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Bones (Irene Kelly Series #7)

Bones (Irene Kelly Series #7)

4.7 22
by Jan Burke

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A female reporter makes a personal pact with a serial killer in this award-winning thriller that reinvents the genre...

A Blair Witch Project with a brain. (Los Angeles Times)

Vivid and gripping...a serial killer so sadistic he could give Hannibal Lector lessons. (Los Angeles Times)

Unrelenting suspense. (San Diego Union-Tribune)

Attains the level of


A female reporter makes a personal pact with a serial killer in this award-winning thriller that reinvents the genre...

A Blair Witch Project with a brain. (Los Angeles Times)

Vivid and gripping...a serial killer so sadistic he could give Hannibal Lector lessons. (Los Angeles Times)

Unrelenting suspense. (San Diego Union-Tribune)

Attains the level of Thomas Harris...brilliant. (The Midwest Book Review

A breakthrough novel in the pantheon with Patricia Cornwell. (The Tennessean)

A lethal game of hunter and hunted...chilling and unforgettable. (Library Journal)

Heart-stopping...deviously plotted, cleverly crafted, full of screw-tightening suspense. (Booklist)

Deft, witty, and wise. (James Ellroy)

Intelligent and deftly paced ...a first-rate series. (Washington Post)

I've always counted Burke's Irene Kelly novels [among] my favorites....bat-out-of-hell pacing. (Janet Evanovich)

A page-turner. (Chicago Tribune)

Editorial Reviews

What Became of Julia Sayre?

Every once in a while you read a book that reminds you why you started reading in the first place. You wanted excitement, a setting different from your own world, and interesting new people. And you wanted them written large and you wanted each element to be intense.

Bones is the most exciting novel I've read all year. It's got Sierra Nevada mountains for a setting. And it's got a serial killer who is genuinely interesting in a subhuman manner. The setup is straightforward. Our friend the serial killer wants to make a deal with the fuzz -- he'll show them where a long-sought body is buried if they agree not to seek the death penalty when he turns himself in. But who would make a deal with a serial killer?

Heroine Irene Kelly, who has been following the body search from the beginning, gets entangled in her own story and -- for the later chapters of the book -- goes mano a mano with the killer in the deadly mountains.

The very gifted science fiction writer Poul Anderson once noted that the best writers always use all of their senses in describing a scene. Burke is especially good at this. Given her use of shifting viewpoints, she's able to give you the sights, sounds, smells, and dread of a mountain battle -- both with a dangerous human being and an equally dangerous mountain terrain.

Bones is nonstop from page one. Be kind and buy two copies, one for yourself, of course, and one for your best friend. It's that good.

—Ed Gorman

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
In her seventh outing (after Liar, 1998), journalist Irene Kelly is part of the investigative team on the hunt for serial killer Nicholas Parrish's many victims. Their graves are in California's Sierra Nevada mountains, and Parrish, having entered a plea bargain, is there too, leading the team to the women's corpses in exchange for a life sentence instead of the death penalty. But Parrish has planned a surprise or two. When a grave explodes, most of the team are killed, Irene flees, and the killer escapes. Back home, Irene continues to work at the behest of Gillian Sayre, the daughter of one victim. Her hunt for Parrish is made considerably easier by his growing obsession with her. A cunning psychopath with a calm demeanor, Parrish heavily resembles Hannibal Lecter. Rather than eat his victims, however, he tortures and dismembers them. Burke spends the first third of the novel overbuilding Parrish's reputation, so by the time she actually depicts his depravity the horrors are a bit anticlimatic. Later, the killer's mysterious accomplice, "The Moth," will be too easily identified by readers, especially after Burke unsuccessfully labors to mask his/her gender. And Parrish is only generically, not memorably twisted. Though Irene and other characters are well wrought and realistic, too many red herrings are introduced, all meant to distract the reader from the true evil, which, once fully revealed, just isn't quite evil enough. (Sept.) Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
Los Angeles Times

Ever since her auspicious debut, Jan Burke has raised the emotional ante with each succeeding book....Burke is a witty and resourceful writer.

USA Today

Burke weaves a compelling tale, delivered at a fast-paced clip. The suspense is high and the characters complex. Jan Burke is on the fast track.

The Washington Post

Intelligent and deftly paced thriller-cum-procedural...a first-rate series.

After teenager Gillian Sayre asks crime reporter Irene Kelly to look into the disappearance of her mother, Julia Sayre, Kelly discovers that Julia in all probability has become a victim of sadistic killer Nick Parrish. When the police capture Parrish, he offers to lead them to Julia's body, which he buried in the southern Sierra Nevada Mountains. Kelly bulldozes her way onto the team of police and forensic specialists, including search dog Bingle, which accompanies Parrish. Once the group arrives in the mountains, things go horribly wrong. Winner of this year's Mystery Writers of America Edgar Award for best mystery, Bones is a tough, challenging, yet ultimately rewarding look at how ordinary people can triumph over evil. Although Bones is the seventh book to feature Irene Kelly, readers who are not familiar with other titles in the series can still enjoy it. This mystery has all the necessary ingredients for an outstanding read—a terrific sense of pacing, great characterization, and a suspenseful plot that will keep readers turning the pages. Because the killer is a particularly twisted fiend, a certain measure of graphic violence is part of the plot, but violence is not exploited simply for its own sake. This thriller is highly recommended for older teens who have discovered authors such as Sara Paretsky or Laura Lippman. VOYA CODES: 5Q 3P S A/YA (Hard to imagine it being any better written; Will appeal with pushing; Senior High, defined as grades 10 to 12; Adult and Young Adult). 1999, Simon & Schuster, 378p, $23. Ages 16 to Adult. Reviewer: John Charles

SOURCE: VOYA, December 2000 (Vol. 23, No. 5)

Library Journal
In order to escape the death penalty, a serial killer agrees to show authorities the grave of one of his victims in the Sierra Nevada mountains. Leaving a fretful detective husband behind, inveterate reporter Irene Kelly follows the taunting psychopathic killer, his guards, guides, two forensic anthropologists, a photographer, and one amazing canine into the wilderness. A traumatic reversal, however, turns the already risky journey into a lethal game of the hunter and the hunted. Detailed surroundings, chilling prose, and an unforgettable, "isolated-with-a-killer" plot recommend this for all collections. Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine
In her seventh thriller Jan Burke pits reporter Irene Kelly against a cruel serial killer...What follows is a harrowing adventure—and heartrending discovery—to which Burke adds a breathtaking twist. Run to the nearest bookshop for this one.
Kirkus Reviews
Nicky Parrish is one bad boy. He enjoys doing unspeakable things to women—after they're dead, too. And is he ever sold on himself. He thinks he's the smartest serial killer who ever lived, much smarter than anything the Las Piernas (California) PD can put up against him. And, just to show you how hubris can distort reality, he even thinks he's smarter than series heroine Irene Kelly, ace reporter for the News-Express. He isn't, though for a while he makes Irene's seventh appearance (Liar, 1998, etc.) an authentic walk on the wild side. Why? Because Irene turns out to be Nicky's type, and discovering that a serial killer wants to get it on with you in a highly psychotic way is enough to darken anybody's worldview. Nicky, who in his best (read: worst) moments can be almost as unnerving as Hannibal L., proceeds to set his complex game afoot. He allows himself to get caught, promising to lead the cops (and Irene) to the gory grave somewhere in the Sierra Nevada mountains of his most recent blue-eyed brunette, then springs his trap. As a result, it's Nicky and Irene one on one: a grim, nail-biting, life-and-death struggle that reaches its climax on page 175. Trouble is, there are 203 pages to go, during which little that happens (Irene has emotional problems, gets help; Irene has career problems, gets frustrated) equals what preceded it. Sure, Nicky overreaches and will pay the price for his unabashed wickedness, but it's all so indefensibly long-winded. Taut and suspenseful early on, Bones goes soft around the middle.

Product Details

Pocket Star
Publication date:
Irene Kelly Series , #7
Edition description:
Product dimensions:
4.20(w) x 6.70(h) x 1.50(d)

Read an Excerpt

Chapter Two Four weeks ago, when the Kara Lane story first broke, I had expected another of Gillian's "try to find out" calls. Over the years following Julia's disappearance, I had heard from Gillian whenever certain events were reported in the Express. If a Jane Doe was found, Gillian calmly asked me to try to find out if the unidentified body might be her mother's, never failing to recite the details of her mother's height and coloring and clothing and jewelry. Was the victim a blue-eyed brunette? Was the victim wearing a gold ring with three rubies?

If a man was arrested for killing a woman, she wanted me to interview him, to try to find out if he had killed her mother, too. If a suspected serial killer was arrested in another state, she wanted me to try to find out if he had ever been in Las Piernas.

I quit the paper once, and went to work for a public relations firm. She tracked me down and called me there -- O'Connor, my old mentor at the Express, was a soft touch for a missing persons case, and told her where to find me. When I told her that she should ask O'Connor to follow up on these stories, she quoted him as saying it would be good for me to remember what it was like to have a real job.

I could have refused her, of course, but even at an observer's distance, I had allowed myself to become too close to the Sayres' misery over those years.

I seldom saw Giles, and never away from his office; he apparently worked long hours to distract himself from his grief. His mother moved in with the family to help care for the children. Two months after Julia disappeared, Giles told me that he didn't know whether or not to hold a memorial service for her. "I don't even know what's involved in having her declared dead," he said. "My mother says I should wait, that people will think I was happy to be rid of her. Do you think anyone will think that?"

I told him that he should do what he needed to do for his family, and to hell with everybody else. It was advice he seemed unlikely to take -- the opinions of others seemed to matter a great deal to him.

Jason got into trouble at home and in school on a regular basis. His grandmother confided to me that his grades had dropped, he had quit playing sports, and had become a loner, having little to do with his old friends.

Only Gillian seemed to continue on with her life. She gave her grandmother as much grief as she had given Julia. She dropped out of high school, moved out and got a small apartment on her own, supported herself by working at a boutique on Allen Street -- Artsy-Fartsy Street, my friend Stuart Angert calls it. And spent four years quietly and persistently reminding the police and the press that someone ought to be looking for her missing mother, her determined stoicism shaming us into doing what little we could.

On the day the Kara Lane case first made headlines, Gillian waited for me outside the Wrigley Building, home of the Express. She seemed to me then as she had seemed from the first day I met her: no matter how likely it was that she would meet with disappointment, Gillian simply refused to acknowledge defeat. This affected me more than tears or hysterics. Nothing in her manner changed; she was often brusque, but she was never weak. Her clothing, hair, and makeup styles might be a little extreme, but her feelings -- whatever they were -- were not on display.

So I made calls, I followed up. There was never any progress. Until Kara Lane disappeared.

By then, I wasn't allowed to cover crime stories -- a result of my marriage to Frank Harriman, a homicide detective. But my marriage is more than worth the hassles it causes me at the Express and Frank at the LPPD.

As it happened, Frank was part of the team that investigated the Lane case. I learned details about it that I couldn't tell the paper's crime reporter, let alone Gillian. But before long, almost all of those details became public knowledge.

Kara Lane was forty-three, dark-haired, blue-eyed, a divorced mother of two teenage daughters. She had gone to the grocery store at eight o'clock one evening, and when she had not returned by eleven, her daughters became concerned. Too young to drive, they called a neighbor. By midnight, after a search of local store parking lots, the neighbor called Kara's ex-husband. After another search of the stores, the ex-husband called the police. The search for Kara Lane began in earnest early the next morning.

Several factors caused the police to search for her more quickly than they had Julia Sayre: Kara was a diabetic who needed daily insulin injections -- and she had not taken her medication with her; she had never before left her daughters alone at night; and during the morning briefing, Detective Frank Harriman noticed that in height, age, build, and hair color Kara Lane resembled Julia Sayre -- a woman whose daughter pestered his reporter wife every now and then. He suggested to his partner, Pete Baird, that they take a look at the Las Piernas Airport parking lot.

Kara Lane's aging VW van was parked in exactly the same space where Julia Sayre's Mercedes had been left four years earlier. Not long after they called in their discovery, the van was carefully searched. Kara's left ring finger was found in the glove compartment.

At this point, the department called Dr. David Niles, a forensic anthropologist who owned two dogs trained for both search and rescue and cadaver work, and asked him to bring them to the airport. The results were remarkable -- so remarkable that when Frank and Pete told me about it that evening, I was fairly sure they were exaggerating.

"One of his dogs -- Bingle -- is so smart," Pete said. "He can find anything. I mean, he makes these mutts of yours look retarded, Irene."

"Wait just a minute -- " I said, looking over at Deke, mostly black Lab, and Dunk, mostly shepherd, who were sleeping nearby.

"Our dogs are smart," Frank said, trying to head off an argument, "but Bingle is -- well, you'd have to see him to believe it. And he's highly trained -- "

"And don't forget Bool," Pete said. "His bloodhound. He works with two dogs. If one acts like he's found something, he gets the other to confirm it."

"Bingle has even located bodies underwater," Frank said.

"How is that possible?" I asked. "You put him in a little scuba outfit?"

"Very funny," Pete said.

"The dog can do it," Frank said. "It's not as miraculous as it sounds. The bacteria in a decomposing body cause it to give off gases. The scent rises through the water, and the dogs smell it when it reaches the surface. They can take Bingle out in a boat and cross the surface of a lake, and he'll indicate when he smells a body below."

"All right," I said, "that makes sense. But -- "

"Let us tell you what happened," Pete said.

The gist of the tale was that Bingle led a group of men at a fast clip over a weaving trail out of the parking structure and across the grounds of the airport. Then he headed toward an airplane hangar.

"He went bananas," Pete said, moving his hands in rapid dog-paddle fashion.

"He was pawing furiously at one of the back walls," Frank explained.

It took the police some time to get a warrant, and to locate the owner of the building, but they gained access. At first, nothing seemed amiss. The hangar was leased by Nicholas Parrish, a quiet man, the owner said; a man who paid his rent on time, never caused any problems. An airplane mechanic. The police ran Parrish's name through their computers -- he had no outstanding warrants. In fact, he had no criminal record at all.

David Niles brought out Bool and let the bloodhound sniff an article of Kara Lane's clothing. Bool, who needed this "pre-scenting" in order to track, traced a path almost identical to the one Bingle had followed.

Frank suggested getting a crime scene unit to check the hangar with luminol, a chemical capable of detecting minute traces of blood, but the skeptics in the group were starting to grumble, especially Reed Collins and Vince Adams, the detectives in charge of the Lane case.

"Collins is starting to make remarks about wasting precious time and his partner is making noise about wild goose chases," Pete said, "when all of a sudden, Bingle lifts his head and sings." Pete crooned a single high note that brought both of our dogs to their feet, heads cocked. "David gives another command and the dog takes off again."

This time the dog headed across the Tarmac, to a field beyond the nearest runway. When he stopped, he pranced and bounced around, pawing furiously at the earth, crooning again -- actions which Pete, getting into his story, performed for us. Quite a workout.

David moved ahead, to the place where Bingle had alerted, and called back, "I think he's found her."

The others soon caught up. They saw the shallow grave, the freshly turned earth, and a woman's shoe protruding from something shiny and green -- plastic sheeting. Frank got on the radio, telling the officers in the hangar that they should secure the area, call out a crime scene unit, and put out an APB for Nicholas Parrish.

"The whole time he's on the radio, I'm moving a little closer," Pete said, "and I see what the dog was digging at, what he uncovered. It's her hand -- you know, the left one, the one that's missing the finger."

I looked at Frank. "Gillian Sayre will -- "

"You can't tell her yet," he said firmly. "Nobody. Not any of this. Not yet."

But by the next morning the Kara Lane case had made the front page, and Gillian was standing outside the newspaper, looking a little more anxious than usual. When I was within a few feet of her, she held up a creased copy of the Express and pointed to Parrish's photo. "He's the one who took my mother."

"It looks as if the cases have a lot in common," I agreed.

"No. I mean, I know he's the one. He used to live on our street -- a long time ago."

"What? How long ago?"

"Before my mom disappeared."

"Have you told the police?"

She shook her head. I wasn't surprised. Whatever faith she might have once had in the police had been damaged when the LPPD delayed searching for her mother, and was utterly destroyed when they had failed to find her. Gillian and I shared a dislike of Bob Thompson, the Las Piernas Police Department homicide detective who handled her mother's case. Once or twice she had talked to other homicide detectives when a Jane Doe was found, but usually she relied on me to make contact with the police on her behalf.

"I thought maybe you could tell your husband," she said now.

"Yes, sure," I said, still reeling. "Parrish lived there alone?"

"No. I think his sister owned the house."

"You ever see anything strange going on there?"

"No, not really. They were quiet. She moved away -- don't remember exactly when. I don't know where she lives now. She wasn't friendly."

"Was he?"

She shrugged. "He kind of kept to himself. I guess he was nice to everybody -- you know, smiled and waved. But he used to stare at my mom."

Now, as I held fast to the armrests of my seat while the plane jolted in the choppy air above the southern Sierra Nevadas, I watched the killer awaken not far from me. It was not difficult for me to imagine Nicholas Parrish stalking his prey, staring at Julia Sayre as she left the house to run errands, or as she worked in her garden, or came home from the store. Staring at her, while she imagined herself safe from harm.

Staring at her, much in the same way he was staring at me now.

Copyright © 1999 by Jan Burke

Meet the Author

Jan Burke is the author of a dozen novels and a collection of short stories. She is the founder of the Crime Lab Project and is a member of the board of the California Forensic Science Institute. She lives in Southern California with her husband and two dogs. Learn more about her at JanBurke.com.

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Bones (Irene Kelly Series #7) 4.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 22 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I needed something to read on a train ride from New York to Philadelphia. And, did I pick a winner!! Jan Burke is probably the best suspense writer I have read in a long time. The comment on the front said it was a real page turner and this certainly turned out to be true. Her knowledge of forensics, the scene of the crimes and even dogs is astounding. Her dialogue is nothing short of remarkable. Her 'good' characters are very likeable and the villain is someone you love to hate. This book has it all--suspense, nail-biting scariness, humor, and a really good story. I hated to put the book down--it was the type of book that you hate to end. The day I finished it I went out and bought her new book, 'Flight.' I have just started reading this and it looks like another winner. If you like Patterson, Koontz, Cornwall et al, you will love Jan Burke. She leaves them in the dust when it comes to writing.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I love this book and have read it several times. It never fails to get me. The villian is perfectly evil. If you have time to rrad just one of Jan Burke's novels this is the one.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Should be made into a movie. Start reading this book when you have plenty time. It is a page turner and well written. I'm glad I found this author. Bravo, Jan!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Bones is a must read. I had a very hard time to put the book down. Of all the Ierean books this one is my fav. All of the books are good.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
One of the best books I've ever read.
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California-girlSY More than 1 year ago
If you have never read an Irene Kelly book, your in for one hell of a scary ride! Keep the lights on!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Gina Cocchiara More than 1 year ago
Irene kelly strikes again. This is a page turning, hold your breath pulse pounding read. The character development and intimacy of the dogs is an absolute tear jerker. I had my fingers crossed the whole way for eveyones safety! Read this for sure even if you do not follow the series
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RichardCA More than 1 year ago
Difficult reading in the beginning because of the complexity, but well worth the effort. Superbly written and masterfully laid out. Richard CA
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is my first Irene Kelly novel and it's not my last! I'm hooked. To me, the beginning wasn't a slow start. Because I already knew that something was going to go wrong it was almost more sinister. Like a false sense of security. When the bomb went off, I was as shocked as I was when I watched 'The Descent.' Jan Burke has created a character that is believable, relatable, and couragous, and all that without being having to be superhuman to win the day.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I have read all of Jan Burke's books, and this is the most suspenseful, interesting, emotionally moving one so far. I am such a big fan of her books! Love this reporter, her man, and crazy neighbor.
Guest More than 1 year ago
this was an excellent book. And the good thing about it is it always had you guessing. and I have to admit it was kinda bone chilling.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This was tha 1st book I have read by Jan Burke, and it was awesome. It wasn't slow and it didnt take long to get into. It had me hooked by the 1st chaper and i read it non-stop till tha end
Guest More than 1 year ago
The best suspense book I have resd in years. Can't wait for the move. Vivid characters and heart pumping excitment.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I admit that when I began reading this book I found it to be kinda slow and boring, but I'm glad I read on. After getting further into this book I couldn't put it down, it's awesome. There were moments when I read this book that I found myself saying 'Oh my God' out loud...my co-workers thought I was nuts when I did that. I thought this was a great book and highly recommend it to anyone who likes thrillers.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is the best of her books to date. She keeps getting better and better. Can't wait to read the next book.