Seventeen-year-old Grace Adams witnesses a murder behind her house, but what she doesn’t immediately realize is that the victim is her own mother, Leanne, who disappeared 11 years ago. Detective Macy Greeley worked on a human trafficking case involving Leanne years ago, but nothing concrete was discovered and no arrests were made. Now, Macy is assigned to investigate Leanne’s murder in the hopes that they can discover what truly happened to her and who was involved in the trafficking ring.
Bone Dust White has a lot of potential with its storyline and the issues it tackles, but problems with the characters and writing style means that I had trouble with this mystery novel.
Bone Dust White is a bit of a mish mash of a novel. It’s got an intriguing plot dealing with serious contemporary issues and great atmosphere depicting the grittiness of rural life, but the characters just don’t make a lot of sense and in most cases aren’t likeable or believable. It makes for a strange reading experience, as readers try to reconcile the disparate threads of this novel.
Let’s start with the atmosphere; Bone Dust White takes place in the small town of Collier, a place with many deep, dark secrets. This is a not a novel filled with idyllic pastoral life. This is a novel of meth labs and human trafficking, with a sinister atmosphere underlying everything. Salvaggio writes this well, and she incorporates various issues into the novel, making it timely and interesting.
As I mentioned, the characters are where readers will find problems in Bone Dust White. With the exception of Macy, one of the main characters and a detective, none of the characters make sense. Grace is seventeen years old; she dresses like an old woman but acts like a heartbreaker. She had a heart transplant just weeks before the events of the book, yet she’s tromping around in the snow every which way. She seems manic at times, with wild, unpredictable mood swings, but she’s also a good little sick girl who the town has misunderstood. She just doesn’t make sense and isn’t believable. The other main character, Jared, is dating one woman, having an affair with another, and has a strange interest in Grace. The reader gets the impression they’re supposed to like Jared, to root for him (especially as he takes Grace under his wing. It seems as though it’s supposed to be innocent, but it doesn’t come across that way), but he just seems like kind of a crappy guy all around. It’s hard to become invested in a novel where you feel so ambivalent about the characters and don’t understand them or their motivations.
In the end, I did finish Bone Dust White because I wanted to know what happened; the storyline is intriguing. But the characters (both the main character issues and the fact that there are way too many secondary characters and it’s difficult to keep track of them) and the writing style make things difficult. The novel is written in present tense, and that makes it hard to really connect with the narrative. It ensures things stay at a distance, which in the end, is why I couldn’t really get into this book.