Hold of the Bone by Baxter Clare TrautmanHold of the Bone by Baxter Clare Trautman is the sixth book in the Detective L.A. Franco Mysteries Series and is an enthralling supernatural thriller. 

A body is unearthed by an excavator in downtown Los Angeles. The rag and bone remains a sign of a crime committed long ago. Veteran LAPD lieutenant Franco (Frank) is dispatched to the scene to lead the cold case. The investigation eventually brings her to a couple of small towns surrounded by the Santa Lucia mountains. The denizens of Soledad and Celadores are a mysterious group, rooted in superstition and history but none so much as the victim’s daughter.   

Diana Saladino (aka Sal), the victim’s daughter, is a reclusive woman surrounded by an aura of mystery. Frank is inexplicably drawn to both the woman and the majestic landscape in which she dwells. She finds herself grasping at excuses to return to Sal and her remote cabin not only to solve the case, but to answer some of the uncertainties in her own life.

With each visit, Frank learns more about the case, the land and herself from Sal as she is slowly drawn deeper into her mysterious world. An awakening seems to be on the horizon if Frank can just listen to her heart instead of her mind. Struggling to make sense of visions from the past, feelings of the present and her desires for the future, Frank must look deep into her heart if she is to solve the case and figure out what is happening to her. 

The Characters

Lieutenant Franco (Frank) is a very compelling lead, flawed and real with a colourful past. I was instantly taken with her character. She is currently in a place in her life where she has everything going for her. No debts, a fulfilling job, some savings and a wonderful woman to share it all with. Yet there is a relentless and needling discontent bubbling within her that nothing in her present life can ease. It’s a feeling I can relate to.  She is at a crossroads, wrestling with idea of retiring from a job that has been all she’s known; a job that is an integral part of her, yet one that has changed so much. However, she can’t imagine what can replace it. Adding to the confusion are the mystical powers emerging within her and her intense attraction to the Santa Lucia mountains. I loved her journey in this book and she has become one of my favourite protagonists.   

Diana Saladino (Sal) is the daughter of the victim in Frank’s cold case. She is shrouded in mystery, possessing supernatural powers and living a reclusive life in the mountains. Her strong, enigmatic character is hard for Frank (and for me) to resist. I found myself in awe of her ability to live a solitary life tucked deep in the bosom of the mountains, something I’ve always thought about. Her wisdom and spirituality, especially in relation to nature, make her such an intriguing character. 

The Writing Style

There is something so incredibly enchanting about the way Trautman describes the landscape throughout this book. Something wonderful and mystical; personifying it in a way that reached my very core.  The city settings are stark and grim, and very real. I love how Trautman brilliantly juxtaposes them against the vibrant, radiant and at times even ominous natural landscapes. Trautman’s descriptions of the Santa Lucia mountains are so vivid they burst off the page and her sky is awash with such radiance and splendor, it is truly impressive writing.

The story moved along at a steady pace seamlessly interspersing events from the past with those of the present. The mystery itself drives the story but I found the heart of the tale is more about the personal journey of Frank and I was completely hooked as she progressed along its path. 

The Pros

This was actually my first book in the series, even though it is book six and I didn’t have any trouble jumping in at this point. The book can be read as a standalone, but it has absolutely inspired me to check out the rest of the series.

I have yet to encounter anyone capturing nature quite this way before.  Trautman doesn’t write the landscape. She verbally paints an image of it into your heart. The scenery is described in such a way that you will be transported into its vastness and beauty. 

The Cons

The topic of spousal abuse is present in the novel, although the act itself is not described in a lot of detail.

The Conclusion

This is an enthralling book with equal parts mystery and mysticism. The writing is exquisite. The characters are incredibly complex and engaging and I found it impossible to put down. This story was so good, I’m off to read the other five books in the series right now.

Excerpt from Hold of the Bone by Baxter Clare Trautman

Automatically monitoring the sidewalks while she waits at a light, she decides pride is the only motivation she has left.  Thirty years ago, as punishment for being women on an all-male force, Frank and her first lover were dumped into the worst division in the LAPD. Determined not to cave to harassment and cold shoulders, she persistently, quietly worked her way up from boot to detective, then Sergeant to Lieutenant. Under her aegis, cops sent to Figueroa for disciplinary action became detectives that closed record numbers of uncloseable cases.

But nowadays, except for Lewis, even her detectives bore her, the lot of them young and PC.  She wouldn’t be surprised if Tatum filed a suit against her for harassment or brutality or some other goddamned candy-assed complaint. Along with the rest of his colleagues, he looked at Frank like she was the last, thank God, of a dying breed. Like Frank had looked at the old-timers when she was new.

Frank sighs; she’s hung around long enough to become a good old boy.  Spotting a parking space, she switches lanes. There is parking below Headquarters, but the thought of being in her car when the next big quake hits makes above-ground spaces more attractive. She locks her old Honda and heads for the slick new Police Administration Building.

Thinking she’s outlived even the old HQ, Frank glances at a dark bird turning circles high in the rare clear sky. She absently watches the faraway flight, knowing in her heart of hearts it’s time to quit, yet each time she tries to fill out the papers she stumbles over the same old obstacle: being a cop is all she has ever been, done, or known. The job is wife, friend, mistress, mother, whore – and Frank isn’t ready to explore the mystery of who she’ll be without a badge.

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Series

Detective L.A. Franco Mysteries Series 

Bleeding Out

Street Rules

Cry Havoc

Last Call

End of Watch

Hold of the Bone

Bits and Bobs

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