"Madness, murder, mystery and romance make THE BONE HOUSE a chilling page turner."
Reviewed by Lynn Cunningham
Posted August 11, 2011
When Mark and Hilary Bradley moved to their dream location
on a remote and lovely island town off of Lake Michigan,
they never imagined that their lives could take such a
troubling turn. Mark is thrown into the middle of scandalous
accusations of having a steamy affair with one of his
students and no one will believe that it's not true. He's
fired from his teaching job under false pretenses of budget
cuts, but everyone knows better.
A year later, another teenage girl is found murdered on a
Florida beach and, once again, Mark is under suspicion. He
and Hilary are visiting the location because of a dance
competition that Hilary wants to attend to show support of
some past students. Little do they know that evil has
followed them to this beautiful vacation spot.
Hilary doesn't believe any of it and is determined to clear
Mark's name, which turns out to be much harder than she
would have ever anticipated. Too many things to point to
Mark's guilt and a still smitten young woman isn't making
things any easier. There are too many secrets on their
little island and some of them Hilary and Mark have no idea of.
These secrets include the mystery of a long ago fire that
burned a house and its occupants to the ground and the
madness that led to it. This secret has even deeper and more
evil secrets surrounding it. There are certain people that
will do anything, even kill, to make sure these are kept
Handsome, wealthy Cab Bolton, a Florida homicide detective,
catches the murder case on his turf. He's very tenacious
with his job and takes it quite seriously. Mark Bradley is
Cab's number one suspect and he's not about to let him just
fly back off to the north. As he has no true evidence to
hold Mark, he does the next best thing; Cab goes to the
little island where Mark and Hilary live to dig even deeper
into this man's life. Cab knows a lot about secrets, too.
They've been keeping him from having a successful meaningful
relationship for years.
Mark and Hilary find that they can't outrun their trouble.
They also find that someone is serious about wanting them
dead. Yes, there ARE some people that will do whatever it
takes to keep secrets buried; even kill.
THE BONE HOUSE has just the right amount of satisfying
twists and turns that the reader will never see coming.
Brian Freeman knows how to spin a great story and keep his
readers on the edge of their seats. I, personally, never
miss any of Brian Freeman's books from the time I discovered
them. Treat yourself to the perfect way to spend a rainy
afternoon or a sunny day on the beach.
Hilary and Mark Bradley are trapped in a web of suspicion.
Last year, accusations of a torrid affair with a student
cost Mark his teaching job and made the young couple into
outcasts in their remote island town off the Lake Michigan
coast. Now another teenage girl is found dead on a deserted
beach. . . and once again, Mark faces a hostile town
convinced of his guilt.
Hilary Bradley is determined to prove that Mark is innocent,
but sheâ€™s on a lonely, dangerous quest. Even when she
discovers that the murdered girl was witness to a horrific
crime years earlier, the police are certain sheâ€™s throwing
up a smoke screen to protect her husband. Only a quirky
detective named Cab Bolton seems willing to believe Hilaryâ€™s
Hilary and Cab soon find that people in this community are
willing to kill to keep their secrets hiddenâ€”and to make
sure Mark doesnâ€™t get away with murder. And with each
shocking revelation, even Hilary begins to wonder whether
her husband is truly innocent. Freemanâ€™s first stand-alone
thriller since his Stride novels is a knockout.
Six Years Ago
Glory Fischer lay atop a mattress on the floor with her
brown eyes wide open, smearing the mosquitoes that landed on
her face and listening to the moths beat their wings madly
against the screen. Her skin was filmy with sweat. Her
nightgown clung to her scrawny legs in the dampness. She
waited, chewing her fingernails, until the house was dead
still. At one in the morning, she finally decided it was
safe to sneak away, the way she had done for the past five
No one would hear her leave. No one would hear her come
Her mother slept alone in a bedroom across the hall, with
an electric fan grinding beside her pillow that drowned out
her snores. Her sister Tresa, and Tresaâ€™s best friend Jen,
were finally sleeping, too. The two girls had stayed up
late, acting out stories from a vampire fanzine in loud
voices. It was a Tuesday in mid-July, and bedtimes and
school nights were a long way away. Usually, Glory didnâ€™t
like Jen sleeping over, because the ruckus of the girls on
the other side of the wall kept her awake. Tonight she
didnâ€™t care, because she needed to stay awake anyway.
Jen lived in the house across the road, but Glory didnâ€™t
think that her sisterâ€™s friend knew what was hidden in the
loft of their garage. Nobody did. Not Jenâ€™s mother Nettie,
who was in a wheelchair now and rarely left the house. Not
her father Harris, who was on the road most days, traveling
around Wisconsin for his job. Not Jenâ€™s two older brothers
either. Especially not them. If theyâ€™d known, they would
have done something cruel, because that was who they were.
Glory sat up cross-legged, with her pink nightgown
bunching above her knees. The hot wind gusted under the
curtain and made the room smell of cherries, which were
squashed all over the county roads like dots of red paint at
this time of year. Leaning over, Glory slid open the bottom
drawer of her dresser and dug beneath her underwear for the
stash she had deposited there after dinner: a warm,
unopened carton of milk and a paper bag stuffed with
crumbled potato chips, sunflower seeds, mushed banana, and
The ten-year-old girl stood up and stuffed her bare feet
into sneakers. It was time to go. She bent back the broken
screen from her window until she could fit one leg outside
the house, then the other. She held the paper bag between
her teeth and squeezed the milk carton under her arm. She
jumped awkwardly, landing in the dirt five feet below. Her
mouth opened with a loud oof, and the bag fell and spilled.
She picked it up and checked inside. There was still
plenty of food.
Glory bit her lip and peered at the messy weeds in the
yard and the nearby woods. The world felt big, and she felt
small. The moonless sky glistened with stars. The pines
swayed like giants and whispered to each other. Swallowing
down her fear, she sprinted through the tall grass. She
figured if she went fast enough, the ticks and the box elder
bugs clinging to the green shoots wouldnâ€™t land on her. Her
arms pumped, and her long hair flew behind her. She reached
the dirt road, which was rippled with tractor ruts, and she
stopped, breathing hard in the stifling air.
The rural lane looked lonely. There were no cars and no
street lights, just a crooked row of telephone poles beside
her, holding the bowed wires like jump ropes. The two-story
house loomed across the way, sheltered by oak trees down a
long driveway. Glory ran again but slowed to a nervous walk
when she got close. The chipped paint and hanging shutters
gave her a creepy feeling, and when the wind blew, the house
sighed. Sheâ€™d asked her mother once if the Bone house was
haunted. Her mother had gotten a strange look on her face
and said there were no such things as ghosts or monsters,
just unhappy people.
Glory crept to the garage, which was in the midst of a
grassy field. A rusted padlock held the side door closed.
She knew where Mr. Bone kept the key, on a hook hidden
underneath the window ledge. She undid the padlock,
replaced the key on the hook, and opened the door. She
always got a lump in her throat creeping inside. She
reached for a heavy flashlight on the shelves next to the
door, and when she turned it on and rattled the batteries,
it struggled to make a tiny orange glow across the floor.
She could see mouse droppings littered at her feet. Parked
in front of her was a pickup truck with a dirty tarpaulin
stretched over its bed. At the rear of the garage was a
wooden ladder leading to the loft.
"Itâ€™s me," she called softly. "Iâ€™m here."
Glory tiptoed to the ladder. The rotten steps sagged as
she climbed, and splinters poked her fingers. Ten feet over
the floor, she crawled onto the bed of the loft, which was
strewn with paint cans and moldy blankets. She saw nails
jutting down through the roof shingles and a huge papery
growth under the eave that was really a hornetâ€™s nest.
"Hey," she said. "Where are you?"
She heard the scrape of claws and a wispy squeal. When
she turned her flashlight toward the sound, she saw the
wide, curious eyes of the kitten squeezing out of its hiding
place. She gathered the little animal up into her arms and
was rewarded with a rumbling purr that was loud in her ears.
The kittenâ€™s spiky fur was mottled with tan and black,
striped like a tiger.
"Look what I have," Glory said. She poured milk into the
lid of a dirty glass jar, then dumped the food from the
paper bag onto the floor and let the kitten attack it
hungrily. She stroked its back as it ate noisily and then
picked it up with one hand and deposited it near the milk,
where it drank until its mouth was damp and white. When it
was done, the kitten climbed up her bare legs with wobbly
steps, and she put it back down on the floor of the loft.
As Glory watched happily, it hopped in and out of the
flashlight glow, slapping at a black beetle with its tiny
Glory was so caught up in the antics of the kitten, so
much in love with it, that she didnâ€™t realize immediately
that she wasnâ€™t alone anymore.
Then her heart galloped in her chest. She heard
footsteps treading on the gravel outside the garage.
Glory sucked in her breath, covered the light, and shrank
back from the edge of the loft. Donâ€™t come inside, donâ€™t
come inside, donâ€™t come inside, she prayed in her head, but
she heard the bang of the metal plate on the door lock as
the side door opened below her. Someone stole into the
garage. Someone was with her, moving about in the darkness,
the way a ghost would, the way a monster would.
She hugged the kitten to her chest and flattened herself
against a blanket on the floor. In her arms, the kitten
squirmed and mewed. She tried to bury the sound by keeping
its little body against her chest, but whoever was below her
heard something in the rafters and stopped. There was a
moment of horrible quiet, then a flashlight beam speared
through the dark space. It swept like a searchlight around
the corners of the garage and traced the wall of the loft
just above her head. Hunting for her among the spider webs.
She thought about calling out. Whoever it was would be
surprised, but theyâ€™d laugh to find her here. There was no
reason to be afraid. Even so, she kept her lips tightly
shut. She didnâ€™t even want to breathe. It was the middle
of the night and no one should be here now.
Somehow Glory knew in the hollow of her stomach:
something bad was happening.
The light went black. Below her, she heard labored
breathing as the stranger dragged something heavy off the
metal shelves. She heard an odd burp of plastic and a hiss
of air. Something bounced on the floor like a bottle cap
and rolled, and the intruder didnâ€™t bother to retrieve it.
As Glory listened, stiff with fear, she heard the outside
door open. The lock rattled, and the garage fell into a
deep quiet again. It was over. She was alone.
She waited with no sense of time ticking away. She
didnâ€™t know how long she lay in the loft, not moving,
wondering if it was safe to escape. Finally, when she felt
bugs crawling over her bare legs, she grabbed the kitten
with one hand and navigated backwards down the wobbly
ladder. She jumped the last few feet to the floor and took
blind, tentative steps toward the window so she could stare
outside. She spied the dark square of glass, which looked
out toward the west wall of the Bone house. The height of
the window frame was almost taller than she was. She had to
stand on her toes to look out.
The glass was punched with b-b holes shot by the Bone
boys. Air whipped in through the starbursts. Before she
pushed her head above the ledge, she smelled an odor that
was both sickly sweet and overpowering.
A drowning, drenching wave of gasoline.
Glory didnâ€™t understand, but the foul smell made her want
to run. Run fast, with the kitten sheltered in her arms.
Run home to her bed. Get away.
She poked her eyes above the window frame. When she did,
she had to clap her hand over her mouth not to scream. A
black silhouette stood immediately on the other side of the
glass, not even a foot away. She couldnâ€™t see the personâ€™s
face, but she squeezed her own eyes shut and stood shock
still, as if becoming a statue would make her invisible.
Fumes of gasoline crept into her nose, and she swallowed
back a cough. When no one came running, she peeked through
her eyelids and dared to look again. The person didnâ€™t
move. She heard loud breathing, the way an animal would
pant. Before her brain could process what was happening,
she saw the smallest flick of a hand, saw bare skin, and saw
the tiny eruption of a flame.
The hand cupped it and dropped it. The flame descended
to the ground in a flash of light like a falling star. It
was a simple thing, someone lighting a cigarette and then
stamping out the match with their foot.
But there was no cigarette.
Gloryâ€™s world blew into pieces. The flame struck the
earth, and a cannon of fire erupted, filling the window and
blowing her backward like a punch to her chest. She
shielded her eyes with her hand, and through her slitted
fingers, she watched the fire leap like a circus acrobat
toward the Bone house. The flames sped along scorched,
intersecting paths, greedily licking at the walls and
climbing for the sky. In seconds, fire was everywhere,
consuming the frame of the house as if it were nothing but a
few branches of kindling stuffed under the grate. She
smelled wood blackening and heard knots pop like knuckles
cracking. Through the house windows, she saw the yellow
glow of flame blooming inside, and soon, she couldnâ€™t see
the house at all; it disappeared behind a tower of smoke and
fire. The heat was so ferocious and so close that her hands
and face began to sear. She backed up and gagged as poison
billowed through the window and filled the garage.
Crying, coughing, Glory bolted for the door, but it was
locked. Locked on the outside. The rattling hinges refused
to give way. When she touched the door knob, she burned her
fingers on the hot metal and screamed.
It was now bright as day inside the garage, but the white
haze gathering in the air was as impenetrable as the
darkness. Glory ran from the fire toward the wide
automobile door, but she pulled and tugged on the handle and
couldnâ€™t move it at all. She could hardly breathe now. The
smoke infiltrated her eyes and lungs. She crumbled to her
knees and wept as an orange dragon crackled through the wall
and began to devour the garage itself. The sound was loud
and terrifying, a roar, a hiss, worse than any monster sheâ€™d
imagined living here.
Glory backed up, scraping her knees on the floor until
they bled. She retreated into the farthest corner of the
garage, and when she could go no farther, she curled up into
a ball. She clutched the kitten to her cheek, kissed its
face over and over, and whispered in its ear, "Baby, baby,
baby, baby." She closed her eyes as the fire ballooned over
her and poked at her with its evil tongue like a spitting devil.
She prayed the way her father had taught her to pray
before he died.
She prayed that God would lift her up in His arms and
take her back home, where she would awaken on her mattress
on the floor of her bedroom. The humid night would be still
again, the mosquitoes would be buzzing in her ears, and the
kitten would be purring in her arms.
Even when part of the wall collapsed around her body in a
cascading spray of sparks and debris, and left a gaping hole
where she could escape, Glory prayed.
Even when she crawled away over a trail of burning embers
into the safety of the grass, with the kitten nestled in her
chest, she prayed.
She lay with her hands covering her ears, but she
couldnâ€™t shelter herself from the awful noise. Over the
howl of the fire, she heard the agonized wails of the people
dying inside the Bone house, and in her desperation, she
prayed that God would make this night unreal. Make it go
away forever. Wipe her memory clean until she forgot
everything, even in her worst dreams.
Please, God, let me forget everything, Glory prayed.
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