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Burnt Bones - Michael Slade

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Genre: Horror / Author: Michael Slade / Paperback / 416 Pages / Book is published 2000-03 by Penguin Putnam Inc USA

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      26.04.2009 23:56
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      RCMP Corporal Nick Craven once more is put through the mill.....makes a change from poor ol' Zinc!!

      Burnt Bones launches a new era for Michael Slade; formerly a pseudonym for a group of Canadian Lawyers turned writers, with this seventh novel the team has been dispersed leaving just Jay Clarke to continue on his own. Future novels in the series would be written with his daughter but this novel is very much a solo project and slightly suffers because of that- at times feeling a tad over-indulgent though the story is just as gripping as in previous books.

      Corporal Nick Craven has not had the best of times over the last couple of books; after rising to success following the role he played in the Ripper investigation, his mother was brutally murdered, the mystery of his father's suicide was finally revealed, an evil twin brother he never knew he had tried to kill him and several of his colleagues and his girlfriend, Pathologist Gill Macbeth, lost their baby causing her to dump him and move her attentions to pastures anew. Broken hearted and searching for a new start, Craven has retreated to a small island and become the sole Police presence for miles around and it is there that Robert DeClerq, Chief Superintendant of the RCMP Special X division along with his adopted daughter, Katt, tracks him down. Just in time to become embroiled in a new and even more deadly investigation than any they have encountered before......

      Somebody is locating distant family members of the Campbell clan, originally immigrants from their native Scotland several generations back, and torturing them for information about a hidden treasure known only as "the hoarde". When Craven is captured by the psycho responsible in order to force the hand of the authorities into helping him locate this bounty, it becomes a race against time to decipher an ancient secret with Nick's life hanging in the balance. Could Special X have finally met their match in the ultimate battle of wills?

      Although the nemesis this time around is more Moriaty than mentally-imbalanced monster, somehow he doesn't seem to impress when compared to the villans portrayed in Slade's earlier novels. Given the moniker Mephisto, he works more as a Charlie Manson figure getting surrogates to do his evil deeds rather than getting his hands dirty himself. There is also far too much emphasis on historical elements for my liking, which although fast becoming a staple ingredient of these novels, feels rather over-used here in this context. At times during extensive descriptive passages of Stonehenge and it's evolution, I find myself in danger of getting bored and it was only when the plot once more began to progress at it's usual rapid and action-packed pace that I began to enjoy the novel again! I am also becoming a little bit tired of Slade's continuing obsession with Head Hunter cults that seem to connect many of this author's novels- though this is a highly prevalent tradition in many tribes and races across history, you do kinda behin to wonder if it's not time for a change- a look at cannibilism tribes perhaps if just for a bit of variety?

      On the plus side, there are some very interesting facts and examples given of Cults here in the context of the story and the crimes some of their members have committed over the years in the name of their beliefs, such as Waco or the Heaven's Gate massacre, which I found very informative and once more, as with all Slade novels, an appendix at the close of the novel lists source material for all the research that is used so you can see the author has done his homework!! Clever too is the use of a real-life recognised Geographic Profiler for the Royal Canadian Mounted Police in this fictional setting. The way that Slade sticks very close to the reality of modern Canadian policing in all his work gives these novels more of an edge and keeps them one step ahead of the game. It is just one of the reasons why this is one of the best procedural series around and why, even this slightly weaker story than some of the others, is every bit as gripping and intense as his better work. There are parts however that are not for the squeamish so those of a weaker constitution are probably advised to give this a miss.....

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