To The Bones: Valerie Nieman
Reviewed By Miranda Crites
I got excited to read “To the Bones” when I saw that it was set in my home state of West Virginia. This was my first experience reading Valerie Nieman, and I loved how she brought the characters to life. I can hear Lourana’s distinct Appalachian dialect flowing right off the pages.
It was wonderful to see some of the local West Virginia heritage and history being mentioned. It isn’t often I get to read about some of these things that are part of our culture such as: hunting ramps, pepperoni rolls, digging coal, Mothman, and Flatwoods Monster, which is actually folklore from my very own county. However, it’s also sad to see the mentioning of Upper Big Branch, which was a huge mining disaster that affected many families in several counties. Several men were lost. When Valerie talks about the orange water in the river, that’s also something we really do see here, and boy does it ever stink like rotten eggs!
You definitely don’t have to be local to enjoy the book, but I think those things heightened my reading experience.
From out of town, Government auditor Darrick MacBrehon may have picked the wrong exit to stop at for gas. Considering he hasn’t filled up for quite some time, he doesn’t have any other option.
“This is how it feels to be dead.”
“He shook with the cold and the dark.”
“Then I’m not dead.”
He wakes up in the dark, disoriented and with a severe head injury, bloodied and stinking of rot and decay.
“Maybe you’re buried.”
“No one’s coming back for you. Ever.”
Darrick gathers all the strength he has left and manages to crawl out of his would-be grave — the bone-filled mine crack in the coal town of Redbird, West Virginia. He knows if he doesn’t get out now, he will never see the light of day again.
But the Darrick who emerges from the mine crack is different. He’s not the same Darrick who was left for dead. He has a power he didn’t know he possessed, an extremely dangerous power.
Local sweepstakes worker, Lourana Taylor, happens to be on shift when Darrick walks into her store. He’s hurt, and he’s scary, but the last thing you do in a coal town run by powerful coal tycoons — The Kavanaghs — is call the authorities.
Lourana has spent the last several months searching for her daughter and researching for answers. She’s not one to let down her guard, but Darrick’s story seems to ring true. Lourana wonders if some of the information and clues Darrick has brought with him out of the mine crack could lead to finding her missing daughter. She is certain Dreama would never have run away and that the Kavanaghs —Dreama’s employer—have something to do with the disappearance, but they’re close-lipped and mysterious.
The seemingly untouchable Kavanagh family rules the town, but they keep themselves shut off in their mansion behind fences and gates.
There is something terribly wrong with the Broad River. The acid pouring into the river from the mine has turned the water orange and killed all the fish, but there is definitely more to the story behind this mysterious orange goo. The local journalist, Zadie Person, attempts to investigate the acid spill, but she soon learns not to cross the ever-powerful Kavanaghs.
Darrick, Lourana, Zadie, and former deputy Marco join together to learn the coal tycoon’s secrets, search for Dreama, and attempt to stand up to the Kavanagh family, which they know will not come easily. With Darrick’s new powers, they prepare to fight the Kavanaghs, but they aren’t prepared for what lies ahead.
Deep in the mountains of West Virginia, the coal feeds a hungry secret which is deeply protected. Anyone who gets in the way of the power, even slightly, will end up getting stripped “right to the bone.”
So, this likely wouldn’t have been a book I would have found and read on my own. That’s one of the best things about being a member of Team Kendall Reviews. It’s opened me up to a lot more authors and diverse stories. I’m glad I decided to read To the Bones. I couldn’t wait to find out what was going to happen next. Darrick had me on the edge of my seat pretty much throughout the entire book, and with those creepy Kavanaghs, it was hard to predict exactly what they were going to do — it certainly was never anything good! What an evil family!
There were just enough supernatural elements to keep things interesting without being overcooked. I had a lot of fun with this book. It even tickled my guts with panic a few times —like the tingles you feel when playing hide-and-go-seek!
To The Bones
Darrick MacBrehon, a government auditor, wakes among the dead. Bloodied and disoriented from a gaping head wound, the man who staggers out of the mine crack in Redbird, West Virginia, is much more powerful-and dangerous-than the one thrown in. An orphan with an unknown past, he must now figure out how to have a future. Hard-as-nails Lourana Taylor works as a sweepstakes operator and spends her time searching for any clues that might lead to Dreama, her missing daughter. Could this stranger’s tale of a pit of bones be connected? With help from disgraced deputy Marco DeLucca and Zadie Person, a local journalist investigating an acid mine spill, Darrick and Lourana push against everyone who tries to block the truth. Along the way, the bonds of love and friendship are tested, and bodies pile up on both sides. In a town where the river flows orange and the founding-and controlling-family is rumored to “strip a man to the bones,” the conspiracy that bleeds Redbird runs as deep as the coal veins that feed it.
Miranda Crites is a reader, writer, book reviewer, photographer, and lover of horror from the ghostly woods of rural West Virginia.
The writing bug bit Miranda at a very early age. She was pretty much born with a pen and a camera in her hands. She won the young writers’ contest in first grade and received her first camera as a gift when she was nine years old.
When not writing, Miranda enjoys spending time with her family. She and her family spend a lot of time off the grid where they are building a cabin in the supposedly haunted woods.
Miranda is self-employed. She and her husband create large and small vinyl decals, t-shirts, signs, and a plethora of creative customized items.
Some of her many hobbies when time allows are: making unique crafts and artwork, painting, hiking, and, of course, photography.
She has a diploma for Writing for Children and Teenagers although most of her current work is horror fiction and poetry.
Miranda is a member of Team Kendall Reviews at www.KendallReviews.com where you can find her horror book reviews and her monthly feature, Miranda Snaps, which generally contains horror fiction and photography.
Miranda is one of “The Thirty,” which is a group of thirty authors who are each taking a turn in writing a chapter of an in-progress horror novel.
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