Howdy, howdy! It’s the last Wednesday of August, which means it’s book review time! This month, I received an Advance Reader Copy (ARC) of my friend and fellow Stonecoast alum Renee S. DeCamillis’s new book. It’s called The Bone Cutters and it’s due out on September 1st from Eraserhead Press. I must thank Renee and the press for the opportunity to read this in exchange for an honest and unbiased review. Anyway, I stepped slightly outside of my comfort zone with this one since I haven’t read much bizarro horror. I’m more into traditional horror, but I do love me some psychological horror, which this book definitely falls under. Now, onto the review.
The Bone Cutters follows Dory (our unreliable narrator) as she wakes up to find herself confined in a psychiatric hospital. When she’s put in a counseling group for a very specific brand of junkie (one who snorts bone dust to get a “free” high), it has her literally pulling her hair out (something she has issues with anyway). As if that’s not bad enough, the nurse who put her in the group refuses to believe that Dory belongs elsewhere. Luckily, there’s a janitor who seems to believe Dory and even wants to help. From there, things just keep getting weirder.
The story is nicely paced and keeps the tension up fairly well throughout the whole thing. It’s a novella, so you could easily finish it in one go. I broke it up into multiple reading sessions, but I really think it would benefit from reading it beginning to end. I admit that I lost a lot of forward momentum each time I put it down, which was my own fault (stupid life getting in the way). But every time I picked it back up, I enjoyed the ride. In fact, I’ll probably pick a day in the next couple of months to sit down and read it all the way through just to see how the experience differs.
The characters are interesting, but I wanted a little more flesh on some of them. While we’re in Dory’s head, we don’t get to learn much about her. Sure, she isn’t a Duster, and she’s super protective of the people she trusts, but she doesn’t really seem to grow much over the course of the story. Her relationship with Tommy grows, but while she becomes more coherent, she still feels basically the same at the end. Tommy, the janitor, is the most fleshed out. We get to know his past and his motives. The villains, on the other hand, are basically just junkies looking for a fix who are being manipulated by the big bad in the shadows. I had no feelings about them one way or the other. That being said, I like that the big bad in the shadows remains a distant mystery. It really worked for the story.
As far as the writing goes, it is lovely and poetic and musical. The way Renee breaks up her paragraphs pulls the reader forward and aids in creating tension in all the right spots. It’s a story worth reading to study the writing alone.
Ultimately, I really enjoyed The Bone Cutters. I can’t wait to see more from Renee in the future.
Overall, I gave it 4 out of 5 stars. If you enjoy psychological horror with some bizarro thrown in, pick it up. If you like beautiful writing that combines both poetry and prose, pick it up.