Monday, August 3, 2009

"Boneyard" by Michelle Gagnon

Ever read a book where there's nothing particularly wrong with it - good pacing, strong characterisation, never boring - but is simply let down by the fact that there is nothing original or surprising to be found within its pages? That's the main problem with "Boneyard" by Michelle Gagnon, which has all the prerequisite elements in place for a good crime thriller, yet fails to do anything remotely interesting or remarkable with them. The plot follows Special Agent Kelly Jones from the FBI being called in to supervise on the discovery of a mass site of bones. Because some of the bones have crossed borders, the FBI gets to be involved. She's up against jurisdictional spats between detectives Bill Doyle and Monica Lauer, a trail that has gone cold, and the fact she's had to give up vacation time to work on this case.

As it turns out, the discovery of the bones is largely thanks to a man by the name of Dwight, who has a grudge against the real killer (whom he calls Captain) and wants him to be caught. He's dispersing the bones so that they'll be found by the authorities, and even trying some murders of his own to pin on Captain. How he actually discovered who the real killer was is never actually explained. And the reason for his grudge is only ever touched upon very lightly and very briefly, and therefore falls short of satisfaction.

"Boneyard", to its credit, zips along quite entertainingly for the most part, but starts piling up massive contrivances as it limps to its unsatisfactory conclusion. Halfway through, Kelly's lover Jake shows up to provide light romantic tension. Then, for some reason, he's allowed to come along on official FBI business - being let into crime scenes, bashing into suspects' homes - the whole deal! WTF? It's utterly ridiculous. Without trying to spoil anything, he's then largely responsible for the capture of the bad guys, while Kelly - the character we've been following for most of the book and supposed to believe is an intelligent, take charge woman - sits around on her ass.

As for the main killer - Captain - was his identity supposed to be a secret? It's perfectly obvious who he is the moment the character is introduced. It doesn't seem like Gagnon even tried to make it a mystery. And his actions at the end don't make a lot of sense. Why did he kidnap that particular person? What was he trying to achieve? Gagnon attempts to give a motive, but it's pretty thin and unconvincing.

If "Boneyard" had made an attempt at something just a little different, a little surprising, the outcome would have been enormously different. But Gagnon seems happy to deliver a crime novel pretty much indistinguishable from the hundreds that have come before it.

1 comment:

  1. I've just finished reading a "world bestseller" that could have some of the same criticisms levelled at it. It's an oldie (1994) titled The Day After Tomorrow by Allan Folsomsome. Sort of Robert Ludlum on crack. How I got through 692 pages I've no idea. On the upside, the stereotypes were hilarious and the sex scenes even more so.