Faulty Bones by J.M. Fraser
Published by Natalyn Press on December 19, 2016
Genre(s): fiction, fantasy, mystery, romance
Format & Length: e-book, 242
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Destined love thwarted by a supernatural con game.
Two bankrupt card players, lured by black magic and a casino-chip counterfeiting scam, get lost within the folds of a world no longer true.
Faulty Bones follows the journey of Mike and Amy–a couple of restless drifters who misdirect their anchors to the shifty part of town. Can they overcome her gambling addiction and his tenuous grasp of reality to find their way back on the grid? A pair of scheming mobsters, a demonic con man, and a series of ripples in the sands of time won’t make the going easy.
Nothing proves to be as it seems in this novel, and that’s the essence of a good scam. Are you a clever enough detective to guess the secrets before they’re revealed?
What caught my attention for Faulty Bones was the blurb that was purposefully vague. I was curious how the author would combine card playing characters with the supernatural and mix in some time travel.
“When stuck in a loop, where’s the beginning?”
Upon starting it, however, I couldn’t help but be disappointed. The beginning crawled at nearly a turtle’s pace, and I almost put it down several times. To start with, the first few chapters were confusing. I don’t think this is necessarily Fraser’s fault: for one thing, what he was trying to accomplish here was difficult; for another, as his debut novel, it was really not a bad effort. Seriously, how do you make it clear to your readers, without specifically stating the fact, that one character is traveling forward in time like normal, while the other is living their days backwards? One thing that might have helped would have been to mark the chapters with the name of which character is narrating, as it wasn’t always clear from the first line of the chapter whose perspective we were looking through.
That being said, I persevered because I was so curious to see where he would take this story. And by about the midway point, Faulty Bones began to hit its stride, and we started to see some answers and some interesting twists. Fraser held back quite a bit for a very long time (possibly to make it more dramatic?), and I feel the first half would have held my attention if we had gotten more hints – even subtle ones – at what was to come later. That being said, the second half became much clearer and more engrossing, snowballing into a brisker pace that was much more to my liking.
As far as the writing itself, two things stood out for me. First, Fraser toed the line between contemporary realism and fantasy quite well. I am not much of a gambler myself, but my husband enjoys a good poker game. From my modest understanding of the game, this part of the book was very realistic, and portrayed in a way that is easy to comprehend. This sense of realism helped to ground the more fantastical elements, keeping the book from getting into full fantasy mode. Second, it was decidedly witty. Between snappy dialogue, well-placed pop culture references, and moments that made me laugh out loud, it was both clever and funny, which is always a plus in my opinion.
Overall, Faulty Bones was not perfection but it wasn’t terrible either. Although it can be read as a standalone, it is intended to be the first book in a trilogy, and I’m interested to see where Fraser will take the series.
*Thanks to the publisher for providing a copy of this edition via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.