Monday, April 15, 2024

Aubrey Nye Hamilton Reviews: Nothing But the Bones by Brian Panowich

Brian Panowich continues his multi-generational saga about the Burroughs crime family on Bull Mountain in McFalls County, Georgia, with Nothing But the Bones (Minotaur Books, April 2024). Most of the action takes place before the later events of Bull Mountain. The book is broken into three segments, the first one set in 1989, the second one in 1996, and the third one in 2007.

Misfit Nelson McKenna was born crippled, his family abused and mistreated him, then he was rejected by most of the world until Gareth Burroughs took him in as a teenager and diverted his formidable strength into an enforcer role for Burroughs’ criminal activities.

One night at a club McKenna sees a woman being mistreated and loses his temper, killing the bully in full view of a number of people. Burroughs doesn’t have enough political pull to protect McKenna from the legal consequences, so he gives him a place to run to and enough money to pay for the trip.

The mistreated woman invites herself along and the two hesitantly bond during the drive to Jacksonville, Florida, discovering both had been damaged by their parents and exploited by others. Clayton Burroughs, Gareth’s youngest son and the conscience of the Burroughs family, finds McKenna to bring him back to Georgia. Things go sideways rapidly in a series of inhumanely violent events that miraculously converge to deliver hope and happiness for both of the main characters, who are amazing creations.

The definition of family, of friendship, and of loyalty is explored here in the context of the poverty and hopelessness of rural Appalachian Georgia. Beautifully and powerfully written, this book is compulsively readable despite the brutality and callousness much of it portrays. I was immediately immersed and it was hard to put the book down. The time shifts are straightforward here and easier to follow than I found the repeated chronological disruptions of Bull Mountain. Not an easy read but fans of southern noir will welcome this addition to the Bull Mountain canon.


·         Publisher: Minotaur Books (April 16, 2024)

·         Language: English

·         Hardcover: 336 pages

·         ISBN-10: 1250835240

·         ISBN-13: 978-1250835246


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Aubrey Nye Hamilton ©2024 

Aubrey Hamilton is a former librarian who works on Federal It projects by day and reads mysteries at night.

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