My rating: 5 of 5 stars
TW: Violence, Blood, Explicit Language, Suicidal Ideation
What first drew me to this book was definitely the cover. Its visceral colors on the orange spectrum, and muted details, invoked horror and mystery before I ever had a chance to crack the spine.
After scanning it in with the faithful Goodreads app, I searched Jeffrey Deaver because the name felt familiar. Turns out we are both graduates of good ole Mizzou. So, of course I’m going to give this guy a fair shake. M-I-Z.
I’m still a bit new to the Detective genre as a whole, with my primary exposure coming from Conan Doyle’s original Sherlock Holmes stories. That said, I know that a trope has somewhat evolved around this idea of a ‘Wheels & The Leg Man.’
What our injured protagonist has lost, can only be brought back by the plucky naïve detective thrust into the situation. Only together, can they solve the mystery, and, more importantly, fill the voids of what the other has lost.
Something like that.
Now, let’s be VERY clear. I have no problem with this, but it is a trope I’ve seen in pop culture, even to the extent of gags about it (see Rick & Morty as well as American Dad). Don’t believe me? This one book alone, which has spawned a series of sequels, has been turned into a flub of a movie (1999) and a TV show (2020) that was canceled after 10 episodes.
Okay, let’s move on. You’re here to hear about this book, and let me tell you, it is a good ‘un.
WHO YOU GOTTA KNOW
Crime Scene Investigator extraordinaire, who literally wrote the book on forensics, was the victim of a horrible accident. So, for the past three years, he’s only been doing three things.
1) Moving a single finger
2) Moving his head
3) Figuring out a way to kill himself
So, our buddy Lincoln’s in a bad way, and just as he’s finally found a doctor who’s willing to euthanize him, The Bone Collector appears like a Ratatat in the long grass. Which is where we meet our legs.
Talking about Sachs is hard. She’s a patrolwoman with a troubled past, confidence issues, and a need for speed. At times she’s a bit of a ‘lone female in the room’ trope, especially early on as her role serves to be an avatar for Lincoln. There are a few cringeworthy moments where her character’s only substance is that she’s an attractive woman.
Then there are other times.
You see just how strong and independent she can grow when challenged. She makes the calls no one else is willing to. She stands up for herself and for others. She risks her life and limb on numerous occasions trying to save the innocent victims of The Bone Collector. She’s honestly the hero of this story. Without Sachs, things would have been a lot worse.
In the end, Sachs goes through a metamorphosis, becoming less of an avatar for Rhyme and more a protégé, and a good one at that.
WHAT YOU GOTTA KNOW
Lincoln’s a perfectionist, which is saying something when you work Crime Scene Forensics in New York City. Though, he’s retired and bed-bound now, the NYPD need that perfectionism when it looks like they might have a serial killer on their hands.
A body is found buried next to the subway tracks. Its hand extended through the soil, grasping for the air above with one very noticeable flayed finger.
Yeah. Flayed. Down to the bone. visibly shivers
Because of his condition, the NYPD setup shop in Lincoln’s bedroom. Detectives, CSI, Forenscics, they’re all operating out of his living room. But there’s one person Rhyme wants that isn’t there. The First Officer on the scene, who shut down streets and trains, in order to preserve the crime scene.
Hello Amelia Sachs.
Impressed by her gall to shut down busy NYC streets – while a UN Conference* is going on– he utilizes her instincts to be his eyes, ears, and legs to “walk the grid” of each crime scene. She listens to his point-by-point detailed instructions albeit begrudgingly.
Our pal Lincoln puts Amelia through the ringer. Often asking her to go places and do things that would make most of us uncomfortable and squeamish, but Rhyme doesn’t care. Thankfully, Sachs has a backbone and doesn’t allow herself to be treated poorly just because the man’s paralyzed. She often tells him off and dismisses him when he acts like the stubborn ass he is.
But they grow on one another and learn from each other’s experiences. He teaches her how to work the scene and find details that most investigators would miss. Meanwhile, she helps him to realize that there may still be a life to live for. Thus, fulfilling the prophecy.
Only by working together can they solve the Bone Collector’s coded messages if they are to capture this vicious “Unsub 823” and rescue his victims before it’s too late.
* The UN thing is its own whole subplot to create a sequel that I’m not going to address here. Y’all don’t need that.
FINAL THOUGHTS – *contains spoilers in BOLD
What the Bone Collector presents itself as, and what it actually is, are totally different things. That’s not a negative. The narrative does well to comment on the tragic nature of being paralyzed and the amount of work that goes into taking back your life.
It addresses real topics of feminism and gender discrimination. It gives power to a woman who had all but given up and resigned herself to a life off the beat for a desk job. For Sachs, returning from her own abyss is as equally courageous and epitomizes strength it takes to confront your past and move forward.
The ending, damn, I thought I had it. I looked to my significant other halfway through, and said:
“I know who did it. I’ve got this one in the bag.”
– Author Jackass Humphreys
Down to the final pages, I thought I had it. Sincerely, wholeheartedly thought I predicted all the twists and turns correctly and was about to be vindicated. You can probably guess by now, I was not correct.
I fell for the red herring (that’s your spoiler, there’s a big ole scarlet fishy).
Otherwise, Deaver’s The Bone Collector is an original and fantastic mystery thriller that in a lot of ways, was probably ahead of its time (1997). The way it captures the Zeitgeist’s affinity for crime scene techs and their forensic skills is on par with what we see in the mainstream today.
I will definitely be back form more Lincoln-Amelia investigations in the futue.
Before We Part
Let me leave you with two powerful quotes from this book that MAY BE SPOILER-EY
“He doesn’t mind dying.” He looked at her briefly as if surprised she hadn’t figured this out. “He just doesn’t want to be any more paralyzed than he already is.” He prepared another injection. “He may already’ve had one. A stroke, I mean. That’s what terrifies him.”
“When I was . . . when he was burying me, Rhyme, I couldn’t move. Not an inch. For an instant I was desperate to die. Not to live, just to have it over with. I understood how you feel.”