Bone Saw Serenade by Cody J. Thompson, a taut, compelling tale with all the elements of an engaging psychological thriller; fast-paced, high-stakes, and highly engrossing. Read my full review.
Bone Saw Serenade Synopsis
Everyone loves running into and reconnecting with an old friend. Someone you have lost touch with for any number of reasons over the years. It can stir up a cocktail of euphoric emotions through feelings of nostalgia, amusement, hope and love. That is exactly how Emma Goodwin felt when she ran into her high school best friend Charlie Claymore after they found one another randomly after a decade of not seeing or speaking in a small coffee shop in Seattle.
Soon after their reunion, Emma’s husband Eddie goes missing without a trace of evidence linking anyone to the disappearance. Anguished, she spirals into her old ways with Charlie. When Detective Angus Pratt is assigned to the case, Charlie is determined to stay by Emma’s side, casting a dark veil over her he calls protection.
As they close in on the truth, a sinister plan is revealed that is darker and more terrifying than the vast, uninhabited woods that lay on the outskirts of town. Angus will stop at nothing to find the truth, and Emma may learn the hardest truth of them all. That the flames you hold the closest always burn the worst.
Black Rose Writing (2022)
Categories: Thriller & Suspense
Cody J. Thompson | Pub Date Oct 26, 2022 | ISBN 9781685130541 | 371 pages
Bone Saw Serenade is a psychological thriller set in Seattle. It centers on the sudden and unexplained disappearance of a husband and father, the subsequent police investigation, and how the circumstances impact on the man’s wife.
Charlie Claymore, recently relocated from San Diego, is waiting in line inside a Seattle coffee shop when he unexpectedly runs into Emma VanSant and her young daughter. Charlie and Emma had been inseparable friends throughout their middle and high school years back in San Diego. But having gone their separate ways after graduation, they had lost touch. While Emma wasn’t aware of it at the time, the chance meeting would turn out fortunate for her since her husband Eddie would soon mysteriously disappear. She and Charlie would rekindle their close friendship and he would become her rock in the emotional chaos when her life spirals out of control. Charlie seems like a loyal friend indeed as he gives Emma his total support during the difficult time and even defends her vigorously when the police suspect her involvement in her husband’s disappearance. But soon, we realize Charlie’s motives aren’t altogether altruistic. It seems his feelings for Emma during their school days went deeper than mere friendship and now that he’s found her again; he seems intent on using the current circumstances and Emma’s vulnerable emotional state to his advantage. Unable to get Emma off his mind, he manipulates her, hoping to rekindle the romantic spark he feels sure they both felt back in high school. At first, Charlie comes across as a decent guy, doing his best to be a solid friend for someone who once meant a great deal to him. But as he continues to press his own selfish agenda, we feel a growing unease about it. At times, we feel sympathy for him, and even feel embarrassed for him because of his sometimes near adolescent behavior towards Emma. But as we get deeper into the book, the sense of unease grows prominently. Is Charlie Claymore who we think is? Or is he something else entirely? Thompson uses all that effectively to create and sustain tension throughout the story.
Thompson crafts a compelling psychological thriller even though the book is populated with some rather unlikable characters. We don’t necessarily need to like them and while there is some depth to the characters, I never felt a genuine connection with any of them. Instead, I felt more like an external observer of the story than a participant. The history of the friendship between Charlie and Emma, especially from Charlie’s perspective, surfaces over the course of the novel. They bonded during their school years, but soon we suspect their lives weren’t nearly as interconnected back then and certainly not now, as Charlie believes. This rings true from flashbacks dispersed throughout the book from Charlie and Emma’s childhood friendship, which shows the character of it and just how long they’ve known each other. Thompson builds tension and sets a fast pace throughout the book. But while the flashbacks reveal backstory that we find useful in understanding the dynamics at play, the movement back and forth between past and present breaks the pacing and lulls the flow of the book at times.
Admittedly, I wish the characters possessed more agency to solve the mystery of Eddie’s disappearance. The two lead police detectives seem a bit slow to catch on throughout the book, happy to pursue lines of investigation that ultimately prove wrong rather than harnessing some agency and driving the investigation forward themselves. For this reason, Thompson gives us the major twist and revelation of the villain’s identity quite early in the book, just past the halfway mark. From that point to the end, the antagonist divulges their true intentions, explaining their actions and motivations a little too clearly until it feels spoon-fed. I think there was room to leave a bit of it out to give readers a chance to join the dots themselves. Also, at times, I found the dialogue to be a little unrealistic and over-the-top, which contributed to making the police detectives not very relatable. The strength of the story lies more in its twists and mysteries than in the characterization.
Thompson is great at building tension and sets a blistering pace through most of the book, but it’s most notable in the final chapters as the truth comes out about the disappearance of Eddie VanZant and who is behind it. Despite the book’s flaws, Thompson offers us all the classic elements of an engaging psychological thriller. This is a rather gripping novel with a premise that’s intriguing and compelling regardless of a few holes. The book reminds me a little of Caroline Kepnes’ You Love Me, which also featured an obsessive psychopath antagonist and a very literal cat-and-mouse game. Bone Saw Serenade is action-packed, exciting, and fast-paced. It’s recommended for readers of psychological thrillers who are certain to enjoy the journey.
I received a copy of the book from the publisher for review purposes.
Book rating: ★★★★