The Bone Chamber
Poisoned Pen Press, 2009
Feisty independent-minded FBI forensic artist Sydney Fitzpatrick is off again. This time she bouncing between Washington, DC, San Francisco and various Italian locations. All the while she and her cohorts dodge international hit men. Burcell is a good writer and her varied law enforcement background gives her writing a level of authority lacking in some crime fiction.
The novel is a wide-ranging tale of intrigue, sanctioned and unsanctioned black ops, the CIA, the FBI, and several other sometimes questionable agencies. Here are active old and new world mafia figures, the Knights Templar, and several world governments. The story dredges up long standing rumors, beliefs based on very sketchy and tenuous evidence, ancient legends and involves some vast and secretive organizations such as the Vatican, Freemasonry and maybe some left-over bits of the Tri-Lateral Commission.
Conspiracies within governments, especially those involving questionable banking institutions and practices are fruitful and always interesting. That is especially the case when the venal actions of important institutions from the distant past are held up to the unblinking gaze of modern research. This novel has ’em all. And that’s part of the attraction of the book. Burcell has linked in an essentially fanciful way, an incredible chain of real events that reach back to the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries and possible implications in the modern era. The novel proves that murder, corruption and cynical manipulation with the goal of great power and wealth are not the province of our times.
If the novel has flaws it is the multiplicity of threads that wind through the book, sometimes creating a Gordian’s Knot of complexities. Nevertheless, The Bone Chamber never completely loses its foundation in the real world of plausible outcomes. A tense and intriguing ride from start to finish.
Reviewed by Carl Brookins, October 2010.