REVIEW – Bone Machines, by John Dodds

Bone Machines

Set in Glasgow, Scotland, Bone Machines by John Dodds is a crime-horror novel with more than a touch of thriller thrown in.  The tale is a dark and gritty exploration of the world of art and that of serial killers.

From the first pages, we are introduced to the artist and serial killer Stephen Morrell.  Morrell’s work falls along the lines of ‘shock art’ – bone structures, grainy photographs of what might be a fetus and so forth.  It is the sort of art that everyone is drawn to just to discuss how disgusting it is and rail against it.  That much of the artwork is made from the bones or body parts of his victims make it even more disturbing to the reader and more satisfying to Morrell as he relishes in the attention.

Allowing us to know the identity of the killer so soon lets Dodds leave the reader hanging at just the right moment and set up scenes that leave us dreading what is to come.  Both are a mark of a true thriller and he plays with it extremely well.

For much of Bone Machines, we follow Ray Bissett, a reporter held back by a mistake made in years past.  Ray’s relationship with his headstrong daughter is key to the story and provides a great deal of emotion, especially when she joins the ranks of those missing.  He reluctantly joins forces with ambitious Detective Inspector Tom Kendrick in an effort to track down the killer that is preying on Glasgow’s nightclubs.  Kendrick has his own goals and those do not necessarily coincide with Ray’s, setting up plenty of conflict.

There are a host of other characters, each one flawed in their own manner and Dodds does a wonderful job of bringing them to life on the page.

As with many crime novels, the villain is one of the more fascinating characters and Dodds does not disappoint.  Morrell is cast as intelligent, sure of himself, and utterly convinced of his actions and perfecting his art.  Throughout the story, we are given snapshots of Morrell’s past including his admiration for his father’s power over him and a hint that something is not all together quite right.  Dodd uses this to make the reader both understand (and perhaps symptahize with) Morrell while at the same time hating him for his actions and waiting to see what happens next.

All of this combines to a fantastic page turner.  If I had a gripe, it would be that several plot threads were left open that I really wanted to see concluded.  A hint at an incident in Heathrow and a corrupt politician that Kendrick is pursuing.  I hold out hope though as Dodds has announced he is writing a second book with DI Kendrick as the central character.

Of worthwhile note is that Bone Machines is available not only in paperback but also as a free podcast from Podiobooks.  Dodds himself does the reading and I found it a remarkable way to step into the Scottish setting.  Even when I was reading, rather than listening, I could hear Dodds voice and it helped build the atmosphere.  Listening while reading the physical book ended up being my favorite way of devouring the story.

As a writer, Dodds has a talent for drawing in the reader and not letting go.  Each page is filled with vibrant description and seethes with tension.  This is not too surprising as while Bone Machines is his first novel, Dodds is an experienced short story writer, having earned praise from the likes of Michael Moorcock among others.

Bone Machines hits all the right buttons.  I was glued to the pages, cursed up a storm when my iPod died in the middle of a chapter, and was riveted to the end.  John Dodds has talent and promise and I look forward to seeing more from him in the future.

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Comments

  1. Hi, Matt

    Thank you so much for the wonderful review. I’m delighted you enjoyed it so much. I may well pick up those plot threads you mention, but the second Kendrick book, Kali’s Kiss, will be out some time in the not too distant future. People can join the announcement mailing list through a link on my blog.

    Thanks again, Matt.

    Kind regards, John

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