Comment: This is Michael Gruber's second book writing under his own name (see sidebar). The first, Tropic of Night (2004), a literary thriller set in Miami starring Cuban-American police officer Jimmy Paz, was one of the most talked of 2004 debuts. In Tropic of Night Jimmy Paz investigated a series of ritualistic murders. There are witnesses, but they can recall almost nothing of the events, as though their memories have been erased -- as if a spell has been cast on each of them. Equally bizarre is the string of clues Paz uncovers: a divination charm, exotic drugs found in the bodies of the victims, a century-old report telling of a secret place in the heart of Africa. In Valley of Bones, Gruber continues to explore the supernatural. Arab oil trader Jabir Akran al-Muwalid, has been thrown off the balcony of his hotel room. Inside his room, Paz finds Emmylou Dideroff kneeling on the floor, having a one-sided conversation with St. Catherine of Siena. Emmylou is put into a mental hospital where she writes her confession. It tells a horrifying tale of her life - insane mother and a molesting stepfather, as well as her time spent as a prostitute, drug dealer, a battle-field medic for the 'Nursing Sisters of the Blood of Christ', and a tribal leader in Africa.
As Kirkus Reviews (giving it a starred review) says, 'no second-novel slump here. Gruber has drawn even with John Sandford and
has power to spare.'
Personally, I find Gruber's adult books to be rather disturbing reads - that's not to say they aren't good but simply that the supernatural elements take me to the limit of my comfort zone. However, I endorse wholeheartedly his children's book, The Witches Boy! As the Washington Post says, 'Valley of Bones is equally fascinating and even more troubling because its subject is the power of Christian faith, as embodied in a woman who may be a saint or may simply be delusional. Either way, the tormented, painfully candid Emmylou Dideroff is one of the great characters in recent popular fiction.'
This review is from the March 2, 2006 issue of BookBrowse Recommends. Click here to go to this issue.
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