Burning Bones (book review)
Christopher Golden and Nick Hautala
Pocket Pulse Paperback 2001
Jenna Blake is a 19 year old college student with a job I might have envied if I had been any good at the hard sciences in college. She’s the assistant to the town medical examiner. (She’s a pathology assistant, which is apparently called a diener.) In addition to various intern-ish lab tasks like writing and filing reports and helping with paperwork, she assists in autopsies, and works with the police on investigations. All while she’s studying like a disciplined student, and getting good grades. And having relationships, one of which has just ended as we meet her in this book. A well-adjusted college student who has a job, good grades, time to date, and fight crime? This is how you can tell she’s a fictional character.
Essentially, she’s like Nancy Drew in CSI-land. Like Nancy, Jenna has two best friends: her roommate and her roommate’s boyfriend. She’s also up to her elbows in corpses a few afternoons a week. Which makes for a bit of funny daydreaming during her Gross Anatomy lecture, when she’s hearing a lecture about heart abnormalities, and thinking about taking heart tissue samples from the victim in the M.E.’s latest case.
I’m pretty sure this is officially designated a YA book, and is part of a series. It’s my first encounter with the series, but there was a reasonable amount of backstory and character development, to give me a handle on the recurring personae: Dr. “Slick” Slikowski, the M.E.; Danny and Audrey, the cops; Yoshiko and Hunter, Jenna’s friends. The evolution of the mystery took some getting used to. I’m not sure I’m willing to accept how it turned out, even if the characters agreed that the ultimate solution was improbable and freakish. Still, up to the final moments, it was a good blend of action, suspense, and was on the grisly side. Lots of gruesome burned victims showed up on the autopsy table.
I found this floating around on the bookshelf at my parents’ house. Dad gave it to me at some point in college, possibly after I finished a semester of a class about forensic anthropology. I have no idea why I let it go unread for so long. It’s a fast, fun read, a good straightforward mystery. From poking around the NYPL’s online catalog, I gather it’s part of a series. So maybe I was being a purist and holding off until I figured out what the start of the series was. I will keep an eye out for other books in the series. I think these are strictly library books though. Engrossing reads for a few hours, but not things that need permanent spots on my bookshelves.
Tangential New Year’s resolution: I’ve got to go through my shelves and be ruthless, and then take a whole bunch of books to donate or sell. Maybe when the snow melts.
For every book I read in 2011, I’m donating $1 to the New York Public Library.