Bed of Bones by Cheryl Bradshaw is a thinly disguised romance novel. The disguise is a mystery novel which starts with a strong plot premise then melts gradually like the ice in a drink I didn’t want. I keep going back to see if the drink gets better, it doesn’t, and soon the ice is gone, or I can’t find it. The plot for this story was so well disguised I gave up after several chapters but kept reading to see if it got better. Finally arriving at the end, I was surprised to see all the right things said about this author. Even more surprising to me was the number of published books. I counted twelve published works at the end of this Kindle edition plus a couple of awards for novels Three and Four in the Sloane Monroe Series. If Bradshaw had won an award for this novel, Book Five, I would have felt bad about the review I am posting.
The style and quality of writing shown in this book are solidly consistent with good writing of award-winning authors. The unrealism of the plot as far as a police procedural and the unreality of behavior exhibited by the characters in stress situations requires a suspension of disbelief beyond my ability (or desire). Sometimes fiction, by its nature involves acceptance by the reader of improbable circumstances. A considerable number of unlikely situations becomes boring. Characters should have flaws and overcome them, but the characters in these novels have behavioral flaws, not personality or what is typically accepted as “character” flaws. Why does this novel have weaknesses in these two areas? To answer, I return to my claim that this is a thinly disguised romance level, and everything is sacrificed to fulfill a romantic purpose. To illustrate my points, I will examine the characters.
Chapter One gives readers a powerful beginning. I can write about it because there are no spoilers in Chapter One. In 1956 young Willie and Leonard were playing near an abandoned mine shaft. Only one will survive. Cut to the present day. Melody Sinclair had always wanted to make films. She failed. She kept trying and not only came up with a good story idea; Melody had a patron, Giovanni, who could guarantee Melody would get a screening. Giovanni attended the screening with Melody but was sitting without Melody when the theater blew up due to a remotely detonated bomb. Melody was not in the theater because the bomb maker was preparing to kidnap her at the same time the bomb exploded. OK, can’t get much more of a strong ending than this one. It is all downhill from here.
Chief Parker is a cop who has a reason to call Sloane Monroe about the bombing and disappearance of Melody. Since there were a lot of bodies as a result of the explosion, Parker could logically call Maddie, a medical examiner, and indirectly involve Sloane, Maddie’s roommate. Following a typical template, Parker (police official) will spend the rest of the novel fighting the involvement of Maddie and Sloane (non-law enforcement types).
Sloane Monroe is a private investigator who has an on-again-off-again boyfriend, Giovanni Luciana. She loves him. He loves her. The romance is doomed by the generous attitude of Giovanni. Mafia Godfather sons are like that, quick to kill but also altruistic as they suffer heartbreak for the good of others.
Giovanni Luciana is a mafia member, son of a mafia Godfather, and heir apparent to take over the family. He didn’t mind micromanagement and had even shot the kidnapper and murderer of Sloane’s sister in a hotel room next to one occupied by Sloane; the shooting gave her a good idea about the kind of Giovanni’s business.
Carlo Luciana was an FBI agent, not a mafioso, even though he is the brother of Giovanni. Unreality begins to knock at the door. Carlo wants to hire Sloane to help investigate the Melody Sinclair kidnapping. Yep, this is what FBI agents usually do. They hire private investigators who are known to have mafia ties. And why not, since Carlo was an FBI/mafia member himself? The Unreality knocking on the door increases to the level of a pounding.
Shelby is a throwaway character. She is the unmanageable teenage daughter of her father, Cade, a detective in a neighboring town. As a law enforcement officer, he will somehow have the free time to leave his department and help private investigator Sloane and (FBI agent/mafia brother to Giovanni) Carlo investigate a kidnapping while bonding with his teenage daughter, solving her hormonal problems, and possibly continue a so far failed attempt at romance with Sloane. Nothing but reality here.
There is religious fanaticism, generational craziness, and an unidentified perpetrator who is recreating crimes from the past. In the mad rush to solve a crime, Sloane will come up with a possible clue to the identity of a suspect by following the carefully given instructions of FBI agent Carlo and discovering that mysteries can be solved by remembering events step-by-step according to keywords and soulful eye glances. As an ex-law enforcement type, this is where I wanted to give up, but with only thirty pages to go, I resolved to tough it out.
The Kindle price for this novel is USD 5.99; I received it at the promotion price of USD 0.00. It is not available on Kindle Unlimited. The quality of writing is high, and I would generally give it four Amazon stars. The content bothered me so much; I wanted to provide it with 3.75. Rounding up, that is four Amazon stars, so I am back where I started. If anyone reading this has found a novel they like by Cheryl Bradshaw, please recommend it to me. I want to read something other than this by a writer who other reviewers highly praise, but it won’t change my opinion of Bed of Bones.