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  • Writer's pictureJudith D Collins

The Family Bones

ISBN: 9781542038904

Publisher: Thomas & Mercer

Publication Date: 03/07/2023

Format: Other

My Rating: 4 Stars (ARC)

What makes a psychopath? A young woman delves into her family’s shadowy legacy in a terrifying novel by the #1 Amazon Charts bestselling author of Strangers We Know.

Psychology student Olivia Eriksen’s family is notorious among true-crime buffs. Faced with a legacy of psychopathy that spans generations, Olivia has spent much of her academic life trying to answer one chilling question: Nature or nurture?

Although she’s kept a safe distance from her blood relatives for years, Olivia agrees to attend a weekend reunion. After all, her fiancé is eager to meet his future in-laws, and the gathering may give her a chance to interview her elusive grandfather about the family traits.

But nothing is ever peaceful among the Eriksens for long. Olivia’s favorite cousin is found dead in a nearby lake. Then another family member disappears. As a violent storm isolates the group further, Olivia’s fears rise faster than the river.

And an uninvited guest is about to join the party. True-crime podcaster Birdie Tan has uncovered a disturbing mystery in her latest investigation—and she’s following it right to the Eriksens’ mountain resort. There’s a deadly twist in the family plot that even Olivia doesn’t see coming.

My Review

Elle Marr returns following Strangers We Know with her latest psychological thriller, THE FAMILY BONES — exploring what makes a psychopath. A young woman delves into her family's dark past, mixing in a spine-chilling locked-in deadly family reunion and a crime podcaster.

Olivia Eriksen is working on her dissertation in psychology at U.C. Davis after gaining awareness through her social media videos regarding her family's history of psychiatric disorders.

It requires a certain number of primary and secondary sources. The primary is evident from birth and harder to come by. Nature or nurture?

Olivia's father is currently in prison for crimes he committed. He was never violent. Insider trading within the insurance firm where he was a partner. He has been there for fifteen years. Many uncles, aunts, and cousins have schizophrenia and other mental problems. Way too many characters to keep track of.

Olivia attends an upcoming Ericksen family reunion with these primary sources at a remote Oregon resort, Horsefly Falls Resort. Her boyfriend, Howard Ngo, an administrator at U.C. Davis, agrees to go along, hoping that Olivia will announce their engagement to her family and he can meet everyone.

The author shows an extensive family tree graphic at the front of the book. A mountain getaway with the Erikensens. What could go wrong?

A storm approaches. The entire family and relatives are locked in. Isolated. Someone dies. Who is the culprit? Motive? Is Olivia a psychopath?

Meanwhile, we meet amateur detective and podcaster Birdie. She is investigating a cold case of the disappearance of Li Ming Na, last seen 10 years earlier in Oregon, leaving behind a small child and on/off boyfriend.

Alternating between dual points of view (Olivia and Birdie) with newspaper clippings and journal entries, the author builds tension until both storylines merge for an explosive, jaw-dropping chilling climax.

Dark and twisty. What a dysfunctional crew! An entertaining locked room mystery. My favorite character was Birdie, the podcaster.

THE FAMILY BONES is for readers who enjoy exploring— science, psychopathy, antisocial deviance, criminal behavior, and mental illness in families. For fans of authors: Megan Collins, Alice Feeney, and Robyn Harding.

Thank you to Thomas & Mercer and NetGalley for a gifted ARC in exchange for an honest review.

@JudithDCollins | #JDCMustReadBooks

Pub Date: Mar 7, 2023

My Rating: 4 Stars


“Marr expertly builds tension by alternating between the two narratives, which eventually merge and build to an explosive conclusion. Readers will be captivated from the very first page.” —Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“With a fresh take on the locked-room mystery, Elle Marr weaves a perilous and pulse-pounding tale of nature versus nurture. The Family Bones is a clever, wild, riveting ride that amps up the tension until I couldn’t flip the page fast enough. The interconnected threads, subtle clues, and jaw-dropping twists lead to a whopper of an ending.”

—Samantha M. Bailey, USA Today and #1 national bestselling author of Woman on the Edge and Watch Out for Her

“‘Dysfunctional’ doesn’t even begin to describe the Eriksen clan during this family reunion from hell. Elle Marr’s twisty plot and even more twisted characters make The Family Bones a dark, delectable, and fascinating thriller that questions how well we know not only our relatives but also our own minds.”

—Megan Collins, author of The Family Plot

“Smart, razor sharp, and shocking, The Family Bones will keep you up late with all the lights on. A family of psychopaths trapped by bad weather at an isolated retreat—what could possibly go wrong? With dual story lines racing toward a chilling climax, The Family Bones is a tense, must-read thriller.”

—Kaira Rouda, USA Today and Amazon Charts bestselling author

About the Author

Photo credit: Jana Foo Photography

Elle Marr strives to tell powerful and compelling stories of women who demonstrate resilience in the face of great obstacles. She is the author of thrillers, THE MISSING SISTER (2020), LIES WE BURY (2021), and STRANGERS WE KNOW (May 2022).

THE MISSING SISTER was a #1 Amazon bestseller, #1 in the Kindle Store, an Amazon Charts bestseller, featured in Woman’s World, and named one of PopSugar’s “31 Thrillers of 2020.” LIES WE BURY earned a Kirkus starred review, was named one of The Nerd Daily’s Eagerly Anticipated Thrillers, and reached #1 in Serial Killer Fiction for four straight weeks. Publisher’s Weekly said, “Marr is a writer to watch.”

Originally from Sacramento, Elle Marr graduated from UC San Diego before moving to France, where she earned a master’s degree from the Sorbonne University in Paris. When not working on her next book, she enjoys watching French Netflix shows with the subtitles off, in Oregon, where she lives with her family.

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