Inherit the Bones by Emily Littlejohn
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Gemma Monroe is a police detective in a small town nestled in the mountains of Colorado. Early in her career, while skiing, Gemma found the long-buried bodies of two young boys who disappeared in the mid-1980s. The boys were murdered; their killer never found; and their disappearance and the subsequent crime has haunted the town. Now, in the present day, Gemma is called upon to investigate the gruesome murder of a teenage circus worker who was part of a circus traveling through town. Soon though, Gemma will come to realize that this murder is connected to the disappearance of the boys. She'll uncover a dark past that haunts her town--and discover that someone desperately wants her to leave the past alone.
This was an excellent and well-plotted mystery novel. The story reels you in immediately and never lets you go with its strong, complex narrative. Gemma is a likeable, fairly deep, and interesting lead character. I took to her quickly and found myself wrapped up in her life. Gemma is six months pregnant - something you don't always find in detective novels, and you see her grappling with not only the case, but her personal life. Working in a small town, she finds quickly that she can't really trust anyone, and Littlejohn gives us good insight into her squad dynamics. She also captures small town living fairly well. This is a town wrapped up in its past, unable to move on from a web of secrets and lies that have tormented it for years.
Indeed, the secrets continue to unfold, but in a completely believable manner, which I really appreciated. I guessed a part of the plot early on, but there were still so many pieces to the story that I was very much riveted until the very end. There's a strong supporting cast here as well, without the usual simple stock characters who sometimes support a rural detective. Goodreads is telling me that this is the first in a Gemma Monroe series, which I hope is true. While I think the series could hit a wall--as many others do--with the small town aspect (only so much murder and mayhem can happen in a small town: see Linda Castillo's excellent Kate Burkholder series, where you eventually start to fear for the poor townspeople of Painter's Mill), but I would certainly love to see more of Gemma.
Overall, a well-done mystery. Originally rated at 3.5 stars, but pushing up to 4 as I write this review and realize how much I enjoyed it. Always nice to have a new face in the mystery world.
I received a copy of this novel from the publisher and Netgalley (thank you!) in return for an unbiased review; it is available everywhere as of 11/01/2016.
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