While a book first published in 2007 does not seem like a common choice for a book review I challenge you to name one book by Martyn Waites. Stop Googling. If you named one you are likely from England, if not, you are like everyone else who is missing out.
Bone Machine is one-part To Catch a Serial Killer and one-part Public Service. The Historian captures his prey, young attractive women, who he ritualistically rapes and tortures, but not before he sews their eyes and mouth shut. His motives are left unknown for 450-pages, but once the dots are connected it is a rather dark dive into psychosis. His victims of course lead the police, who like most novels are portrayed as bumbling alcoholics and only have sights set on an arrest, not stopping a killer.
Newcastle private investigator Joe Donovan leads a gang of misfits on a case that leads them straight into the heart of the murder investigation. Donovan is the central character to Waites P.I. series, similar to America’s Alex Cross series in many ways.
While I compare him to Patterson because of the overall type of crime portrayed in his story, Waites is clearly unique as a noir writer and seen as anything but a rip off.
While the book takes you on a colorful descriptive journey throughout Newcastle, England I only have one reservation with the book. The story fo the Historian is the main background of the book, but much of Joe Donovan’s crew is searching for and defending a woman sold into the international sex trade who can ID a wanted war criminal. Waites ultimately connects the two cases, only very loosely through a minor character that really could have been anyone. It almost comes together as a curious coincidence of chance rather than a major connection of crime.
What it really amounts to is two very good short stories tied into the same book with the investigative team handling them at the same time. Instead of two independent short stories, Waites unfortunately makes this a book with 100-pages of intense introduction of both crimes and 100-pages of non-stop conclusion with 300-pages in the middle trying to piece together two different story arcs that grow slow and stagnant at times. Had it been a collection of two separate 250-page stories they would have been a much faster read and more enjoyable saga.
As much as the genetic fussing of two stories may have seemed negative it really had little effect on my enjoyment of the story, more so how much the book gripped me. Waites offers fans of James Patterson a deeper and more descriptive read, if you have read Patterson you know exactly what I mean. But you will find in Waites work the same dark and brutal crimes that Patterson frequently explored in his earlier Cross novels.
There are several other books in the Joe Donovan Thriller line and I have already checked two out of the local library. I highly recommend checking out his work, but I will drop one follow-up caveat. Be ready to open your mind to a different culture, as much as England is our neighbor they still have a different culture at times. Be ready to learn some new phrases, accept alternate spellings and be willing to research a bit of government process to fully understand the book, or you can just read over the confusing terminology and accept it for what it is, different. But if cops without guns, misspelled pyjamas and futbol are going to make you gripe then stay in your own secluted world that crime can not happen outside of America in a novel.