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Valley of Bones: A Novel
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Valley of Bones: A Novel

4.7 17
by Michael Gruber

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Critically acclaimed, bestselling author Michael Gruber's second novel to feature police detective Jimmy Paz is a chilling and remarkable work of intelligence and imagination. After a wealthy oilman plunges ten stories to his death from the balcony of a Miami hotel, Paz and the young cop who witnessed the fall discover a woman on her knees praying in the dead man's


Critically acclaimed, bestselling author Michael Gruber's second novel to feature police detective Jimmy Paz is a chilling and remarkable work of intelligence and imagination. After a wealthy oilman plunges ten stories to his death from the balcony of a Miami hotel, Paz and the young cop who witnessed the fall discover a woman on her knees praying in the dead man's room. A motive and strong evidence point to the woman—Emmylou Dideroff—as the murderer, but she insists that she's innocent of the crime, while freely admitting her guilt in numerous other criminal acts and abominations. As her shocking confessions blur the lines between charity and vengeance, delusion and reality, Paz finds himself drawn once again into the unexplained . . . and into a collision with an evil of inconceivable power.

Editorial Reviews

Entertainment Weekly
“Grade: A. A feast of rich characters ... globe-trotting plotline, and an exploration of faith’s place in our world.”
Chicago Tribune
“[A] startling and original thriller ... Gruber is a gifted and natural storyteller.”
Miami Herald
“An intriguing intellectual thriller.”
Washington Post
“TROPIC OF NIGHT and VALLEY OF BONES [are] miracles .... and among the essential novels of recent years.”
San Francisco Chronicle
“Engrossing ... Gruber is one to watch.”
Cleveland Plain Dealer
“Dazzling, literate and downright scary .... mesmerizing, multilayered, page-turning new novel. Masterful ... Don’t miss this book.”
Rocky Mountain News
“An engrossing and shocking story ... equal in depth and breadth to THE DA VINCI CODE ... Grade: A.”
Denver Post
“The Stephen King of crime writing.”
Daily News
“Uncommon intrigue steeped in murder and mysticism … An intoxicating thriller.”
Seattle Times
“Done with such intelligence, style and understated dread.”
Seattle Post-Intelligencer
Patrick Anderson
Michael Gruber's second novel, Valley of Bones, like his first, last year's acclaimed Tropic of Night, challenges the reader to "accept the reality of an unseen world." In the first book, his focus was powerful African sorcery, brought to this country by an angry black man and used for criminal ends. Valley of Bones is equally fascinating and even more troubling because its subject is the power of Christian faith, as embodied in a woman who may be a saint or may simply be delusional. Either way, the tormented, painfully candid Emmylou Dideroff is one of the great characters in recent popular fiction.
— The Washington Post
Janet Maslin
Valley of Bones has enough originality to back up its easily excited imagination. And at its core is the kind of ineffable mystery that's worth more than the corpse-out-a-window kind. Mr. Gruber is at least as eager to fathom the violent and the unknown as he is to exploit these things. Some books simply relish the darker sides of human nature. Mr. Gruber summons them with troubled inquisitiveness, with both brio and regret.
— The New York Times
Publishers Weekly
Gruber's new mystery/thriller more than fulfills the promise of his dazzling Tropic of Night (2003), a critical and commercial success and his first book published under his own name. The story emerges from three directions: the POV of Cuban-American Miami cop Jimmy Paz; pages from the book Faithful Unto Death: The Story of the Nursing Sisters of the Blood of Christ by Sr. Benedicta Cooley; and a series of handwritten notebooks, The Confessions of Emmylou Dideroff. Gruber brings back Paz ("a neatly built, caramel-colored man, in a beautifully cut gray-green silk and linen suit" and one of the smartest, coolest, most intriguing cops working the pages of American thrillers these days) from Tropic to investigate the death of Arab oil trader Jabir Akran al-Muwalid, who's been bonked on the head with a piston rod and thrown off the balcony of his hotel room. Inside al-Muwalid's room, Paz finds Emmylou Dideroff kneeling on the floor, having a one-sided conversation with St. Catherine of Siena. The rod belongs to Emmylou, so she's assumed to be the killer; she's put into a mental hospital under the care of Paz's new psychiatrist girlfriend. Emmylou's written confessions tell the horrifying but riveting tale of growing up with an insane mother and a stepfather who molested her, as well as her adventures as a whore, drug dealer and, after joining the Nursing Sisters of the Blood of Christ, a tribal leader in Africa. Readers will find each of the stories-Paz's, Emmylou's and that of the founder of the Nursing Sisters-equally fascinating. Evocative prose, an erudite author, spellbinding subject matter and totally original characters add up to make this one a knockout. Agent, Simon Lipskar. (Jan. 4) Forecast: A good marketing push and word of mouth should assure a position at the top of the charts for Gruber, who ghosted Robert K. Tanenbaum's bestselling Butch Karp legal thrillers for many years. Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
When a Sudanese oil baron is thrown to his death from his hotel balcony, Miami detective Jimmy Paz finds a mysterious woman named Emmylou Dideroff vehemently praying at the scene of the crime; she quickly becomes the main suspect. The plot immediately thickens as Emmylou begins to write a lengthy confession about her disturbing childhood, how she reformed from a criminal to a woman of God, and what led her to the Miami hotel room that day. Is she crazy or does God really speak to her? Jimmy and criminal psychologist Lorna Wise investigate and are thrown into a whirlwind journey involving prostitution, white supremacists, the Sudanese civil war, and massive government cover-ups. Occasionally overwhelming, the story's strong religious overtones are presented philosophically and poignantly throughout. Reader Nick Sullivan does a marvelous job of juggling voices and providing believable accents for numerous characters. Highly recommended for all audiobook collections.-Jesse M. Light, Memorial Hall Lib., Andover, MA Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Afro-Cuban Miami detective Iago Paz, policeman, chef, and heartthrob hero of Gruber's superb 2003 debut (Tropic of Night), returns to sort out the defenestration of a spectacularly nasty Sudanese petro-thug. Adopting as his partner young Officer Morales, the rookie cop who, without vomiting, witnessed the ten-story fall and gory impaling of Jabir al-Mulawid, Det. Paz, only child of Miami's best Cuban restaurateur and himself a dab hand with the pastries and butchering, steps into the hotel room from which al-Mulawid either jumped or was tossed-and finds Emmylou Dideroff kneeling in prayerful conversation with St. Catherine of Siena. Ms. Dideroff, whose fingerprints are on the automobile engine part that fits nicely into a fatal wound on the head of the Sudanese corpse, has a complicated past. The onetime hooker, thief, drug moll, and child-abuse victim, who could easily have fled the scene of the crime where she is the only suspect, is a soldier in the Society of Nursing Sisters of the Blood of Christ: a religious order famed for fearless service to the wounded of the many hideous wars since its founding in 1895 by the heiress to a French oil fortune. An autodidact with-well-catholic reading habits and a photographic memory, Emmylou, who, besides chatting with the saints, sees the devil routinely and casts out demons when necessary, seems crazy as a Junebug to zaftig hypochondriac psychologist Lorna Wise. But Paz, whose mum is way up in the Santeria hierarchy, thinks otherwise. Lovelorn Lorna and ladies' man Iago, by the way, find each other pretty attractive. Gruber intersperses the Miami action with scenes from Emmylou's possibly confessional notebooks detailing her at first lurid andthen heroic past, tossing in searing sex, African civil-war carnage, wonderfully serious religious thought, great tenderness, and some of the snappiest byplay since William Powell and Myrna Loy. No second-novel slump here. Gruber has drawn even with John Sandford and has power to spare.

Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
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5.31(w) x 8.00(h) x 1.00(d)

Read an Excerpt

Valley of Bones

By Gruber, Michael

William Morrow & Company

ISBN: 0060577665

Chapter One

The cop happened to look up at just the right instant or he would have missed it, not the actual impalement, but the fall itself. It took him a disorienting second to realize what he was seeing, the swelling black mass against the white stone and glass of the hotel facade, and then it was finished, with a sound that he knew he would carry to his grave.

After that, he took a minute or so to sit on the bumper of his car with his head down low, so as not to pollute the crime scene with his own vomit, and then reported the event on his radio. He called it in as a 31, which was the Miami PD code for a homicide, although it could have been an accident or a jumper. But it felt like a homicide, for reasons the cop could not then explain. While he waited for the sirens, he looked up at the row of balconies that made up the face of the Trianon Hotel. The thought briefly crossed his mind that he ought to go and check the guy out to make sure that he was actually dead, that perhaps the wrought iron fleur-de-lis spearheads protruding from the man's neck, chest, and groin had missed all the vital organs in their paths.

He was a dutiful officer, but this was his first fresh corpse, and he decided not to investigate more closely than a couple of yards, telling himself that it was better not to contaminate the crime scene. The corpse had been a good-looking guy, he thought, leather-darkskin but aquiline features: hooked nose, thin lips, a little spade beard. There was something foreign about the face, although the officer could not have said what it was.

Turning away from it with some relief, he inspected the facade of the hotel, noting that there were three vertical columns of balconies adorning the twelve floors of the building, which was capped by a copper roof styled after a French château. That was the theme of the Trianon Hotel, as much French as would fit: besides the roof, there were gilt cornices, coats of arms, New Orleans-style wrought iron on the balconies, and, of course, fleurs-de-lis on the iron fence that surrounded the south face of the property. People were coming out of the hotel now, frightened men in the hotel's white livery, a few guests from the lobby. A woman's shriek recalled the cop to his duty, and he herded them all back into the cool interior.

A broad man in a double-breasted cream suit accosted him at this point and announced himself as the manager. He knew who it was, a guest, 10 D, and gave a name. The cop wrote it down in his notebook. The manager departed, dabbing at his mouth with a handkerchief, and the cop resumed his study of the facade, although his eye kept drifting over to the victim. The flies arrived and got to their buzzing tasks, and shortly after that an ambulance pulled up. The paramedics emerged, took in the scene, declared the man officially dead, made wiseass paramedic remarks, and went back to their bus to wait in the cool of the AC. The crime scene van arrived, and the CSUs started to assemble their various implements of investigation and their cameras, while making some of the same cracks (that's what I call piercings; sorry, he can't come to the phone right now) that the paramedics had made, and after a little while an unmarked white Chevy pulled up, and out of it came a neatly built, caramel colored man, in a beautifully cut gray-green silk and linen suit. The cop sighed. Of course it had to be him.

"Morales?" asked the man. The cop nodded, and the man held out his hand to be shaken, saying, "Paz."

"Uh-huh," said Morales. He knew who Jimmy Paz was, as did everyone on the Miami PD, as did everyone in Metropolitan Dade County who owned a television. Morales had not, however, met him professionally until now. Both men were first-generation Cuban immigrant stock, but the patrolman considered himself white, like 98 percent of the Cuban migration to America, and Paz was not white, yet also undeniably Cuban. It was disconcerting, even without the tug of racism, which Morales was conscious of trying to resist.

"You're the first response on this?" Paz was not looking at the corpse. He was looking at Morales, with a pleasant smile on his face and little lights glinting in his hazel eyes. He was looking at a man in his early twenties, with a fine-featured beardless face, in the complexion usually called olive, but which is more like parchment, a face that might be choirboy open when relaxed but was now guarded, tense, the intelligent dark eyes focused on the detective so hard they almost squinted.

"No, I was here already. Somebody called in a disturbance at the hotel. It was a hoax call. I was just about to pull out when he came down."

"You saw him drop?"


Paz looked up at the face of the hotel and saw what Morales had seen. It was perfectly clear from which balcony the victim had begun his fatal descent. All the balconies but one had their glass doors closed against the afternoon heat. In the single exception the door was open and the white curtains were flapping like flags. Paz counted silently.

"It looks like the tenth floor," he said. Now for the first time he inspected the corpse. "Nice shoes," he said. "Lorenzo Banfi's. Nice suit too. A dresser. Tell me, why did you call it in as a homicide?"

"He didn't yell on the way down," said Morales, surprising himself with this statement. Paz grinned at him, a catlike grin, and Morales felt his own face breaking into a smile ... Continues...

Excerpted from Valley of Bones by Gruber, Michael Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

New York Times bestselling author Michael Gruber is the author of five acclaimed novels. He lives in Seattle.

Brief Biography

Seattle, Washington
Date of Birth:
October 1, 1940
Place of Birth:
New York, New York
B.A., Columbia University, 1961; Ph.D., University of Miami, 1973

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4.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 10 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Great characters, an intricate, globe-trotting plotline, and an exploration of faith's place in the world make this an enticing whodunit. A great read!
harstan More than 1 year ago
Miami Police Officer Morales was just leaving the Trianon Hotel after responding to a hoax call of a disturbance when he saw the man fall from the tenth floor balcony. Though he wanted to vomit, he first called in a homicide and held back his physical need so as not to compromise the crime scene. Not long afterward renowned Detective Paz arrives to take charge of the investigation.--- They head up to room 10D to learn more about the victim Jabir Akran al-Muwalid to decide whether a suicide, an accident or a murder occurred. Inside the room in some form of a trance is Emmylou Dideroff who insists that she was talking with the dead Saint Catherine of Siena before she fainted. She also says that Mr. al-Muwalid is a mass murderer slaughtering thousands from her tribe and others with his death squad in the Sudan; she swears she came to forgive him not kill him though the murder weapon belongs to her.--- Above are just the first few pages of an excellent crime thriller that plays out on three interconnected fascinating story lines. The obvious is Jimmy Paz¿s investigation; then there is the extracts from the book Faithful Unto Death: The Story of the Nursing Sisters of the Blood of Christ by St. Benedicta Cooley; finally the handwritten bound notes dubbed The Confessions of Emmylou Dideroff that the wild protagonist furbishes to Paz. Fans of deep police procedurals with two intriguing twists (the other sub-stories) starring a wonderful protagonist and a weird but intriguing suspect will take immense delight with Michael Gruber¿s return of the Paz (see TROPIC OF NIGHT).--- Harriet Klausner
Guest More than 1 year ago
Michael Gruber takes the title of his second novel from the Book of Ezekiel, the verse that refers to the hand of the Lord setting one down 'in the midst of the valley, which was full of bones.' Not a very pleasant prospect. In this fast paced story readers will find themselves wondering precisely what it is the Lord or demonic forces can do as they are introduced to a fictional order of nuns that increased its ranks from among orphaned and disabled young girls, and meet Emmylou Dideroff, a devout Catholic woman who claims to have communion with saints - and the devil. While Valley Of Bones is described as a thriller, it's an enormous mistake to simply pigeon hole this exhilarating page-turner. Gruber pens, if you will, a thinking man's thriller - it delves more deeply than most and his characters are both original and unique. (Not too many thriller writers create characters who quote Thomas Merton). His plots are multi-layered. His narratives send chills down your spine while they just as easily challenge you to think. Set in Miami, Valley of Bones opens with a young policeman, Tito Morales, witnessing a fall from a hotel balcony. A fall that results in the impalement of a wealthy oilman. Morales had come to the hotel in response to a minor disturbance call, but has witnessed a death and heard a thud that he'll 'remember to his grave.' Soon on the scene is homicide detective Jimmy Paz (met in 'Tropic of Night'). Paz has a reputation as a crime solver, but neither of the two were prepared for what they found in the man's hotel room - Emmylou Dideroff in a trance-like state. She doesn't take long to relate her reasons for killing the oilman and asks for several notebooks so that she can explain her action and write her confession. Is she a woman truly possessed or is she pretending to be such in order to be declared unfit for trial? Whatever the answer to that question is, psychologist Dr. Lorna Wise testifies that Dideroff is indeed mentally unable to stand trial. Wise pores over the notebooks the woman has filled in an attempt to understand what could have driven her to such an extreme. But the writings make little sense outside of references to childhood abuse, and previous crimes. Meanwhile, Paz has a few demons of his own in the form of nightmares, frightening dreams he cannot fully comprehend. He seeks the help of his mother, a santera, to banish the dream. Wise soon finds herself caught in a web, a bicultural web woven by mysticism and Santeria. And, like all webs it's extremely dangerous. Gruber doesn't short shift readers on romance - there's a torrid one between Wise and Paz. As a matter of fact, this author doesn't short shift readers in any area. After spending years as a speechwriter and ghostwriter for popular legal thrillers, Gruber finally wrote under his own name. He was worth waiting for. - Gail Cooke
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Love this book! Love the inclusion of the spirt world into the everyday world. Love the unique characters.
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J_Walter More than 1 year ago
I found "The Room" by Michael James to be fast paced and engaging. Adventure, suspense, mystery and believable characters all uniquely woven together kept me turning the pages needing to discover what was coming next and how this wonderful tale was going to end.
A well written book which links the past to the present and provokes thought and introspection of our eternal spiritual journey. Well done Michael James ! I'm looking forward to his next book.