Outspoken QC Brogan McLane is defending a young woman accused of the attempted murder of her infant son. When the young woman is convicted and sentenced, McLane begins his search for evidence that he can use on appeal to save the woman from what he believes is an unjust sentence.

When, by chance, he comes upon an article about scientist Professor Peter Collins and the condition known as Osteogenesis Imperfecta (OI), McLane finds himself involved in not only legal research but cutting edge scientific research as well. Using the scientific breakthrough Professor Collins and Professor Levitson have discovered, McLane must try to convince a panel of conservative judges that his evidence is strong enough to save his client.

Theme of the Book

The Bones is a novel that successfully combines legal processes and scientific discovery. The legal system has to struggle to keep up with new discoveries in science, medicine, and forensics. In The Bones, the conflict between a tradition-bound legal system and the fast pace of new information in the sciences come into conflict.

What I Liked About the Story

Mr. Mayer never hesitates to take on difficult and uncomfortable subjects. In his previous Parliament House books he has handled sexual abuse and human trafficking and, in The Bones, tackles the horror of physical abuse of infants. While the topics are often difficult to read about, the author handles them with sensitivity and honesty.

Mr. Mayer’s combination of legal and scientific theory to produce a thrilling novel is truly impressive. At times, the reader unfamiliar with the justice system of Scotland will be a bit lost in the arcane terminology. Luckily, the author has provided a glossary of terms to help. Most readers will have at least a passing familiarity with DNA research thanks to programs like CSI so the science involved in solving the mystery will not be totally unfamiliar.

As in his previous books, the characters, especially that of Brogan McLean, are very well developed. Each one, from the client Tina through the professors, is believable. Those who have read the first books in the series will be familiar with the recurring characters from the Calton Bar: Big Joe Mularkey, Turk, Arab, and Auld Faither. These characters play an important role in the development of the plot and in the action of the novel.

Once the trial of Tina is over, the pace of the novel picks up and never slows down again. While the outcome is never in doubt, the author manages to build tension and suspense throughout.

What I Didn’t Like About the Story

Part 1 of The Bones concerns Tina’s trial. This part moves very slowly and the long speeches of both prosecution and defense attorneys are sleep-inducing. It is never very clear why McLane, famous as a winning defender, is so lackadaisical during the trial. The astute reader knows that Tina will be convicted and that the rest of the novel will concern her conviction and sentence. While reading, I kept wishing the author would just tell the rest of the story.

There are many references to events that took place in the first and second books of the series. These can be very confusing for a new reader who will not understand them. It’s too bad that the author could not find a way to make the references clearer for new readers.

I am not a lawyer. However, I did wonder about the legality of some of McLane’s actions and the admissibility of the evidence he used. I also wondered about OI. From outside reading, it seems the condition can be inherited. In that case, why did no one try to obtain DNA samples from the children’s parents?

As a final comment, there were a few editing problems with the book (“delayed puTomy”?). Though the editing problems did not hinder enjoyment, it is sad to see them in such normally high quality writing.

Final Say

I found the first novel in the Parliament House series, The Trial, to be the most thrilling and most suspenseful. This one is disturbing, educational, and fairly predictable. I did enjoy the book, but I’m beginning to wish for a nice cheerful murder rather than horror stories of the abuse of children.

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