Crowbones, by Anne Bishop

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Publication date – March 8, 2022

Summary: Crowbones will gitcha if you don’t watch out!

Deep in the territory controlled by the Others—shape-shifters, vampires, and even deadlier paranormal beings—Vicki DeVine has made a new life for herself running The Jumble, a rustic resort. When she decides to host a gathering of friends and guests for Trickster Night, at first everything is going well between the humans and the Others.

But then someone arrives dressed as Crowbones, the Crowgard bogeyman. When the impostor is killed along with a shape-shifting Crow, and the deaths are clearly connected, everyone fears that the real Crowbones may have come to The Jumble—and that could mean serious trouble.

To “encourage” humans to help them find some answers, the Elders and Elementals close all the roads, locking in suspects and victims alike. Now Vicki, human police chief Grimshaw, vampire lawyer Ilya Sanguinati, and the rest of their friends have to figure out who is manipulating events designed to pit humans against Others—and who may have put Vicki DeVine in the crosshairs of a powerful hunter.

Thoughts: Starting very shortly after the end of Lake Silence, and with the same cast of characters, Crowbones starts out with Vicki DeVine getting her terra indigene friends interested in the tradition of Trickster Night, this world’s equivalent of Halloween. Seems like a fun harmless thing, a nice way to get the Others to understand human traditions and interact with them a little bit, especially with some new human guests staying at Vicki’s property on Lake Silence.

But it wouldn’t be an Others novel if this plan didn’t go terribly awry. The arrival of a figure dressed as the terrifying Crowbones, an Elder terra indigene who dispenses brutal justice to and on behalf of the Crowgard, arrives at the Jumble and scares the everloving crap out of everyone. Turns out that first sighting was someone dressed up as Crowbones, not the real thing, but that begs the question: how did a human know what Crowbones looks like?

And why does the real Crowbones arrive shortly after? Why are both humans and Crows being killed? How does it all connect to the humans staying at the Jumble? Or does it connect to the arrival of 4 young Sanguinati vampires who recently arrived at Lake Silence to learn how to interact with humans?

Crowbones is, at its heart, a murder mystery, which seems to be par for the course for things involving Vicki, since Lake Silence was also a murder mystery. Death seems to happen around her a distressing amount. But this time the stakes are higher, as the arrival of the actual Crowbones means that some sort of corruption has come to the town of Sproing and its surrounding area, and the Elementals respond by literally blocking off all the roads so that nobody can leave or enter until the mystery, and the corruption, have been dealt with. It was honestly interesting to see so many small mysteries and plot threads all stemmed from the same source. All the questions I asked in the previous paragraph? They are all connected, even if it doesn’t seem like it at first.

And honestly, I think the reason I find this interesting is because it didn’t need to happen. I’ve said before that sometimes books are notable for what they don’t do rather than what they do do, and I think this is one of those cases. The young Sanguinati could have just been there because they were there, and to add a little tension by involving inexperienced teen-equivalents into an ongoing murder investigation… but that wasn’t the case. The professors visiting the Jumble in order to get a chance to meet some terra indigene and learn more about their folklore and mythology could have been an element solely there to explain the human perspective on what Crowbones might be, or to provide some amusing misunderstandings… but there was so much more to it than that. I’m no mystery writer, and I don’t have the greatest amount of experience in holding that many mysterious plot threads as I write, but it seems to me that a number of mysteries do have those little side-elements, things that add depth to the story and the world but aren’t necessarily directly related to the mystery at hand.

And that didn’t happen here.

And so I was hooked the whole way through, trying to piece together all the clues and figure out what fit and how it fit and maybe what was a red herring… It was a fun read, in that regard.

My biggest complaint is, weirdly, the character of Crowbones itself. Crowbones is an Elder terra indigene, known as the world’s “teeth and claws,” and Crowbones is a sort of bogeyman for the Crowgard. Its purpose (I’m deliberately obscuring Crowbones’s gender here, to avoid potential spoilers) is to kill bad Crows who have become a threat to their kind or who have become corrupted, and to avenge Crows who have lost their lives to that same sort of corruption. A very cool concept, something that will avenge you if you fall, but will punish the hell out of you if you transgress. Makes sense.

So… where was Crowbones when Crows were literally being targeted and killed in Murder of Crows? Crowbones is only one person, sure, and can’t be everywhere at once, but in that novel twisted humans were deliberately targeting Crows by luring them in with shiny things and then poisoning them or setting vicious drugged animals on them… and there was no rattle rattle rattle of Crowbones drawing near to seek revenge.

Or maybe that did happen, but it all happened off the page. Maybe Crowbones didn’t get there before other people handled the situation. I don’t know. But it was a plot hole that I noticed. Really, not an uncommon plot hole when one is dealing with a book series that’s approaching 10 novels at this point. Sooner or later, you’re bound to have an idea for a new story, and there’s an element or two that gets introduced that probably should have been mentioned in an earlier book, but you couldn’t do that because you didn’t think of it until now. It happens. I get that. But it’s still worth mentioning. When readers have to read between the lines and come up with their own theories as to why this didn’t happen sooner, it feels like an oversight, even when it’s just… chronology.

Anyway, on the whole, I really enjoyed Crowbones, and the expansion of lore that it provided for the series. I still relate a lot to Vicki, so I think I’ll forever enjoy reading the novels that involve her, and I’m definitely here for more of them if Anne Bishop decides to write them. (There were some hints at the end of the book that there’s something odd happening to the Sanguinati, so I suspect there’ll be at least one more spin-off novel in the future, and I’m absolutely here for it!) Bishop continues being able to tell a compelling story in an interesting world, and this series long ago became a comfort read for me, so I admit I’m a little biased, but still. If you enjoy the Others novels, then you’re also likely to enjoy Crowbones too, especially if you were a fan of Lake Silence. This isn’t really one you can read without having read Lake Silence already, so it’s not a good jumping-in point for the series, but if you’re already a fan, yeah, you’ll appreciate this one too.

And if you don’t… Well, Crowbones is gonna gitcha.

(Book received in exchange for an honest review.)

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