bumper of his car with his head down low, so as not to pollute the crime scene with his own vomit, and then reported the event on his radio. He called it in as a 31, which was the Miami PD code for a homicide, although it could have been an accident or a jumper. But it felt like a homicide, for reasons the cop could not then explain. While he waited for the sirens, he looked up at the row of balconies that made up the face of the Trianon Hotel. The thought briefly crossed his mind that he ought to go and check the guy out to make sure that he was actually dead...
Although Tropic of Night was his first book in his own name, Gruber has ghost-written 14 books for his cousin Robert Tanenbaum (his mother and Tanenbaum's mother are sisters). According to Publishers Weekly, in 1984 Tanenbaum, a successful trial lawyer, called him from his offices in Los Angeles asking him to look at the first hundred pages of a book he had written at the request of a publishing house. Gruber says "I called him, and I said, 'This is unsalvageable. It's not a novel, it has no characters, no plot, nothing.'"
In return for half the advance, Gruber rewrote the novel, they renegotiated the contract and went into...
If you liked Valley of Bones, try these:
Tanenbaum delivers his grittiest, most ethically challenging thriller yet, as New York chief assistant district attorney Butch Karp fights for his family in the wilds of West Virginia's coal mining country.
Detective Harry Bosch is back with the LAPD with the sole mission of closing unsolved cases. The murder of a 16 year old girl in 1988 is his first file. A DNA match makes the case very much alive again, and it turns out to be anything but cold. The ripples from this death have destroyed at least two other lives, and everywhere he probes, Bosch ...
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