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The Bone Records

Adult; Mystery/Thriller; (Market)

NY Police Academy washout Grigg Orlov discovers an eerie piece of evidence at the scene of his father’s brutal murder: a disc-shaped X-ray of a skull. It’s a bone record—what Soviet citizens called banned American songs recorded on used X-rays. But the black-market singles haven’t been produced since the sixties. What’s one doing in Coney Island in 2016? Grigg uncovers a connection between his father and three others who collected bone records when they were teenage friends growing up in Leningrad. Are past and present linked? Or is the murder tied to the local mob? Grigg’s got too many suspects and too little time. He must get to the truth before a remorseless killer takes everything he has.
Former journalist Zahradnik (Lights Out Summer) entices with a chilling mystery in which a son newly reunited with his father ends up trying to solve his father’s murder. Working two jobs to make ends meet, police academy dropout Grigg Orlov is selling his father’s Little Odessa house, six months after the older man went missing. But when Grigg’s father comes home, saying that he is leaving for Russia, an assailant comes for the Orlovs—and the father ends up dead. Grigg’s only legacy seems to be a black tube containing a rolled-up, disc-shaped X-ray of a skull. As his search for a killer leads him to connecting his father’s experiences in Leningrad with the brutal murder, Grigg gets help from Katia Sokolov, his one-time girlfriend, whose own father grew up with Grigg’s.

Zahradnik’s knowledge of New York quickly immerses the reader in this deftly plotted thriller. Also fascinating: Grigg discovers that these bone discs were used by bootleggers in the Soviet Union to play banned records, though he has no idea of the importance of this disc or how it’s connected to the life his father left behind. As Zahradnik draws a contrast between Grigg’s father’s restrictive life in Leningrad and the freedoms he enjoyed in the U.S., Grigg realizes how little he knew about the man, and how much is lost forever.

Grigg’s quest to find the murderer and keep himself and Katia alive also is a quest for closure—and for finding his place in the world. As the mystery ramps up and Grigg discovers some flash drives and plenty of cash hidden in a shipping container, he tries to fit the pieces together. Just who has been tailing the duo, and are Russians secret service agents (SVR) involved? Can they trust the FBI agents who bring them in for questioning? The twisty suspense and the certainty that no one is as they appear keeps the pages turning.

Takeaway: A twisty, emotionally resonant thriller sends a son investigating his Russian father’s death and life.

Great for fans of: Joseph Koenig’s Little Odessa, Ben Coes’s The Russian.

Production grades
Cover: A
Design and typography: A
Illustrations: N/A
Editing: A
Marketing copy: A