“Book Review: Lies In Bone”
Reviewed by Frank Pizzoli
This small-town mystery with family ties is an engaging and at-times humorous literary thriller
The characters in Natalie Symons’ Lies in Bone weave through a fog of memories to discover a town mystery from years ago. While the twists and wiggles of the plot are here to keep us entertained, the goal of the novel might just be reflected in a line from an early section of the book: “Not that the truth is a bright shiny thing. At any rate, it might finally set us, all of us, free.”
Lies in Bone opens during Halloween season in 1963 with an ominous turn of events for brothers Chuck Coolidge, costumed as Spiderman, and his younger brother Danny as Huckleberry Hound. The night is overtaken with a toxic smog, causing citizens to go missing or to lose their lives. Unfortunately, this includes Danny.
Fast forward to 1986 when Chuck’s teenage daughter Frank is plotting to leave this town she cannot love. We all have secrets, but Frank is the one who is not talking about the problem anymore unless it’s to find a solution. It’s this kind of determination from Frank that fuels the narrative, along with uncovering the mystery of what really happened to her uncle Danny all those years ago, especially when another body turns up. Frank is an old soul speaking wisdom beyond her tender years.
Dark as the story can be on some pages, humorous moments pierce the pall. Once considered “a local playwright hero” by Broadway World – Tampa/St. Petersburg, Symons displays her adept playwriting skills with earthy dialogue that flows effortlessly. Her characters are three-dimensional people from whose lips pass recognizable colloquial expressions and points of view. Even with its mystery-thriller elements, the story has a down-home flavor. Her scenes are clear and believable offering strong images of the Monongahela River, steam-cleaned carpets, and more. The overall tone of the story reflects a combination of PA’s Anthracite Coal Region and Pittsburgh steel country.
Symons weaves the mundane challenges of everyday family life with an ongoing search to unearth family secrets. Frank’s often solemn take on life is tempered by the approach. In all, Symons adequately covers themes of trauma, loss, and redemption. I’m reminded of the way Joan Didion writes about similar themes around the unexpected loss of her husband and their only daughter in The Year of Magical Thinking, but in this one, we have an intriguing mystery thriller on our hands.
Lies in Bone is a fine addition to the literary mystery genre. This debut novel allows the characters—and readers—to feel a genuine sense of closure after twisting their way through a curious mystery plot.
Publisher: Boyle & Dalton
Genre: Mystery / Murder
Print Length: 400 pages
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