In Her Bones: A Novel

Image of In Her Bones: A Novel
Release Date: 
September 3, 2018
Atria Books
Reviewed by: 

“Readers will enjoy this book for the suspense and plot twists, but love it for the skill and mastery Moretti has for her craft.”

The impact of violent crimes ripples far beyond a killer’s initial victims. Kate Moretti’s latest novel, In Her Bones, challenges readers to consider the family members of the accused as collateral damage worthy of our compassion.

Edie Beckett’s mother, Lilith Wade, killed women. Lots of women. With Lilith on death row, her children try to put their lives back together. And they aren’t doing a very good job. Edie’s brother, Dylan, collects therapists “like other people collect coins or stamps. He tells his story over and over, he gets a thrill out of dissecting his childhood, piece by twisted piece.”

Bullied in school, haunted as adults, the children of Lilith have been faced with a lifetime of obstacles: a psychologically ill mother, the media frenzy around her horrific crimes, and survivor’s guilt with a twist. What should they have known? What could they have done?

Reflecting on her mother’s influence, Edie observes, “Lilith Wade shelled me, scooped out my insides with her thin matchstick fingers, and derailed any meaningful life I might have had.”

Edie becomes obsessed with the families of her mother’s victims. She tracks their lives, their hobbies, their relationships. She says of herself, “I don’t journal about my own life but the lives of others.” Using her computer skills and a government job that gives her access to personal information, she keeps copious records of everyone her mother hurt.

Her stalking remains clandestine and unobtrusive until one night Edie makes a fatal mistake. She takes her obsession out of the computer and into the real world. And a man dies.

Did she kill him? The police think so. Edie goes on the run.

Alternately fascinated and repulsed by her mother and her mother’s actions, Edie also recognizes their lifelong connection. “Neither of us could whistle or snap our fingers. How many other shared genetic deficiencies were threaded through our blood?” She remains terrified of what else she may have inherited.

Added into the mix is Edie’s almost friend, almost antagonist, almost lover, “Gil Brandt, the detective who arrested Lilith. The man who gave me a second, third, and fourth chance.” Brandt feels responsible for Edie, but struggles with his role as police detective in the face of overwhelming evidence of Edie’s guilt.

Moretti’s choice to write chapters from Brandt’s point of view gives readers more information than any one character can possess. Although we are close to both Edie and Brandt, we are also at a remove, viewing the larger picture like a film director. As immersed as we are with Edie’s predicament, we engage with Brandt as well.

Moretti writes Edie’s chapters in first person, Brandt’s in third. “Edie Beckett. Her name had haunted him more in his life than any other.” This serves to keep Edie our primary concern, but we learn a lot about Edie through Brandt’s eyes.

“Without getting all poetic about it, something about her plucked the right string inside him. Yes, he’d gotten her a job. Yes, he’d made her pledge her sobriety . . . He even relied on her, occasionally, to find someone for him. She always came through.”

From Brandt we discover more about Edie than she understands about herself.

Moretti also intersperses the fast-paced scenes of Edie’s struggles and Brandt’s investigation with excerpts of a biography written by an unknown author, adding more information for the reader.

While fundamentally a novel of suspense, Edie’s internal musings about the world around her lean toward the poetic, “something about men still drew me: the secretiveness of all their thoughts, coiled and guarded, drowned out by the volume of their voices as they shouted about a game, a girl, money, the sheen of competitiveness slick on their lips.”

The heightened language takes In Her Bones to a higher level than the standard thriller. Readers will enjoy this book for the suspense and plot twists, but love it for the skill and mastery Moretti has for her craft.