Blood and Bone - V.M. Giambanco
You must need some kind of twisted mind yourself as a writer to be able to get into the head of a serial killer in a crime thriller. There's a considerable amount of planning required to devise a history and perhaps even motivations for such a character, but in the case of Blood and Bone, V.M. Giambanco has to also work it into the world of Seattle Police Detective Alice Madison, and that's a complicated place in its own right.
There's no real need however to have background knowledge of Alice Madison's earlier cases in the two previous books by Giambanco (The Gift of Darkness, The Dark). Even if you haven't read them - and I'm new to this one myself - it's clear that there's an interesting detective creation here. Not only do you get an introduction to see her self-confidence and capabilities in action early on in a minor personal incident outside a bar, but there's even an intriguing glimpse of a troubled childhood here. This is really just a starter to give you a flavour of things before the main course. What is more relevant to Blood and Bone is that Madison has a history with a dangerous killer known as John Cameron, who is still active and wanted by the police as he continues a personal vendetta to kill off members of a drug cartel.
There's a sense of unfinished business here then at the start of Blood and Bone which initially seems distracting and would appear to have little to do with the actual case that becomes the main plot driver of the new novel. Unfinished business however is really what this book is all about. The murder of a man in his home during a robbery appears unnecessarily brutal, and indeed, some objects found nearby suggest that it could be related to a number of old cases that were once believed to have been resolved. There's also a sense of unfinished business about Madison's personal and romantic life, which is not unrelated to the case and more than just colourful character development.
It's linking all this together that is really what sets Blood and Bone apart from most regular police procedurals, and it's impressive how the author manages to do that here. Valentina Giambanco develops a complex case, working with characters who have very different personal motivations, but it's not just a matter of trying to be clever. It's just a recognition that when you are dealing with serial killers that there are a lot of complex factors involved, and that when you are dealing with police procedural, sometimes a lot of luck is involved too that helps draw diverse and seemingly unrelated things together.
The Seattle police get a few breaks when it comes to the procedural in Blood and Bone but there is also a need to have the right people looking in the right places and asking the right questions. This brings about a satisfying/unexpected resolution/twist to the serial killer case in Blood and Bone, but it's just as important in a continuing detective series that there remain reasons why you might want to read the next Alice Madison thriller. What's good about Giambanco's creation is that she's not perfect. She has some dubious underworld connections and sometimes makes the wrong call - in personal and in police affairs - but she's not just the typical maverick cop either. Who needs another of those? It's more the fact that Madison is not the finished article, she's still learning about the way the world of crime and police procedural works and there are plenty of connections and ground laid out here that might provide some interesting future developments, and no doubt some mistakes along the way.
Blood and Bone is published by Quercus on 24th September 2015