"Valley of Bones" by Michael Gruber

"Valley of Bones" by Michael Gruber

Michael Gruber's Valley of Bones does not have interesting characters. It does not have an interesting plot. It does present an interesting look at the culture of Cuban-Americans living in Miami, Florida. From a literary perspective, however, this book is about as rewarding as an expired lottery ticket without the winning numbers.

Cuban-American cop (and recurring hero in Gruber's novels) Jimmy Paz is on the scene to investigate the mysterious and grizzly death of an Arab businessman. The only suspect is a homeless woman who has spent time as a prostitute, drug dealer, militia leader, and now claims to commune with God. She also claims that she's innocent. Investigating the crazy lady is Lorna Wise, the brilliant and beautiful psychologist who's called in to make sense of the woman. The shocking, sensational secrets shake Wise's world and Paz's beliefs to their respective cores.

That's what the jacket would have you believe, anyway. These characters are dull. Dulllllllll. Paz patrols the crime/gang/drug-ridden streets of Miami wearing a silk and linen suit. He paints. He's a reader. He's a writer. He's a lover. He's deadly at fifteen paces, lethal at a hundred and damn near fatal at a thousand. He practices shiatsu. He love (sic) his mama. He cooks. The ladies love him. The men, when not wanting to be him, love him more.

Lorna Wise is a brilliant psychologist, the world's best. But she's plagued with self-doubt. Is she good enough? Will she crack this case? Will she ever find a man she won't drive away with her insecurities? Of course she will! His name's Jimmy Paz. He's a cop. He's a lover. He's a god.

The characters are such caricatures, it's painful, it really is. There's nothing original about them. They're every Renaissance Man/tough guy cop and every brilliant, subject-matter expert who needs a man to show her how beautiful she is. The villain of the book became clear long before the dramatic reveal. Even then, he doesn't even do anything apart from try to kill Paz and Wise. Way to go, tough guy, you're trying to kill the heroes. My boots, they quiver.

The Jane Doe story is a bit more interesting, but while Gruber could have added another dimension to her story with the divine conversations angle, he takes the easy way out. Maybe I'm just not meant for police thrillers with a quasi-supernatural edge, I don't know, but Valley of Bones makes my expired lottery ticket look good.