BONE MUSIC Review: New Christopher Rice Novel Has Plenty to Offer the Horror Crowd
Published by Thomas & Mercer
Book 1 in the Burning Girl Series
If you were able to pop an experimental pill and become endowed with superhuman strength that lasts a few hours, what choices would you make? Would you go rogue and exact revenge on an enemy or two, or would you take the opposite approach and hunt down bad guys in order to help society? That’s the dilemma facing Charlotte Rowe once Dylan Thorpe, the man she believed to be her trusted therapist, gives her such a pill without revealing what it actually is, instead telling her it’s something that will help her anxiety. But first let’s see what landed her in “Doctor” Thorpe’s office in the first place.
Christopher Rice’s new novel Bone Music is the first in a series about “Burning Girl,” the public’s name for Trina Pierce, a young woman who was abducted and raised by a pair of serial killers when she was just a child after they killed her mother. She was groomed over the next several years to help them dispose of the bodies of their victims, hence her nickname. Once she was rescued by the authorities, however, her troubles really began. Her father sold the rights to her story and turned her into fodder for the tabloids. She finally broke free and lived a few semi-idyllic years in Altamira, California, with her grandmother, Luanne. When Luanne passed away, Trina changed her name to Charlotte Rowe and moved just outside the secluded town of Scarlet, Arizona, where she has been residing in anonymity and relative peace. It’s here where things kick off in Bone Music…
Enter the aforementioned Dylan Thorpe, who weaseled his way into her confidence and tricked her into taking Zypraxon, a drug he had been developing that in theory would give its users the ability to overcome fear, gain extraordinary strength, and subdue anyone who was trying to harm them. It alters the users’ body chemistry in a way that causes them to literally feel like their bones are making music as it courses through their system, lasting about three hours.
The problem with Zypraxon is that everyone on whom it has been tested so far has gone “lycan,” meaning that their fears turned inward and caused them rip themselves apart limb by limb. But Dylan was sure it would be different for Charlotte/Trina and decided to test the drug on her without her knowledge or consent. He worked surreptitiously with a stalker from her past who was a disciple of Abigail Banning, the surviving member of the couple who had kidnapped Trina (Daniel, her husband, had graciously hung himself before their trial got under way), helping him break into her home in order to frighten her and kick-start the drug’s effects.
And he was right… so right in fact that once she puts the pieces together and realizes what’s been done to her, she decides to take matters into her own hands and, with the help of some truly trustworthy members from her Altamira past, hunt down a currently active serial killer known as the “Mask Maker,” all while under the watchful eye of the powerful pharmaceutical company Dylan had been working with before they pulled the plug on his research.
To reveal much more of the plot would be a disservice to the book’s readers so I’ll just leave it at that and move on to the technical aspects.
Bone Music isn’t a full-fledged horror story; it’s more like a sci-fi techno thriller with horror elements (i.e., said Mask Maker), but it’s definitely worth a look from the genre crowd. It combines a murder mystery with corporate espionage, a medical procedure known as plastination, and even high-level computer hacking thrown in for good measure. Rice has fashioned a taut, suspenseful, and concise tale with absolutely no fat on its bones. The narrative flows easily from page to page, and there are no extraneous characters to keep track of who have been added just for filler. Each and every person included is there for a reason and fleshed out well enough to make him or her memorable for the reader.
Knowing this is only Part 1 of the Burning Girl thriller series, in the back of my mind I kept thinking, “So far, so good; but are we gonna get a real ending, or is Rice going to leave us hanging?” I needn’t have worried… the climax is not only totally satisfying, but it also sets up the second installment perfectly. I just hope we don’t have to wait too long to find out what comes next!
Here’s an idea… instead of TV and streaming services bringing back old ghosts from our past for their content, how about taking a look at something original and timely like Bone Music? Sure, Christopher has his hands full with the Burning Girl sequels and the upcoming Vampire Chronicles television show he’s working on with his mother, but it would indeed be a missed opportunity if this story isn’t turned into a mini-series at least… it’s fresh, contemporary, and filled with ideas that we haven’t seen before. Hearing someone like Netflix or Amazon has snapped up the rights would be music to both my ears… and my bones!
Definitely worth a look from the horror crowd, Bone Music combines a murder mystery with corporate espionage, a medical procedure known as plastination, and even high-level computer hacking thrown in for good measure.