Kirsty Darbyshire's Reviews > A Rumor Of Bones

A Rumor Of Bones by Beverly Connor
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Dec 07, 2010

Read in December, 2001

[these comments are taken from a mailing list discussion and therefore contain spoilers]

[about chapter heading quotes and first impressions]

I'll have to confess that I read the first half of this book yesterdaywithout even noticing the quotes! I probably only read quotes likethese about half the time and rarely find that they add much to abook. I find they take me out of one mode of reading and into anotherand somehow make a book seem less smooth.

I haven't worked out the significance of the title yet. I wasthinking that it may have something to do with the fact that they seemto be trying to keep the discovery of the more recent skeleton inBurial 23 quiet but news is seeping out. Perhaps it will make moresense by the end of the book.

In reference to the links about bones posted over the weekend I didn'tfind anything absurd in what Lindsay was deducing from the bones butmy knowledge of this type of thing is entirely based on TV archaeologyanyway.

I'm confused as to why this could be seen as a Halloween type of book?Lindsay seeing ghosts is the only thing I can think of that connectsto Halloween but I think it's clear that she's just imagining howthings were rather than actually seeing things.

I found the beginning of this book really slow and skimmed the firstcouple of chapters until I felt the narrative had picked up a bit. Bythe halfway point though I'd sorted out the characters a bit more andI could have kept on reading it quite happily.

[about lindsay's imagination and other characters]

To me the things Lindsay dreams up from her deductions are definitelyjust imagination grafted onto facts and not woo-woo at all. I likethis bit of Lindsay a lot though there was one bit where she went onand on til my eyes glazed over.

My problem with Lindsay is that she's not been shown to be bad atanythng but nobody hates her for it. If somebody would just have a goat her and raise the emotions a little then the book would be moreinteresting. Since the book is written in the third person we don'tsee any of Lindsay's own self doubts (presuming she has some) so Ireally think somebody else ought to point her flaws out to us.

The only character I can think of that we've seen a negative side toso far is Ned. Everybody is so fair and friendly and good that theyonly seem to have one dimension which makes them pretty uninterestingpeople.

I think Kay Scarpetta is a much more developed character despite theproblems of the later books in that series, but then I've read muchmore than half a book of Scarpetta. I feel a bit hasty puttingLindsay down when I've only just met her. I haven't read any of KathyReichs' books yet though I've had Deja Dead on Mount TBR for yonks.

[about all the plotlines]

I think that this book has too many story lines going on for any ofthem to be that captivating. (A) There's the story of the littlegirls bones which I think is the most interesting part as it combinesarchaelogical insights with fairly current events. I thought thatthis was the main storyline with the photographer as the major suspectat the half way point. (B) Then there's the woman from Burial 23 withher gold filling and the horse burial too. Did we figure out that thewoman and the horse were related? (I've only read half the book andI've already got a case of CRS.) (C) There's also the dead bodythat's turned up in the river, Seymour I think his name was.

On top of that there's (D) a mystery of why bad things are happeningat the dig camp, which is probably down to Ned, but possibly connectedto any of the other storylines. Then as well as all this there's (E)the native American burials that the dig is all about to start with.That's before we even start on (F) the Mills&Boon/Harlequin stuff.

I'm all for a decent subplot, several decent subplots, or even acouple of equally weighted plots but I'm getting confused with thisbook because it doesn't seem to have any focus. I've no idea which ofA-F I'm supposed to concentrate on.

Both A and B are interesting storylines worthy of a book (though notnecessarily this book). C I presume must be related to one of A or B.D could be related to A, B or C or not related at all. E would beinteresting background if the foreground wasn't so cluttered. F issomething I don't really have a problem with but I'd rather had beenmore realistic, and again it just feels like clutter rather thancharacterisation.

Anyway, with all these letters I feel I'm back trying to solveequations and the more I think about the plot of the first half ofthis book the more confused I'm making myself! I'll go and graph thesquare root of AB against the natural log of D/F and see if the plotmakes any more sense that way....

[was lindsay right to investigate?]

I think this is where the book falls down really. Lindsay's a boneexpert and what she does is interesting and makes for part of a goodstory but she's just a helper in this investigation. She's not reallygot any reason to go off investigating on her own and whatinvestigating she does isn't very interesting. Threats to her safetyare a good, if stereotypical, way to give her a reason to investigatebut they don't work here because she's just too damn perfect and nicea person to take them seriously.

[about the tylers and resolutions]

I was pretty confused by the cast of characters in this book anddidn't really have any concept of the Tylers as a family until thevery end of the book when they had the picnic. I remember Isabel fromsomewhere near the beginning of the book when she was introduced asone of the dead girls' grandmother but the concept of them as thelocal big family didn't come across to me. In particular I don'trecall meeting the magician guy until the very end which seemed like abit of a cheat to me. I suspect he was introduced but that I justdidn't notice it enough to remember him. Since two of the mainplotlines went back to this family I think the book would have beenbetter if there had been more development of the family.

I thought the painting bit was probably the best thing in the book.It used Lindsay's expert knowledge of bones to deduce something fromclues in plain sight. It is quite Sherlockian but I thought it fittedin well here. Sherlock would suddenly, from out of nowhere, have toldus that he'd once written a monograph on the brow ridges of mirrortwins or something like that with a strong odour of deus ex machinaabout it whereas the setup was all there for Lindsay to make accurateobservations. I liked the way she confronted Isabel with the facts ofhow the twin sister died to show that it was unlikely to have been thehusband who killed her.

If I'd been trying to solve the "Burial 23" mystery then the paucityof suspects for a 60 year old murder would probably have made thesolution obvious with bright beacons burning around the only characterold enough to have played a part in it. That Connor could mix up thisinteresting but not particularly taxing mystery (from the reader'spoint of view) is one advantage of the lack of focus on any onestoryline in this book.

[general points]

I didn't really notice the shortcomings of the dialogue until I'd hadthem pointed out to me, I just had a general feeling that nothing rangtrue. I don't demand absolute realism of my mysteries but I like tofeel that I understand why the characters act as they do and I neverquite sussed out what was going on here.

I thought that there weren't enough highs and lows in the plot. Everychapter had some kind of big discovery and rather than making the plotexciting it just made it tedious. I would rather have had the authorconcentrate on the mystery of the young girls more and have hadLindsay do more investigating. I think "Burial 23" was the bestplotline in the book though and I did like its conclusion but itcould've been tied into the little girls deaths much better. I'd liketo have seen more complexity in how Isabel Tyler's past crime came toinfluence her family's lives and gave birth to the criminal intents ofher descendants who murdered the girls. Not that I want everythingall tied up neatly, just that I thought there was a much better storylurking within this book than the one that was told.

I'd rather the whole romance thread had been junked by an editor. Itjust took away from the other plotlines and didn't add anything to it.The characters were all acting like thirteen year olds in search ofnothing more than a snog. The rest of the book was distinctlyunrealistic but this was the bit that really killed it for me. I'drather Lindsay had slept her way through the camp than demurelydeliberated over each man's charms.

CRS has kicked in and I can't remember a chase scene. The bit thatseems very formulaic to me was when Patrick had kidnapped Lindsay andI was wondering which of her two suitors would turn up to rescue her.

The resolution of "Burial 23" was quite decent, the resolution of thelittle girls deaths wasn't much good at all. I might read a bookfurther into the series if someone whose reading tastes I trust tellsme that the writing and the plot have improved but otherwise I'munlikely to bother. I thought the idea of this book was good but itjust didn't deliver for me.


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