Cuts Through Bone
A Clayton Guthrie and Rachel Vasquez Mystery by Alaric Hunt
Review: After an Iraqi veteran is arrested for the murder of his fiancée, the dead woman's friend — who doesn't believe he is guilty — hires private investigator Clayton Guthrie to help prove his innocence, in Cuts Through Bone, the first mystery in this series by Alaric Hunt and the winner of the 2012 PWA Best Private Eye Novel Competition.
The police are convinced Greg Olsen shot and killed Camille Bowman. They admit they cannot prove pre-meditation, but all the forensic evidence points to him being the shooter. Better still, the police think they can tie him to a string of unsolved murders that have plagued the city. But after interviewing the accused, Guthrie tends to think he's being framed. He sets out with his new partner, Rachel Vasquez, to find the only potential witness to the crime, a vagrant, whose testimony — should he ever be found and compelled to give it — is likely to be easily discredited and all but worthless to the defense.
Cuts Through Bone is an odd PI novel. Not odd as in interesting and unusual, but odd as in abstract and strange. The principal characters seem appropriate for the story but at the same time seem rather uncomfortable with their environment, out of place, if you will. The murder mystery storyline clearly has potential, but it doesn't appear to be well thought out, and comes across as being developed in real time as the book was being written with little consideration ahead of time as to what would happen when, or more importantly, what would constitute a credible endgame. And then there's the narrative itself, which lacks depth and dimension. Not only is it written in a very flat manner, but it is excessively wordy. The author tends to use three or four words when one is sufficient. Referring to Guthrie, "he" is replaced at least once on nearly every page with either "the little detective" (175 instances in the book!) or "the old man" or "the little man"; Vasquez is "the young Puerto Rican"; their vehicle is "the old blue Ford", Olsen is "the big man", and so on. The characters are defined simply by whatever adjective is assigned to them. The repetition gets incredibly annoying, so much so that it disrupts what little flow there is to the story. And constantly referring to Guthrie and Vasquez as detectives when they're private investigators just seems wrong. It's likely, of course, that this style of writing is not the result of poor or incomplete editing but is, rather, intentional, to give the author a unique voice in a very crowded genre. That might work if the story were stronger or the characters more compelling, but unfortunately, neither is the case here.
Acknowledgment: Minotaur Books provided an ARC of Cuts Through Bone for this review.
Review Copyright © 2013 — Hidden Staircase Mystery Books — All Rights Reserved
Location(s) referenced in Cuts Through Bone: New York City
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Cuts Through Bone by Alaric Hunt — A Clayton Guthrie and Rachel Vasquez Mystery
Publisher: Minotaur Books
Publication Date: May 2014
List Price: $24.99
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Page Author: Lance Wright
Site Publisher: Mysterious Reviews
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