Oren, seventeen at the time, is sent to boarding school and then he enlisted in the Army for twenty years. He was one of the most highly regarded CID officers in the Army. Now he has resigned from the military and he has returned to Coventry, CA, his hometown, for the first time since the summer Josh disappeared.
Raised by their widowed father, the real force in their lives was Hannah Rice, who was waiting on the porch when Judge Hobbs and his boys returned from the funeral of wife and mother, and never left. Hannah has been sending Oren letters asking him to return to Coventry because his father is dying. Oren comes home to find that his father isn’t dying but is under extreme stress. On his first night home, Oren hears a dog barking at 2:00 in the morning and then the slight thud of something small being left on the porch. It is a jawbone, discolored by the soil of Coventry. It has been buried for twenty years and Judge Hobbs knows it is the jawbone of his son.
Oren is not prepared for the revelation that bones have been left on the front porch for quite awhile. As the Judge says, “Josh is coming home, bone by bone.” Hannah wants Oren’s CID experience to be put to work for Josh. It isn’t just not knowing where he is buried. How did a fifteen year old boy earn enough hatred to be murdered? Who needed to have Josh dead?
Josh was a very talented photographer; every business in town has framed photos of Josh’s work. Oren begins to wonder if Josh could have angered someone with his photos. Might he have been involved in blackmail?
Twenty years after his death, Josh is causing problems , not just for his family, but for quite a few people in Coventry, a town full of secrets. Sarah Winston, married to the most prominent and most expensive lawyer in town, lives in the turret of the house, drinking herself into oblivion, except when it is time for her birthday ball. Mavis Hardy is the town librarian. The town had shut down the library but Mavis has a key and she shows up everyday to open it but no one ever comes. Mavis has a reputation for being crazy. She also is known as the murderer whose case was dismissed as justifiable homicide. Her son, Dave, is a deputy in the town and there is a long history of bad blood between the Hobbs brothers and Dave Hardy. There is Evelyn, who twenty years ago, when she was in her forties, seduced Oren Hobbs. She doesn’t want to relive that part of her life so she is less than pleased to see Oren return. William Swahn is a former police officer with the Los Angeles Department who was badly crippled after a beating. Addison Winston is Swahn’s lawyer and Oren can prove that Winston worked a scam without Swahn’s knowledge .
There are many people in Coventry who aren’t happy about Oren’s return. And, still, there is the question: who killed Josh Hobbs.
Carol O’Connell is best known for the Kathy Mallory series about a wild child adopted by a detective and his wife who then becomes a detective in the NYPD herself. O’Connell created very memorable characters in the nine books in that series. The characters in BONE BY BONE are equally memorable while not all are likable.
If anyone decides to read the Mallory series, it is important to start with the first book, MALLORY’S ORACLE, and read the rest in order.