THE BONE PARADE
A starred or boxed review indicates a book of outstanding quality. A review with a blue-tinted title indicates a book of unusual commercial interest that hasn't received a starred or boxed review.
An award-winning former investigative journalist, Nykanen (Hush ) falters in his second novel, a gruesome chiller that's an amalgamation of Red Dragon and The Silence of the Lambs . Ashley Stassler is a world-famous sculptor who abducts and kills entire families (cue the Red Dragon) in order to make the ultimate "art" from their dying flesh (remember Buffalo Bill?), and his ego is even bigger than his reputation ("I expect I'll not only be forgiven but I'll be more sought after than ever before. There'll be rock bands named Stassler, and my sculpture will sell for several times its original price"). Nykanen's spin on these Thomas Harris tropes gives the killer his own first-person POV and one of his latest victims a particularly disturbing case of Stockholm syndrome ("I clamp my hand over her mouth.... And then—I don't believe it—she slips her tongue against my fingers. What a wench.... I love her"). In a lackluster subplot, a junior art professor named Lauren Reed learns that her most promising student has gone missing during an internship at Stassler's Utah ranch. The connection is a hunky reporter named Ry Chambers, who interviews Lauren as well as Stassler. Nykanen loads up his tale with plenty of voyeuristic sadism on Stassler's end, while the predictable trysting between Lauren and Ry is all gushy romance ("her mouth opened as readily as leaves in the desert to an early morning mist"). Fans of Harris and other dark thriller writers may eat this one up, but no amount of good details or spine-tingling descriptions can replace original plotting and characters. Agent, Luke Janklow. (Feb.)
Forecast: Despite its flaws, this has impulse-buy potential: Nykanen's grisly scenarios leap off the page and will likely hook browsers. Though its shock value may not translate into staying power, early sales could be lively. Author tour.
Release date: 02/01/2004