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Blood and Bone by William Lashner
Review by Don Metzler
William Morrow Hardcover  ISBN/ITEM#: 9780061143489
Date: 01 February 2009 List Price $24.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /

Blackmail. Negotiations. An open briefcase lies on the desk between the two men.
"Why don't I just give you everything in the case?"

"I would think that should do it, Bobby," said Laszlo Toth.

Robert stared for a moment before he spun the briefcase around, so that it faced Laszlo with the top still raised. Laszlo's eyes lit as he reached both hands into the case.

Robert pointed the gun directly at the raised lid.

"Don't call me Bobby," he said. And then he fired.

To the police, the murder of Philadelphia lawyer Laszlo Toth at first glance appears to be the unfortunate by-product of a simple burglary gone wrong. But the presence of Kyle Byrne at Toth's funeral attracts the attention of the detectives assigned to the case. Kyle is the illegitimate son of Toth's former law partner, Liam Byrne, who died of a supposed heart attack some fourteen years earlier. Kyle was never close to Laszlo Toth, nor had had any contact with him during the intervening years. So why his interest in the man's funeral? When questioned by one of the detectives, Kyle's answers seem at best enigmatic, and at worst reveal a palpable hostility toward the murdered lawyer. The detectives quickly home in on Kyle Byrne as a possible suspect.

But Kyle has questions of his own. He had been twelve years old at the time of his father's death, and for whatever reason he has never completely accepted the event as having been real. To this day he occasionally catches sight of a face in the crowd, whether amid the throng on a busy sidewalk, or in the bleachers at one of his bar league softball games, a face that he believes to be that of his father. Although these sightings inevitably prove to be false, Kyle cannot shake the feeling that Liam Byrne still watches over his son from a distance.

So while the police detectives search for Laszlo Toth's killer, Kyle begins his own search for clues as to what may have really happened to his father fourteen years earlier, and how it may be connected to Toth's murder.

The character of Kyle Byrne is somewhat an anti-hero. By the time he has grown to his late twenties, he has developed into an irresponsible, beer-swilling lothario who can't hold a steady job. He freely admits that he would prefer to drift through life, rather than chart his own direction. His home has been foreclosed on because he felt no need to send payments to the bank. The only reason he still has a roof over his head is through the generosity of his closest friend since childhood, tax lawyer Katie Shin. But despite his shortcomings, Kyle manages to come across as a lovable lush and a likeable character. Perhaps this is partly because of his ingenuous belief that his father is still out there somewhere, and his wistful if ethereal hope for an eventual reunion. Liam Byrne had been for the most part an absentee figure during Kyle's early years, but the boy has nonetheless never stopped idolizing the man.

Blood and Bone is an engaging and entertaining mystery, but more than that, it is a parable that explores the mechanisms by which our lives are shaped. It can be said that each of us, as individuals, are a product of the composite of our past experiences. And it can also be said that there exist certain keynote events in our lives, and that each of these special events marks a turning point in our existence as human beings, a crossroad that we can look back upon as having been a determining factor in who we are today. Blood and Bone strikes a resounding chord on a visceral level; it asks the reader to examine his or her own life, to look back and acknowledge what our own keynote events may have been.

In telling the story, Lashner employs wonderful language and colorful turns of phrase. One of my favorites: "The officious look slid off his officious little face like a gobbet of ice cream slipping off a cone and splattering on the cement." Great imagery. And the twists and turns of plot will keep the reader turning pages long after he should have shut off the lights and gone to sleep.

Highly recommended.

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