Book Review

Twenty-Seven Bones – Jonathan Nasaw

“See my lips tremble and my eyeballs roll,
Suck my last breath, and catch my flying soul!”
– Alexander Pope,
“Eloise to Abelard”


Former FBI Special Agent E.L. Pender may be retired, but he jumps at the chance to help solve a particularly gruesome series of crimes in the U.S. Virgin Islands.
This is no ordinary case, seeing as the right hand on each body in the string of murders is missing. The police want to keep the existence of a serial killer under wraps; they hope to solve the crime before a stampede sets in. Meanwhile, Pender is convinced the killer must be the husband of the last victim and sets out to capture him — but he’s only partly right. The husband is connected to the case, but the real murderers are a cunning husband-and-wife team of archeologists who believe that if they breathe in their victim’s last breath they will live forever.
Never before has Pender come up against such savvy, diabolical opponents. From one trail of dead ends to another, readers will feel Pender’s fever to prevent more murders from occurring…and his sheer panic when he can’t. Twenty-Seven Bones is that most quintessential of thrilling reads, providing a visceral experience of chills and excitement on every page.

My Review

I read Twenty-Seven Bones way back in 2007 and I enjoyed it. Especially since the story takes place in the Caribbean. Although St. Luke is a fictional U.S Virgin Island in this book the other islands mentioned are not, such as St. Croix, St. Thomas, St. John, St. Vincent. I decided to reread it and do a review.

First of all, this book took me back to my childhood growing up in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, which is mentioned in the book a bit. No! not for the murders but for the way the islanders speak and do certain things.😃  When the dialect is spoken, it made me lol every time; when one of the characters would say something like “cheese on bread! (Wow!) I totally remembered saying that, or jumbies (ghost).😄

In the Prologue of this book, you’re given a little bit of history of a ritual being performed when the Chieftain of a village lays dying. Basically, the heir is decided by whoever is closest to the dying Chieftain, so that they can inhale his last dying breath (gross) which they believe contains all his authority and wisdom, his spiritual glory and his spirit or immortal soul.

At this particular Chief’s deathbed are a husband and wife pair of Anthropologist, videotaping this ritual. Dr. Emily and Phil Epp. What they witnessed and what happened to her that day cements their belief in the ritual and spawned something in them that changed their lives or should I say turn them into two of the worse Sociopath and psychopathic pair.

On St. Luke, a killer(s) has emerged, of course, they’ve been killing for a while. It is only known to authorities after a hurricane when the bodies of a male and female washed up on shore, and by the looks, they were not killed at the same time.

Police chief Julian Coffee decides to enlist the help of his old friend Special Agent E.L. Pender (Ret.) to help him hunt down a sadistic killer(s) and solve the crime(s). They soon realized that people have gone missing, both locals and tourists alike, and the deceased all have one thing in common. The killer is immediately dubbed “the machete man” or as the islanders say it “the machete mon”.

“Good afternoon Edgar! Mahvelous lecture. Just caught the last few minutes.” Fastidious as ever in a shimmering, meticulously tailored two-piece gray suite, white shirt, red silk tie knotted in an impeccable Windsor, and black wing tips shined to a fare-the-well, Julian Coffee strode down the aisle with his laminated photo-ID visitor’s pass dangling from a cord around his neck. Coffee was the only man in the last thirty years who’d been permitted to call Pender by his given name, and then only because his lilting West Indian accent made it sound almost musical: Ed-Gah, both syllables equally stressed.

This book reveals the killers to us at the beginning of the book. We are witness to the sadomasochistic killing of St. Luke resident Andy Arena. And from there we learn a great deal about this couple throughout. What their murderous motivations are for the grotesque killings of all those innocent people. But this is not new to us, we know that psychopaths have a grandiose view of themselves and that they are always right and everyone else is wrong.

Nasaw’s characterization of these killers is absolutely superb, demonstrating the motivations and reasons for their actions from their own viewpoint.

This novel was at times fast-paced and with plenty of involved characterization throughout that creates an interesting and sometimes quite disturbing read. The characters of Holly and the kids; Marley and Dawn were enjoyable. However; The sexual side to the psychotic killers in this book is very disturbing and shocking, so be warned.

As we get further into the book, the situation becomes even more complex thanks to one of the richest man on the Island (asshole). I won’t spoil this character’s entry into the deadly killers’ circle.

This is a dark and gritty novel, with plenty of suspense, but for those of us who like thrillers, serial killer thriller, and suspense, it’s a great read.

Quote used by Jonathan Nasaw in Twenty-Seven Bones
“From too much love of living,
From hope and fear set free,
We thank with brief Thanksgiving
Whatever gods may be
That no man lives forever
That dead men rise up never
That even the weariest river
Winds somewhere safe to sea.
– Alernon Swinburne,
“The Garden of Proserpine

Find the book here

Simon & Schuster

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