Meet Sunday Night, a woman with physical and psychological scars, and a killer instinct. . . .
Sunnie has spent years running from her past, burying secrets and building a life in which she needs no one and feels nothing. But a girl has gone missing, lost in the chaos of a bomb explosion, and the family needs Sunnie’s help. Is the girl dead? Did someone take her? If she is out there, why doesn’t she want to be found?
It’s time for Sunnie to face her own demons—because they just might lead her to the truth about what really happened all those years ago.
This is the first book I’ve read by Kathy Reichs. I’ve known the name for years and know of the popularity of Bones (although I’ve never watched it), which is based on the Temperance Brennan books. I get the impression from Reichs’ own introduction to the book that this is a departure from her and maybe that’s why it was so different to what I had expected. As Reichs is most known for her forensic anthropology, I was surprised to find that this isn’t a scientific investigation and is instead a more run-of-the-mill private detective story.
Sunday Night (yes, that’s the main character’s name) is an ex-military, ex-cop and now lives a self-imposed solitary life on Goat Island off the coast of South Carolina. Her only companion there is Perry “Beau” Beaumonde, an ex-detective who acted as a father-figure to Sunnie when she was a rebellious teenager. Following the accidental shooting of an unarmed man, which left her wounded, Sunnie left the force and promised herself that she would never be dragged back. But, determined to get her working again, Beau brings the case of a missing 15-year-old girl to Sunnie and Sunnie can’t help but take it. Stella, the granddaughter of wealthy Opaline Drucker, disappeared following the bombing of a Jewish school that killed her mother and younger brother. Unsure of whether the girl is alive or dead, Sunny takes the case due to her own traumatic upbringing, which is revealed to us throughout the book.
Although this is clearly a thriller, the identities of the killers/kidnappers are clearly secondary as Reichs is more interested in exploring the character of Sunday Night. Although this approach is to be commended in putting character before plot, it sometimes feels too heavy-handed and we often lose sight of the case. About halfway through the book, I found myself losing interest in the chase and just wanted it to be over. I also found that the plot repeated itself as Sunnie moves from hotel to hotel to keep one step ahead of the bombers and sets up motion detectors to evade capture. In one particularly lengthy section, she waits outside her hotel room at the Ritz to see if someone has broken into her room when one of the motion detectors is triggered. Reichs’ intention here is clearly to create suspense but I found myself getting bored and skipping ahead. After Sunnie ropes in her twin brother August (Gus), it feels like the pair are following the bombers around the US for an inordinately long time, eventually ending up at the Kentucky Derby where they suspect an anti-Muslim cult may plant a bomb.
Sunnie’s fragility is not only revealed by her paranoia but it is also expressed through her constant use of sarcasm, which can be extremely grating and tiresome to read at times. For long periods of the book, almost every line she utters, and sometimes thinks, is a wisecrack. Although this goes towards showing how fragile she is, it makes parts of the book hard to read as nothing useful is actually said.
Overall, the book really wasn’t for me.
About the author
Kathy Reichs is the author of eighteen New York Times bestselling novels and the co-author, with her son, Brendan Reichs, of six novels for young adults. Like the protagonist of her Temperance Brennan series, Reichs is a forensic anthropologist—one of fewer than one hundred ever certified by the American Board of Forensic Anthropology. A professor in the Department of Anthropology at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, she is a former vice president of the American Academy of Forensic Sciences and serves on the National Police Services Advisory Council in Canada. Reichs’s own life, as much as her novels, is the basis for the TV show Bones, one of the longest-running series in the history of the Fox network.