The Bottom Line: A jaw-dropping suspense thriller that is unlike anything you’ve ever read.
Eunis, a 39-year-old albino Minnesota woman, bears the “mark of the devil” – a brown birthmark on her left cheek that runs from her eye to her chin. A Bounty of Bone is the captivating story of how Eunis goes from someone whose appearance repulses people to someone who is hunted for it.
Through a series of events involving Eunis’ intuition about weather, she is recruited by friends to a weather channel in New York City. Told in the first person, Eunis’ story of transformation in the book’s first act is both compelling and heartfelt. But the book becomes truly unputdownable when a work trip takes her to Africa.
The journey begins as scheduled in South Africa, but in the tradition of Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, author PG Lengsfelder creates a journey that takes her into truly dangerous geographic, physical and psychological territory. Danger comes quickly as Eunis decides to look for Kyra Nafasi, a missing albino girl who has been abducted for her albino body parts.
Kyra is the niece of one of Eunis’ friends, Ruthie, to whom Eunis feels deeply indebted. Early on, Eunis acknowledges the naivete of the decision (What did I really think I could do – with no language by my own, one shitty map, no knowledge of Mozambique or Tanzania). Nevertheless, she’s pushed onward through a series of increasingly terrifying events, all the while understanding she could easily fall victim to the same perpetrators.
Lengsfelder, the award-winning author of the crime thriller Our Song, Memento Mori, demonstrates his significant range in A Bounty of Bone. Long before Eunis sets off for Africa, Lengsfelder uses frequent references to superstition, myth and psychic phenomenon to create a spooky atmosphere that pays off handsomely in later scenes (“witch doctor” – need we say more?). To reveal more about what happens in Africa would spoil the fun, but let’s just say that Lengsfelder walks the blurry line between magic and reality in a number of hair-raising situations that may keep readers up long past their bedtime.
In this day and age, it’s incredibly difficult to create characters, let alone stories, that seem original and fresh. Here, Lengsfelder has managed to do both. Highly recommended.