A blending of reality and supernatural forces (that may or may not really exist), Michael Gruberís new novel, Valley of Bones, is the story of a murder that affects a group of flawed and uniquely interesting characters. Jimmy Paz is a now slightly famous detective due to his solving of the high profile Voodoo case (chronicled in Gruberís first book, Tropic of Night). He is the first one on the case when an Arabic man is beaten and thrown from a window of a hotel. Inside the hotel, he finds Emmylou Dideroff kneeling and praying and immediately assumes she is the murderer. Though Emmylou denies the killing, she seems to be incredibly delusional and claims to speak to saints and be inhabited by demons. Emmylou is arrested and remanded to a psychiatric facility, where she is seen by Dr. Lorna Wise. Lorna has more problems than your average counselor, with her hypochondriac tendencies and fractured past. She is intrigued by Emmylou and asks to remain on her case after she does her normal evaluation.
Shifting back and forth between the present time and Emmylouís written confessions of her past, Valley of Bones explores a number of topics including Santeria (a form of voodoo), Christianity, a secretive sect of nuns, and the Sudan in the middle of a holy war. It is the story of Emmylou, a girl who grew up in a poor and abusive family that led her into drug abuse, prostitution and eventually the formation of an army of Sudanese slaves. It is also the love story of Jimmy Paz and Lorna Wise, two deeply troubled and incredibly intelligent individuals who are obviously lacking something in their lives.
With richly drawn, unique characters and an innovative plot that never seems to lose steam, Valley of Bones is as thrilling as it is thought-provoking. Other than dropping a plot thread about Lornaís past and making the parts involving the FBI a bit too confusing, Michael Gruberís second book is a winner from start to finish. Jimmy and Lornaís romance is uniquely touching, and Emmylouís confessions are as surprising as they are riveting. Everything is tied together brilliantly by the mystery of the murder that occurs in the beginning of the book. Valley of Bones is highly recommended to those who enjoy thrillers that will make them think for days after they finish the book.