Synopses & Reviews
The startling reviews of Tropic of Night
announced Michael Gruber as one of the most talented thriller writers to debut in many years. Now, with the much-anticipated publication of Valley of Bones
, Gruber fulfills that genre-bending promise as perhaps no writer since Graham Greene, with a genuinely exhilarating thriller that simultaneously offers a profound, deeply provocative exploration of the nature of faith itself.
The setting is Miami. Rookie cop Tito Morales arrives at the Trianon Hotel to investigate a routine disturbance call and, to his shock and horror, watches as a wealthy oilman plunges ten stories and impales himself on a nearby fence. Soon Morales is joined by detective Jimmy Paz, famous throughout the city for solving or at least providing a plausible solution to the so-called Voodoo Murders that left Miami burning months earlier.
Together Paz and Morales enter the hotel and discover, in the dead man's room, a most unusual suspect, an otherworldly woman by the name of Emmylou Dideroff. She emerges from a rapturous, prayerlike state and admits that she had a motive for killing the oilman. Ultimately, she says she wants to confess, and asks for a pen and several notebooks in which to convey the details of her confession.
What Emmylou writes is nothing like what Paz expects; he enlists psychologist Lorna Wise in an effort to make sense of things that go beyond Emmylou's explanation of the murder: details of childhood abuse, of other crimes committed, of regular communion with saints and with the devil. Is she mentally disturbed or playacting in hopes of getting declared unfit for trial? Or does she really believe herself to be an instrument of God? And why is it that so many people including Paz's biological father are suddenly interested in the contents of these notebooks and in preventing them from becoming public?
As Valley of Bones moves toward its startling and dramatic finale, Emmylou's "confessions" lead Jimmy Paz, Lorna Wise, and Tito Morales down a series of unexpected and dangerous turns that puts them in the path of perhaps the most terrifying evil imaginable and forces each of them to confront questions about faith, love, and the possibility of the miraculous.
"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. 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. " Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"[S]earing 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." Kirkus Reviews (Starred Review)
"Some books simply relish the darker sides of human nature. Mr. Gruber summons them with troubled inquisitiveness, with both brio and regret." Jaent Maslin, The New York Times
Gruber explores the nature of faith and madness in this brilliantly conceived follow-up to Tropic of Night, his dazzling debut thriller novel.
About the Author
Michael Gruber has a Ph.D. in marine biology from the University of Miami. He lives in Seattle, Washington, and is currently at work on another novel.