When a local college is targeted in a mass shooting, citizens of Atlanta are disappointed with how the case is handled. With racial tensions on the rise, in part because the victims were African American, protesters flock to the streets in Trudy Nan Boyce’s timely police procedural, Old Bones.
Sarah “Salt” Alt is a homicide detective with the Atlanta Police Department, who knows death all too intimately. At just ten years old, her father–who was also a cop–killed himself. Now, Salt lives her days tracking down killers and putting them behind bars.
When a gunman opens fire on the campus of Spelman, a historically black women’s university, during a peaceful demonstration, one person is killed and ten more are seriously wounded. Salt pursues the shooter, who flees in a 4X4 donning a confederate flag, engaging them in a high-speed chase and wild shootout before her police vehicle is rendered useless in a crash, allowing the murderer to get away.
Furious with herself for letting the shooter escape, Salt wants to be put on the case. Instead, she’s assigned to another homicide.
The body of a young teenager has been discovered, and the medical examiner believes she’s been dead for months due to the advanced state of decomposition. The circumstances of her death are murky, but as Salt begins her investigation, she realizes she may have known the girl, whom she identifies as Mary McCloud. It turns out that Salt had arrested McCloud nearly two years prior for a crime that landed the girl in a juvenile detention center.
While seeking justice for McCloud, Salt is still keeping tabs on the Spelman case. Department standards require her to undergo an evaluation with a psychiatrist to ensure she’s fit for duty, something she dodges at all costs. With her city divided, a little girl dead, and her own past still torturing her, Salt wants nothing to do with sitting on a doctor’s couch to talk about her feelings.
As both investigations heat up, rioters continue their protests–which begin to turn violent. As seen in real-life situations where well-intentioned protesters start looting and lighting things on fire, so too does the situation in Atlanta worsen. Salt and other officers are called on to help keep the peace, but as she stands in the streets, Salt finds herself questioning which side she agrees with.
Gritty and authentic-feeling, Old Bones examines what has become an all too common occurrence in city streets across America. Nan Boyce does a nice job of showing both sides of the issue in a favorable light, though because the topic is somewhat controversial, readers may draw their own conclusions as to who’s right and who’s wrong.
The bigger issue, though, is that the plot feels extremely choppy at times because there is so much going on within the story. While that may be a realistic approach, as police officers and detectives usually have more than one task or case to investigate at a time, it does cause some confusion. Stricter focus on one of the cases would have provided depth, whereas the author’s approach and bouncing around instead waters down each incident the heroine is facing. It also leaves little time for any of the characters besides Salt to be developed, making it hard for readers to connect with them.
While Old Bones manages to accurately capture what life is like for a police officer, its strongest accomplishment is featuring a relevant plot that far too many readers will understand and share frustration with–regardless of which side of the discussion they tend to argue.
Author: Trudy Nan Boyce
Series: Sarah Alt #2
Pages: 352 (Hardcover)
Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons
Release Date: February 21, 2017 (Order Now!)