“They didn’t plan to kill my mother.”
Charlotte Rowe has never led a normal life. Her mother killed in a tragic twist of fate by two serial killers. Taken by the killers and raised as their own until the FBI finally caught up to them. Reunited with a father who was far more interested in profiting off of her than raising her, or healing her. Every time she gets her feet under her, fate seems determined to rip them from beneath her.
Right when it seems she’s actually gotten her life back, she finds herself in the midst of a new nightmare. Tricked into taking a new experimental drugs, she finds herself with surprising new powers. Unsure of what to do or where to go, Charlotte decides she needs to take control of the situation before a ruthless corporation takes control of her. And what better way to regain control, than by exerting a little revenge?
“All she feels is the bone music and the sense that she has become not darkness but a great fire, bringing a sudden, blazing end to it.”
Bone Music is part thriller, part science fiction, and is 100% an exhilarating ride. From the very beginning, where we hear Charlie talking about what it was like being raised by two serial killers, we know that this book is going to go down some very dark roads.
There is a ton of subtle psychology written into Charlie, and throughout the entire book. This shouldn’t be a surprise, any book based on serial killers tends to include some psychological elements. But Rice goes beyond standard or superficial observations and dives into the complexity of the human psyche. There is some deep conversation on PTSD, the nature of violence, the effects of abuse, and addiction to name a few that stood out to me.
Charlie has been through a lot. As a result, she is incredibly complex. Rice doesn’t make her feel superficial, or cliche at any point throughout the book. She is traumatized and struggling to sort through her tapestry of emotions. But she isn’t fragile. And I really liked that about her. She is also not convinced that her time with killers didn’t change her in fundamental ways. She wants to be a better person, but deep down is afraid that she isn’t.
“When we hurt people just to punish them, Luane used to say, we create a darkness that will live on long after our reasons for giving birth to it have faded.”
She hangs on to her grandmothers words, using them as a guiding force. Rather than having Charlie veer too much into the realm of good, Rice makes sure to show that she is conflicted at the core of her being. She relishes the power she is given at times, and is seduced by her ability to punish those who deserve it. What makes her so interesting is that it is because of her early years, and her fear that she would have gone to a much darker path had the FBI not intervened, that keeps the desire for revenge from taking over.
Rather than giving us definitive good versus evil, we get evil versus lesser evil most of the time. Bone Music sits firmly in the realm of moral gray. Even though we can agree serial killers are bad, it’s less clear what to make of Charlie and the forces surrounding her. She wants to be good, that much is clear. However, the road to hell is often paved with good intentions. And that theme is very much woven into this plot.
I also really enjoyed the strength Charlie shows in even who she chooses as her allies. While Luke is obviously a love interest, Charlie doesn’t swoon, or even rely on him to help. She wants his help, but doesn’t need it. She wants to let her defensives down, but she isn’t willing to pander to him, or defer to him. She has a plan, is confident in what needs to happen and isn’t afraid to go it alone. This portrayal of strength in a female protagonist made me very happy!
“I want your help. But I don’t want your agenda. And I want you to listen to what I’m thinking and not tell me what I’m thinking.”
Not to mention how accurately Rice captures the infuriating notion of ‘mansplaining’. I loved reading Luke realize what he was doing and how it was coming across to Charlie. And then actually acknowledge it and work on not doing it! While I want to fist pump in honor of girl power everywhere, the fact is Rice writes characters that are believable because of these types of interactions.
What I loved is that the self aware characters are closer to the side of good than evil, even if their behavior is firmly in the gray. And the characters closer to the side of evil tend towards a blindness of the self, to the point of delusional. It’s a subtle and compelling look at human nature and psychology.
“It’s the truth, as much as she’s capable of telling the truth about the possibility that no longer exists, an opportunity that was stolen from her by a man who’s only just now realizing that his belief in whats best for others can bring him close to committing the kind of violent acts that destroyed his life.”
Rice fully captures the tragedy and trauma that would be present given the circumstances these characters go through. He isn’t afraid to get dark, and he doesn’t back away from difficult themes. The plot is intense, and definitely keeps you on the edge of your seat. I loved the science fiction twists. They give this thriller added dimensions that keep it original and unpredictable all the way to the end. I highly recommend this book and cannot wait until the next in the series comes out!
Huge thank you to Little Bird Publicity, Thomas & Mercer, and Amazon Publishing for sending me an early copy to read and review!