Dead, WIthout a Stone to Tell It
by Jen J. Danna with Ann Vanderlaan
Review by Mel Jacob
Five Star Hardcover ISBN/ITEM#: 9781432826956
Date: 15 May 2013
When State Police Trooper Leigh Abbot is assigned to find the identity of a single bone, she seeks the help of Dr. Mathew Lowell, an expert forensic anthropologist. He's also an ex-Marine medic with PTSD. Initially he refuses, but she convinces him to take the case. The bone might come from an accident, but turns out to be one of several murders. In their search, they disturb the murderer burying another victim.
Leigh, the daughter of a deceased cop, is the only female detective in the Essex unit. Her male colleagues don't believe she can make it. She is determined to succeed and honor her father's memory.
Dr. Lowell suffered serious injuries in Afghanistan and bears the scars. He was unable to save his fellow Marine and still suffers from horrible nightmares. He works with bones because fleshed bodies trigger too many memories.
To solve the mystery of the single bone, they start from where it was found and consider the possible conditions that might have led to its presence. A recent brush with a hurricane provides a major clue. Dr. Lowell and his student team work out the possible location of a grave in a salt marsh area. It takes most of the day to find the first grave site, and those bones don't match the original bone.
Then, Leigh's one bone turns into the remains of nine people, including the corpse in the process of burial. The female corpse reveals signs of torture and a possible link to the killer because of a symbol carved near her left breast. The killer apparently tortured the female victims while the males had been shot. Two are buried together, and some sites have two pairs of victims.
Other mysteries and thrillers have dealt with torture and abuse of the dead. L.C. Hayden in When Death Intervenes is one such. Butchery seems to be an in thing in modern thrillers. Overall, the story works on both the mystery and the romance level. An exciting climax will leave the reader breathless.