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Monday, 2 January 2017

‘The Bone Ritual’ by Julian Lees

Published by Constable,
6 October 2016.
ISBN: 978-1-472-12309-1

First Inspector Ruud Pujasumarta of the Jakarta police has never seen a crime like it: a middle-aged woman who has first had one hand severed, then been choked to death with a mah-jong tile in her throat. When Ruud’s former playfellow, Imke Schneider arrives, they’re immediately attracted to each other, but Imke also has a dark secret ...

This present-day PP moves between narrators: we follow Ruud, Imke and her eccentric Aunt Erica, whose portrait commission has brought them to Indonesia, in third person, but there are also first-person sections in the voice of the brother of the perpetrator of this series of killings, and these are used to give us hints as to who the killer might be – several possibles are set up, and dismissed in turn. There are also moments of tension as it appears that key characters may have been taken by the killer. The characters are an interestingly diverse bunch: Ruud, whose wife has left him – as everybody knows, and isn’t shy of mentioning - is now haunted by his mother-in-law bringing him lunchtime curries, and dealing with his choleric boss. Imke is torn between her need to return to her childhood home and the feeling that her family left under a cloud; Aunt Erika travels with the contents of a sweet shop to fuel her chocolate habit. The sights, sounds and smells of Indonesia are vividly evoked, particularly through the country’s food. The plot moves swiftly,  the general feel is of a cosy read, but the scenes of violence are evoked in full detail – one, an act of violence against a child, is particularly disturbing – and the end climax comes close to torture porn.

A cosy PP with episodes of noir violence, clever plotting and an unusual setting.
Reviewer: Marsali Taylor

Julian Lees was born and raised in Hong Kong, attended boarding school in England and currently lives in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, with his wife and children.  The great-grandson of a high-ranking Cossack general who served under the last Tsar of Russia, Julian is a writer who draws from his family's rich history. His novels are set in a world where East meets West, a cross-cultural world which he captures bewitchingly and dramatically in his fiction.

Marsali Taylor grew up near Edinburgh, and came to Shetland as a newly-qualified teacher. She is currently a part-time teacher on Shetland's scenic west side, living with her husband and two Shetland ponies. Marsali is a qualified STGA tourist-guide who is fascinated by history, and has published plays in Shetland's distinctive dialect, as well as a history of women's suffrage in Shetland. She's also a keen sailor who enjoys exploring in her own 8m yacht, and an active member of her local drama group.  Marsali also does a regular monthly column for the Mystery People e-zine.

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