The Bone House by Brian Freeman
Read by Joe Barrett
Quick Thoughts: A highly enjoyable, well plotted thriller with some excellent characters. Despite a few issues with Joe Barrett’s vocalizations, the narration was well done.
I like it when series writers break away from their characters and write a stand alone novel. Recent excellent examples are Michael Koryta, breaking away from his Lincoln Perry detective series to write three excellent supernatural thrillers, and Steve Hamilton, author of the Alex McKnight series writing two excellent standalones, Night Work, and Edgar winner The Lock Artist. Now, Brian Freeman has stepped away from his Jonathon Stride novels to bring us The Bone House. I think that I like stand alones, because, as a male, I fear commitment. Now, I like series, and have read a bunch, yet recently I have become less reliant on series to fill my audiobook needs. Sometimes it can be frustrating within a series, because, no matter how many times an author tells you their series novels work as standalones, there is this inherent sense of incompletion because you have become engaged in the life of a character and you know that life will continue. An adventure may be over, by there is still more to come. Standalones are quick and dirty, with the full arcs of the lives of the character told. Their story is told, and now you can move on. There is a sort of freedom in that. Plus, you don’t have to wait a year or two for the author’s next release to discover the next chapter in that character’s life.
Brian Freeman’s standalone The Bone House asks the question, “How much do you really know about the person you love the most?” Mark Bradley, a high school teacher, has been accused of inappropriate contact with a student, and despite the student’s denials, he is perceived guilty by the small town he lives in. Then that same student’s sister is murdered on a Florida beach, and Mark becomes the main suspect. While the central issues of the book concern Mark, it is his wife Hilary and Florida Detective Cab Bolton that are the true driving forces of the novel. Hilary has stuck by her husband believing on she truly knows him, yet once the smallest doubts start to form, she finds it hard to keep them from cascading. Freeman has developed an intricate plot, full of long kept secrets and local tragedies. He does an excellent job at building tension as Cab Bolton investigates the murder, as well as developing an ever-present sense of doubt, keeping the listener truly in suspense of who to trust. Yet, the true dangers of the novel are exasperated not by the doubts of the few, but by the certainties of the many. The Bone House supplies plenty of twists and turns up until its satisfying ending.
Joe Barrett is the narrator for The Bone House as well as Freeman’s Jonathon Stride series. He has this pleasant yet gruff , almost grandfatherly tone that plays well for the narratives and certain characters, but didn’t work as well with younger characters, particularly the female ones. Yet, most of the significant roles are well vocalized, especially those of the cantankerous Sheriff and Cab Bolton. Where Barrett truly excels is in there climatic moments of the novel, building suspense with his crisp reading and deliberate pace. Despite the little flaws in the reading, The Bone House is a well plotted thriller, full of suspense and some intriguing characters. It is definitely worth a listen.