THE BONE POLISHER by Timothy Hallinan
For years I avoided Timothy Hallinan because I thought his books might be too explicitly violent for me.
I was wrong. The Bone Polisher is honest and well-written.
In this edition, Hallinan begins with an apology. He acknowledges the book, written in 1995, might be dated. Attitudes toward homosexuality and AIDS appear to have changed.
But the so-called “dated” part, didn’t get in my way at all. Hollywood PI Simeon Grist agrees to protect an aging gay man. When someone kills the man, amputates his hand, and sends a finger to a hometown newspaper, Grist thinks he is dealing with a homophobic serial murderer.
And so it seems to be. Other such killings have occurred. Someone seems to be moving from place to place, doing two intentionally-spaced killings in each place, and then moving on.
At one point the killer leaves the rest of the hand, polished to the bone with the man's ring still on the finger for Grist to find.
As many people have noted, this book is a mixture of the absurd and the horrible. The absurd includes such things as a costume ball wake for the murdered man. The first major climax in the book occurs there.
The violence occurs, not just in the details of the crime, but in many of the characters. The sheriff’s officer in charge of the case is homophobic. He beats the heterosexual Grist because he thinks Grist is homosexual.
The killer confronts Grist almost slicing him to pieces with a box cutter. For the first time, Grist feels mortal fear. It pervades his life.
For me, the ending was a complete surprise.
The Bone Polisher and the other Simeon Grist books are available as reasonably-priced e-books. If you like Simeon Grist, this would be a good time to catch up on the ones you've missed.