3.5 stars out of 5
Don't get me wrong. I've never not enjoyed a book in this wonderful, long-running series, and this one is no exception. But from the git-go, things just seemed a bit "off" to me - not the least of which is the interaction between former Los Angeles Police Department detective Peter Decker and his wife, Rina Lazarus. Maybe it was because they're both semi-retired now, living in the lovely upstate New York community of Greenbury, home to the Five Colleges of Upstate consortium. Rina works at the consortium, and Peter for the local police department - lots of fodder for stories, I'd think - but Peter, at least, appeared to be more annoyed than excited when a new, clearly complicated case came along that required his attention.
It all started with Rina, who found some unearthed human bones while walking along a trail in the nearby woods. Instead of hopping on the investigation bandwagon, though, Peter immediately flies off the handle and berates Rina for taking a walk by herself. Now, as I approach 55 years of living with a husband of my own, I do get that we both have become a bit more on edge with each other (a psychologist most likely would have a field day ferreting out the reasons for that, I'm sure). But for gosh sake, Rina is a fully grown, intelligent woman, Greenbury isn't even close to a high-crime area and the bones were buried there long before Peter and Rina arrived. Put another way, Peter's hissy fit just didn't fit the "crime," at least at that point.
Later is another story. As other human remains turn up in the same spot, suspicions turn to the real possibility that a serial killer may be on the loose - with the possibility that he, or she, could strike again. The search for more bodies, and of course whoever put them there, intensifies as Peter and his super-capable (and very likable) partner, Tyler McAdams, start digging. As clues lead to faculty, staff and students at the Five Colleges, Peter asks for Rina's help; please tune in, he says, to what's being spread through the campus grapevine. At one point, the investigation takes the couple back to Los Angeles, where they lived for the bulk of their married life - and a reunion with and help from Peter's former LAPD partner, Marge (making me yearn for the good-old days, I might add).
Throughout, Rina must find time and energy for her role of maintaining the family's strong Jewish heritage - an even tougher job now that Rosh Hashanah, or the Jewish New Year, is upon them. Prepare a buffet for 150 students? No problem. Another one to wrap up the first? Piece of cake (or more likely, apple strudel). Rina does get offers of help - even from Peter, who mostly grouses about the cost and enormity of the undertakings - but generally speaking, she's on her own to pull off the events successfully while still trying to help with the investigation.
The ending, too, was a bit puzzling to me. I reread it more than once, and I'm still not certain who did the dirty deeds (not even whether it was just one person). Yes, a few supposedly involved individuals are in jail and another is in the hospital, but specifically who did what and when continue to elude my comprehension. My only choice is to assume that was done on purpose - a set-up for the next book, perhaps - but all things considered, it just didn't sit well with me.
My verdict? Peter and Rina are like old friends to me, so no matter what this book's shortcomings, I was sad when I got to the final page. That means that even if it's not one of the best of the bunch, I wouldn't have missed it for the world.
The Bone Box by Faye Kellerman (William Morrow, February 2017); 432 pp.