Review: “The Bone Factory,” Yolanda Sfetsos

Rating: 3 out of 5

Yolanda Sfetsos’s horror novella The Bone Factory was an enjoyable read, but it needed a bit more to it. I love horror novellas because frankly the genre seems to lend itself naturally to the length, but in this case more length might have helped.

Miss Patella (Max) is an investigator in the city of Lorn. She’s one of the few who will stand up for women, and unlike the corrupt police force, she doesn’t take bribes. She gets a nominal amount of payment for helping the police out on cases they don’t want to be bothered with themselves. Detective Morado, her contact in the police department, has some sort of strange interest in her. This time, she’s been called in to investigate the presence of a skeleton–a person was killed and essentially melted in a vat of super-hot plastic in a factory. The skeleton is wearing a strange ring, which Max pockets–something tells her she doesn’t want to turn it over to the police. More skeletons are found under similar circumstances, and Max feels like she’s being watched.

Max has a strange ability: when she touches her bare right hand to the skeletons, she can “hear” their voices. And these skeletons? They don’t want “him” to take them. The world this takes place in is fascinating. It’s seedy (most of the female characters were formerly strippers at a particular club), and it’s very male-centered. Women have to fight hard to not be trampled upon. The police are also extremely corrupt–they take bribes all the time. The large number of factories have turned the rain distinctly acidic. There are witches and necromancers afoot. It’s a bit dystopian in nature.

Max has some sort of past “incident” that still affects her, and that gets referenced obliquely from time to time. Detective Morado seems more antagonistic toward her than anything, even though he’s the one who called her in. When we eventually do find out what past incident affects Max so strongly, it’s lacking a serious amount of context. It’s an info dump about something that happened entirely outside the scope of the book. It needs more book length to work it into the story better, to make it not come out of left field.

There were also a number of things that didn’t add up to me with this story. It’s hard to say much about this without including spoilers, but I’ll just say I kept finding myself saying, “but why didn’t they…” or “why did they…”. There just seem to be little plot holes in the details of the crimes.

I enjoyed this book–it’s extremely creative–and I will definitely read more by Yolanda Sfetsos, but this story needed to be half again as long.

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