On a ranch just outside of Moab, Utah, in a secret cellar under a
barn, sculptor Ashley Stassler is working on his latest
masterpiece. Although the finished project will be cast in metal,
at this stage he is still sculpting flesh. From the beginning of
Mark Nykanen's latest thriller, THE BONE PARADE, the reader knows
the artist is, above all else, a serial killer.
But artist and professor Lauren Reed has no idea. She is not a fan
of Stassler's work; in fact, it disturbs her. Still, she sends her
most promising young student, Kerry, to intern with Stassler on his
remote ranch. After all, he is a world-renowned artist, known for
being eccentric at most. When Kerry disappears shortly after
arriving at Stassler's, Lauren is pulled into a chilling
Over the years, in order to create his famous series "Family
Planning," Stassler has collected families. After kidnapping them
and locking them up in a cage in the cellar, he begins to
physically and psychologically torture them before using their
bodies as the structures of his sculptures. The family that will
soon make up "Family Planning #9" are the Vandersons --- mother,
father, son and teenage daughter. For Stassler, torturing and
killing families in the name of his art has become routine. But
daughter from this particular family, dubbed Diamond Girl by
Stassler, is different. She challenges him and engages him in a
dangerous psychosexual game. Soon he is facing even more
complications, including the investigations of Lauren Reed, which
threaten to expose him for the villainous killer he is and destroy
his bone parade forever.
Nykanen's novel is not very long, but it packs a creepy punch. The
reader is privy to many of Stassler's thoughts and activities.
While it is interesting to be inside the mind of a literary serial
killer, Nykanen never really shares how Stassler came to be a
person for whom destruction of human life is necessary for the
creation of his art. There is a prologue but it may confuse more
THE BONE PARADE is disturbing and original with several interesting
twists. In Lauren Reed, Nykanen has created a smart and spunky
heroine. She is a character driven by her instincts as an artist
and as a teacher. Her instincts help her in the novel to save her
own life and the life of her student.
Perhaps Nykanen's most intriguing character is Diamond Girl. A
sociopath in the making, Diamond Girl is just as frightening as
Stassler, maybe even more so. She too, however, is written without
a clear motivation and it is hard to understand what has made her,
in her short life, so wicked.
Despite the creativity of the plot, the evil of the villains, the
courage of the heroine and the twist at the very end, Nykanen's
novel may not satisfy readers hoping for a peek into the psyche and
background of a serial killer.
Still, THE BONE PARADE is action-packed, scary and poses
uncomfortable questions about the relationship between destruction
and creation and what inspires an artist. Nykanen does a great job
of keeping readers involved and turning pages.
Reviewed by Sarah Rachel Egelman on January 21, 2011