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A Thousand Bones
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A Thousand Bones

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by P. J. Parrish

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A woman cop.

A haunting memory....

The only female detective in the Miami PD's Homicide division, Joe Frye has memories that haunt her, and a past that not even her lover, detective Louis Kincaid, truly knows. It began when Joe was an ambitious rookie cop in a small Michigan town called Echo Bay....

The bones found in the woods were the


A woman cop.

A haunting memory....

The only female detective in the Miami PD's Homicide division, Joe Frye has memories that haunt her, and a past that not even her lover, detective Louis Kincaid, truly knows. It began when Joe was an ambitious rookie cop in a small Michigan town called Echo Bay....

The bones found in the woods were the first clue in a string of unimaginably brutal murders of young women. Plunged into a heated investigation — and caught between the dictates of a reluctant local sheriff and the state police — Joe soon uncovers the chilling truth: In the dead of winter in the Michigan woods, she must face down a predator who has chosen her as a worthy opponent — or become his next victim.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"High-class suspense.... Stunningly crafted page after page, on the way to a thrilling climax." — Linda Fairstein
Publishers Weekly

Parrish uses his last, stunning Louis Kincaid novel (2006's An Unquiet Grave) as a jumping-off point for Kincaid's lover Joe Frye, the lone female homicide detective in the Miami-Dade Police Department. Told in flashback, Frye recounts her investigation of serial murders 13 years earlier, in 1975. Frye's uneventful rookie year in the Leelanau County, Mich., sheriff's department undergoes a drastic change with the discovery of human bones in the woods of Echo Bay. Soon, the discovery of more bones and a multitude of artifacts point police to the conclusion that the remains belong to more than one victim. Mysterious Native American glyphs carved into a tree nearby provide the lead Frye needs-if only she could decipher where they're taking her. Even after the clues fall carefully into place, revealing the killer's identity and pushing Frye into his sights, the book continues to sizzle with taut suspense and the promise of a tumultuous conclusion. Keen attention to detail and thorough character development get equal billing with scintillating thrills, giving Parrish another top-notch whodunit that just may leave fans thinking, "Louis who?" (July)

Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information

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Pocket Books
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4.19(w) x 6.75(h) x 1.00(d)

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Echo Bay, Michigan

October 1975

The sharp buzzing noise filled her ears, coming from everywhere and nowhere at the same time. It took her a moment to realize it was coming from somewhere outside her brain.

She looked up into the green lace of the leaves. She knew that was where they were, up there in the trees. That's where the cicadas were hiding as they sang their dying summer song.

A bead of sweat fell from her brow and into her eye. She blinked and looked down to the yellow crime-scene tape hanging limp between the trees. Down to where the men worked over the dirt. Down to where the clean white bone had been found.


She turned toward the deep voice.

"You want to come take a look?"

Cliff Leach was standing at the bottom of the gully inside the yellow tape. The three other officers had all glanced up when he spoke, looked first at him, then up to her. She wished the sheriff had not singled her out, but her curiosity was stronger than any worries she had about how the others felt about her.

Joe slipped under the tape and came down the hill. The three other deputies didn't give way, and she had to stand behind them to see.

Not that there was really much to look at. Set in a shallow hole with a light covering of pine needles, the bone looked more like a shard of a broken white plate. Joe felt a small stab of disappointment.

When the call had come in that two boys walking in the woods had found the bone, a current had crackled through the station. She had been in the women's bathroom changing into uniform, and through the thin walls she could hear the others talking about it, their deep voices rising in pitch as they speculated about how a human bone had found its way into a remote scrap of woods up by Bass Lake. Things like that didn't happen in places like Echo Bay. Echo Bay was just a mosquito bite on the tip of the little finger of the Michigan mitten. That's how folks in Echo Bay pinpointed their place in the world. They'd hold up their right hand, palm forward and point to the tip of the little finger. "That's where I come from," they'd say, "Echo Bay."

The cicadas had stopped. No sound, not even the rustle of a leaf in the still October air.

"That don't look like no human bone," one of the men said.

"Deer maybe," another said.

"We came all the way out here for a fucking deer carcass?"

Joe glanced at the last man who had spoken. Unlike the rest of them, Julian Mack didn't wear the dark brown uniforms of the Leelanau County sheriff's department. He wore gray Sansabelts, and a thin black tie hung like a dead snake down his sweat-soaked white shirt. Joe knew he was just a deputy like the rest of them, but he was the closest thing the seven-man department had to an investigator, and he affected the casual dress of one.

Mack's brown eyes met hers. For an instant, she could see resentment in them. She had seen it before, whenever Cliff Leach made it a point to include her in conversation or ask her opinion on how something should be handled. Part of that came from her status as a rookie. Most of it was because she was a woman.

She looked back down at the bone, inching closer so she could see better.

Leach squatted down and inserted a stick into one of the bone's cavities, pulling the bone clear of the needles. They all fell silent.

Joe took a deep breath. "Sir?"

He looked up at her.

"I think it's a pelvic bone," she said.

She could feel the damp press of the polyester uniform on her back and thighs. She could feel all their eyes on her.

"And I think it's from a female," she said.

A snort and a chuckle, but she wasn't sure which of them it had come from. She kept her eyes on the sheriff.

"Why female?" Leach asked.

When she hesitated, he motioned her forward with a small nod. She squatted next to him and picked up a stick.

"See this?" She pointed to the base of the butterfly-shaped bone. "This is the pubic arch. In a man, it is real narrow. But a woman's arch is wide, like this one. It's part of the birth canal."

"How do you know that?" he asked.

She shrugged, her eyes willing him not to press it.

Leach tossed his stick aside and let out a sigh. "Great," he said softly, his eyes wandering over the pine needles and dirt before he looked up to Mack. "This looks like it was dug up. Did the kids do it?"

Mack looked at the other rookie officer standing next to him. "Holt," he said, "you were here first. Who dug it up?"

Holt licked his lips. "I don't know, sir. I just know the two kids and the dog were standing here when I showed up."

Leach grunted to a standing position. He was a burly man, with a halo of sparse white hair surrounding a florid face punctuated by a thick white mustache. Joe suspected he probably got whatever Santa Claus gigs there were in Echo Bay. He had that kind of gentle aura -- until you got a good look at the keen gray-green eyes behind the wire-rimmed glasses. She had seen him angry only once, and those eyes had turned as dark as a storm- tossed Lake Michigan.

Holt was getting that look from the sheriff now, and the rookie gave an embarrassed shrug. "I'll go talk to the kids," he said.

"No," Leach said. "You and Mack start looking for more bones." He wiped his sweating face, leaving a smear of dirt near his nose. "Frye can deal with the kids."

Joe stood up, her eyes locked on Leach. What was this? One minute, he was bringing her in, and now he was banishing her to babysitting chores? She tried to catch Leach's eye, but he had turned away.

She took off her hat, wiped her wet hair off her forehead, and put the hat back on. The two boys were still waiting at the top of the ravine. She trudged up to them.

"Okay," she said, "which one of you found the bone?"

They just looked up at her. Even the damn black Lab was staring at her. The cicadas were going at it again, their buzz and the awful heat bringing on a headache.

The kids were still staring. She was twenty-two, unmarried. What did she know about kids? "What are you looking at?" she blurted out.

The older boy looked at his friend, then back at Joe. "You really a policeman?"

"Yeah, I'm really a policeman."

"I ain't never seen a lady policeman before."

"Well, now you have."

Joe realized the kid was staring at her breasts. His eyes flicked to the gun at her hip and back to her chest. She couldn't help it. She laughed. The kid's face went crimson beneath his freckles.

"Okay, okay," she said. She pulled a small pad and pencil from her pocket. "Let's get to work here. You two are witnesses, and I need your statements."

The boy's eyes widened. "Witnesses? Wow."

Joe held back her smile. "Names?"

"I'm R. C. Mellon. That's R.C., like the cola," the boy said.

"And Mellon, like muskmelon brain," the other boy chimed in.

"Shut up, Frankie!"

"Make me."

"All right," Joe broke in. "Spell your names for me, and give me your addresses and phone numbers." Joe wrote it all down. "And who found the bone?"

"Farfel did," R.C. said, patting the Lab's big head. "We were playing, and Farfel ran off. I whistled for him, but he didn't come. We finally saw him over that way." He pointed north to a stand of tall pines. "But when we went after him, he ran off."

"Did he have the bone?"

"Yeah. We chased him, and when we caught up with him, he was down there burying it."

The boy pointed to where Holt was stringing up more yellow crime tape. Joe surveyed the trees. She knew a little bit about this part of the woods, knew it covered a couple of miles, running all the way west to the shore of Lake Michigan. If the dog had found the bone somewhere other than where it lay now, the search for the rest of the bones or for a crime scene would be near impossible.

She closed the notepad. "You guys have been a big help. Wait here, okay?"

Sheriff Leach was standing back at his cruiser, talking on the radio, the coiled cord stretched through the open window. It sounded as if he were making arrangements for the coroner. The coroner would come from Traverse City, if he was in town. And any crime-scene guys would probably travel from Cadillac or even Lansing.

She tapped Leach's shoulder. He held up a finger as he gave directions to their location. She tapped him again. Leach finally told them to stand by for a moment and looked at her. "What is it, Joe?"

"Where we found the bone is not a burial site."

"What do you mean?"

"The kids say the dog picked it up somewhere else."

"We know where?" he asked.

Joe shook her head. Leach let out a sigh and rekeyed the microphone. "Yeah, Augie," he said. "We're going to need more than just the usual team. Give Michigan State a call, and see if they have any criminology students who want to participate in a search for some remains."

Leach signed off and leaned an elbow on the cruiser. He pulled a handkerchief from his pocket and wiped his face.

Joe glanced back at the kids. "I'll see if the kids can show me where the dog found the bone."

The boys were sitting on a log, the Lab sprawled at their feet. When she asked them to show her where they were playing, the boys started off down the incline, the dog following. Joe trailed, kicking softly at the pine needles, her eyes scanning the ground. The kids led her into thicker trees and the shadows deepened as the leaves grew denser, blocking the sun.

"This is it. This is the tree we were climbing on," R.C. said suddenly.

Joe glanced up. It was a majestic old beech tree, set down in a clearing of smaller trees. The canopy was so dense it almost felt like nightfall. Joe looked at the boys. "You're sure this is the tree?"

R.C. nodded and pointed. "Yup. I remember 'cause of those two weird branches that look like arms."

The dog was whining and pawing at the leaves. Joe pulled him away by the collar. "R.C., hold him back," she said, handing the dog off.

She knelt and brushed away the remaining leaves and needles. The ground seemed untouched underneath. She grabbed a stick and tried to work away some of the dirt. But she quickly realized that if there was a shallow grave here, a stick wasn't going to get her to it. She stuck the stick in the dirt to mark the spot and looked back at the kids.

Their faces were lined with dirty sweat. "I'm tired. Can we go now?" Frankie asked.

"I'm sorry, you guys are probably hungry," she said. "How about I buy you a hamburger on the way home?"

Suddenly, the dog started growling, and Joe turned. He had something in his teeth. As she grabbed for his collar, he dropped what he had at her feet. It was another bone.

Long, thin, whitish-brown, and perfectly clean. Maybe an arm or leg bone. Joe cupped her hands around her mouth and hollered, "Sheriff Leach! Over here!"

She heard footsteps and the snapping of brush, and she glanced back to make sure the kids were still with her. R.C. was holding a third, smaller bone between his fingers, looking at her.

"R.C., drop that, please," she said.

"It's not yucky."

"I know, but please put it down."

The boy dropped it just as Leach, Mack, and Holt reached them. Leach immediately saw the large bone and motioned to Holt.

"Holt, take the kids back to the cruiser and drive them home."

"I promised them a burger," Joe called as Holt herded the kids and the dog back toward the road.

When they were gone, Leach knelt by the two bones. Mack remained standing, his little eyes scooting over the leaves, past the bones, and finally back to Joe.

Leach pulled himself up. "I'm guessing this is an arm bone and maybe a rib."

Joe was scanning the ground around the tree. Something odd and clumped caught her eye. She squatted down for it, then remembered she shouldn't touch it. She carefully cleared away the dead leaves.

"Sheriff," she said.

Both Mack and Leach came up behind her, bending to look over her shoulder.

"What is that?" Leach asked.

"I don't know," Joe said. "Maybe a piece of jewelry?"

Mack picked up a stick and poked at the caked dirt, trying to break it loose from the object. A glint of tarnished silver appeared, and what looked like a tiny cross. He let out a grunt and tossed the stick aside.

Then he turned and walked away. Joe watched him until he disappeared into the trees, then she picked up the stick Mack had left.

Leach touched her shoulder. "Don't touch it," he said. "Let the tech get it."

She stuck the stick in the ground near the piece of silver, then dusted her hands on her trousers. Leach was staring out at the forest.

"What are you thinking, sir?" she asked.

"That this is going to be a helluva investigation," he said.

She knew their small department couldn't handle a homicide and that Leach would ask the state for help. But she hoped he would let her be marginally involved.

"Sir, is there anything I can start doing?" she asked.

Leach smiled, hearing the eagerness in her voice. "Let's relax here a little," he said. "First, we have to let the experts take a look. It doesn't look like she was buried, so her bones could be scattered for miles. We can keep searching for that, at least."

Joe's eyes wandered out over the heavy woods, coming back finally to the tree. She hadn't noticed it before, but now its strange beauty registered.

The tree rose from a base of knotted roots covered by green moss. About ten feet from the ground, its wide, straight trunk split into two thick branches that curved straight upward. Like arms, just as R.C. had said.

Like a woman's arms, Joe thought. The tree looked like a kneeling woman, her emerald skirt spread out and her arms reaching upward as if awaiting rescue or salvation.

Copyright © 2007 by PJ Parrish

Meet the Author

P. J. Parrish is actually two sisters—Kristy Montee and Kelly Nichols—who pooled their talents and their lifelong love of writing to create the character of Louis Kincaid. Their New York Times and USA TODAY bestselling novels include An Unquiet Grave, A Killing Rain, Island of Bones, Thicker Than Water, Paint It Black, Dead of Winter, and Dark of the Moon. They are also the authors of a standalone thriller, The Killing Song.

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Thousand Bones 4.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 27 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book has 368 pages. Which is wonderful. It is a stand alone book, with a great conclusion. One sexual interacrion, which was luke warm. Two incidents of very mild cursing. A bit of homosexuality, but nothing horrible, no religion, there are 22 murders. Some cannibalism, some bodies are eaten by animals, some people are shot, some are tortured and sometimes it is very graphic. A dog gets stabbed. This book takes place in upper state Michagan, during the months od September to March in 1975-76. It has child abuse, which is more like toture. The cannibalism was hard for me to read. This book is very noir and part of a series. One reviewer mentioned a chacter is not in this book, but he is. In the first few page and in the last few pages. This is not chick lit. It is mystery / suspense. It is dark, gory and intense. There is lots of action. Men would enjoy this book as would women who enjoy gritty violent reads. There is also rapes and mutalations. Adults only. Men and women. An excellent read and highly recommended. AD
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I read Patricia Cornwell books in the past. I picked up one of PJ's novels from a thrift store and fell in love with the series. A+++++
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
My first book by this author and certainly not my last. Great book.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I have read other P.J. Parrish novels before, but I just finished A Thousand Bones and felt it was an absolutely outstanding book. The Parrish sisters presented Jo's story so compellingly and when one of the mothers takes her daughter's bones home, it was incredibly heartwarming. I sincerely hope that the Louis Kincaid series continues for a long time to come.
harstan More than 1 year ago
Louis Kincaid's significant other Miami-Dade Police Department¿s only female homicide detective Joe Frye looks back thirteen years ago to her first year as a cop. In 1975 the rookie Frye worked in the Sheriff's department of Leelanau County, Michigan where the job was one boring shift after another. Frye thought the ennui would drive her from her dream of being a cop. --- That is her job was tedious until the human remains were found in the woods near Echo Bay. Soon afterward more bones were uncovered making it obvious that several people were murdered. The county law enforcement was dealing with a particularly vicious serial killer whose victims were young women. Frye and others worked the case, but she alone honed in on enigmatic Native American carvings that were on a tree overlooking the gruesome crime scene. As she begins to solve the whodunit, the culprit hones in on the sleuth with plans to make her his next tortured female victim. --- Following up her strong supportive role in AN UNQUIET GRAVE, Frye takes the lead from her lover Kincaid who plays the minor second banana no one will care as a star is born. Frye is delightful as that case in her first season as a cop haunts her in 1988 so much so it is difficult for her to talk to anyone, even Kincaid, about it. The police procedural is cleverly designed, but even after the killer is known by Frye and readers, the tale smoothly switches into a cat and mouse encounter with the cop being the rodent. P.J. Parrish provides a powerful refreshing spin to his Kincaid saga with this sequel that begs for more Frye cases. --- Harriet Klausner
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I really enjoyed this novel, and will look for others by this author. I though it a well writen book, and think this particular story would make a very compelling movie, or tv series. It was very interesting indeed. Was hard to put down. I don't have much time to read in a day, but, I found myself making more time to read. It grabbed me right at the start and continued on until the end.
buttons0 More than 1 year ago
Great read!!!! Kept my attention to where I never wanted to put the book down! Looking forward to reading more from P.J. Parrish!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Gripping story skillfully told. Highly recommend.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I read this book in one day. I couldn't put it down. I loved it and surely recommend it!!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is a good read but at times seemed to plod along. Could have been shorter and more compact.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Great book! Would definitely read other books by this author.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
One of the best books I've read. Very good story, characters and writing
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is awesome. I have read all the books by this author, thanks to this book. Keep them coming please.
melamia More than 1 year ago
This was a good read. A little tedious in some places, but a good read none the less.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Another great murder mystery by this author. Can't wait to read another book by this author.
bicoastal More than 1 year ago
If you enjoy Louis and all his problems then you wull enjoy "Joe" and her mysteries. But don't expect to see Louis in this book.
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
And readers who prefer their books to have a traditional start middle and end often do like a series to deviate from their comfort zone. Mysteries are read by many because they stick to the classic form. Hope the author gets back on track for the next one or i will have "lost" another series.