Fiona Cummins’ debut novel has all the ingredients of a captivating thriller and keeps the reader hooked until the final chapters. After Clara Foyle is abducted outside a sweets shop, the community is swept up in the panic and a search commences. Detective Sergeant Etta Fitzroy is used to this panic, but must work quickly to nail down some leads before the trail goes cold and Clara is all but forgotten by the public. As she pokes around the crime scene, DS Fitzroy comes upon the skeletal remains of some animal, something she eventually learns is a rabbit. Affixed to the rabbit’s foot is a message, some code that might refer to a biblical passage, related to bones. There is surely an abductor out there, but no leads to offer anything concrete. Fitzroy is still haunted by another child abduction on her plate, one that has yet to be solved, though the family remains hopeful. When another young boy disappears, this time from his hospital bed, Fitzroy discovers another set of rabbit bones and is certain there is a connection. Who might have done this and for what reason? The only connection between Clara and Jakey Frith is their age…and that they both suffered from a bone anomaly. Poring over the evidence and family histories, DS Fitzroy concludes that the abductor must have an interest in bones. Meanwhile, lurking in the shadows, the Bone Collector has both children held captive, prepping them to add to his macabre personal museum, passed on to him by a curious father. With Clara and Jakey almost ready for their induction into the bone museum, DS Fitzroy has no time to lose. The smallest clue could crack the case wide open, but one false move and two children may soon become medical specimens. A brilliant novel that exemplifies just how ready Fiona Cummins is to break onto the scene. Fans of a ‘bone chilling’ thriller will flock to this and stay up late trying to race to the finish.
I always enjoy discovering new authors who seek to push their way onto the psychological thriller scene, perfecting their craft with a few strong novels. Cummins has done so with this single novel, laying the groundwork for a wonderful series with detailed plots and strong characters. Etta Fitzroy is a decent cop who has been trying to come to terms with a work-home balance and failing miserably. However, home is but a distraction as she is elbow-deep trying to trace the path of a serial killer/abductor who has an odd fascination. This drive pushes Fitzroy to break away from the mould her father—also a copper—left her, in a world where female strength is still in its infancy. The Bone Collector, that curious man in the shadows, has an interesting backstory and drive to continue his work. Able to plant himself into society, he has a history that is as detailed as it is horrific. Trying to continue his work, the Collector seeks to find the most interesting cases and display them, though only the most macabre will ever come to view the specimens on offer. The story is strong and flows easily from chapter to chapter, helping the reader to find their footing in short order. Short teaser chapters with time prints bridge the larger and more exploratory ones, all in an effort to keep the reader engaged until the very end. Cummins does a magnificent job and has left things hanging, if only to keep the reader begging for more. Depending on the depth that Cummins wishes to explore, I can see this series developing into something addictive for readers who enjoy the darkest side of police procedurals.
Kudos, Madam Cummins, for introducing fans to your work and showing that you belong in this genre. Your ability to spin such gruesome tales could catapult you shifting to the top, amongst some of the best in the field.
A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/248185-a-book-for-all-seasons