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"Someone is knocking at the door to Grace Adams' house, and he won't stop. Grace thinks she knows who it is, but when she goes to her second floor window for a look she sees a woman she doesn't recognize. The woman isn't alone for long before a man emerges from the dark of the surrounding woods, stabs her, and leaves her for dead. Trying to help, Grace goes to the woman and is shocked to find that it's her mother Leanne--a woman who abandoned her 11 years before. There's nothing she can do, and Leanne isalready past the point where she can tell Grace what happened all those years ago or why she came back now. While Grace was only a child when Leanne left her, Detective Macy Greeley has been waiting for Leanne ever since she disappeared from Collier, MT. She's looking to close a case that has been haunting the town for far too long, but Collier is a hard-bitten place where the people are fierce when it comes to keeping their feuds between themselves and keeping secrets hidden in the past. Karin Salvalaggio's outstanding crime fiction debut Bone Dust White is an absolutely stunning work that signals the entrance of a major new talent"-- - (Baker & Taylor)

When Grace Adams witness the murder of her mother, who abandoned her eleven years earlier, Detective Macy Greeley struggles for answers as she investigates the case and reopens old wounds while hunting down the killer. - (Baker & Taylor)

Witnessing the murder of the mother who abandoned her in childhood, Detective Macy Greeley struggles for answers about their past while hunting down the killer. A first novel. 20,000 first printing. - (Baker & Taylor)

Someone is knocking at the door to Grace Adams's house and won't stop. Grace thinks she knows who it is, but when she looks out her bedroom window, she sees a woman she doesn't recognize walking on the trails behind her home. The woman isn't alone for long before a man emerges from the dark of the surrounding woods and stabs her, then retreats into the shadows, leaving her to die in the snow. Frantic, Grace calls the police but knows they'll never arrive in time, so she herself goes to the woman and is shocked to find she's not a stranger—and that only raises more questions.

Badly shocked, Grace is taken to the hospital, and Detective Macy Greeley is called back to the small town of Collier, Montana, where she worked a case once before. She needs to track down the killer and find out what the murder has to do with Grace, a troubled young woman whose harrowing past may have finally come in from the cold. But the town of Collier is just as hard-bitten now as it was years ago, and Macy will have to reopen old wounds as she investigates a murder that looks like it took eleven years to come to pass.

Karin Salvalaggio's outstanding crime fiction debut, Bone Dust White, is an absolutely stunning work that signals the entrance of a major new talent.

- (McMillan Palgrave)

Author Biography

KARIN SALVALAGGIO received in MA in Creative Writing from Birkbeck at the University of London. Born in West Virginia and raised in an Air Force family, she grew up on a number of military bases around the United States. She now lives in London with her two children. Bone Dust White is her first novel. - (McMillan Palgrave)

First Chapter or Excerpt

Bone Dust White

By Karin Salvalaggio

St. Martin's Press

Copyright © 2014 Karin Salvalaggio Ltd.
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-250-04618-5


"He's hurt her, she's bleeding."

With the phone to her ear, Grace slips away from the soft spill of light coming through the kitchen windows and leans heavily on a refrigerator crowded with family photos. The upturned corners snap back against her spine.

"Grace Adams," she says into the crackling void, twisting the phone cord in her fingers, "153 Summit Road."

Grace waits, her fingertips darkening in the twist, a pulse forming inside the small purple blooms. Slim and fragile, she drowns amongst silk waves of carp swimming across a kimono three sizes too big for her. Her round face is as pale as a serving plate and a single strip of white cuts through her straight black hair. Between shallow breaths, she steals glances out the windows, turning this way and that, tangling her feet in the kimono's hem. She bites hard into her fingernails, shredding one with her small white teeth. A thin line of blood follows a trail of dried cuticle. She presses her thumb to it, trying to stop the flow.

"Yes, on the trails behind my house." It's as if she's being smothered. With every word she gulps for air. "I saw him," she says, "I saw him do it."

"Just try to stay calm," says the voice on the phone. "You're safe as long as you stay inside your house."

Grace retreats to the shadows thrown down by a wall separating the kitchen from the hall and gazes into the darkened entryway toward the front door. The security chain isn't attached.

Grace speaks in a whisper. "I don't feel safe."

"It's important that you remain calm. Help is on the way."

Straining against the phone cord, Grace upsets a glass shelf of porcelain figurines, and her skittish hands fail to catch them as they fall into a clattering heap. She tries to set them upright but knocks several more over and one drops to the floor. She picks up the small ballerina and stares at it. Its pearly white shoulders are coated in dust.

The voice on the phone asks her a question and Grace peers out the kitchen windows as directed. "I don't know. I think so. I can't see him anymore."

Grace had been up in her bedroom when she saw something move through the trees. She squeezed between her cluttered desk and the window to get a closer look. A woman walked slowly along the trails snaking through the woods behind the house. Grace watched her progress. Even from a distance it was clear she was unwell. She'd almost reached the gate at the end of the garden when the man appeared. Not more than ten feet apart, she greeted him like an old friend. Her unfamiliar face changed though. Words were spoken. Her mouth gaped wide in silent surprise, her eyes pleading. As she backed away, she called out Grace's name. Unsure what to do, Grace ducked down low so she couldn't be seen. Her hurried breaths misted over the glass. It wasn't until she wiped away the fog with the long sleeve of her kimono that she saw the man's knife. He lunged at the woman and she staggered away, clutching her side. Farther up the slope, they disappeared in the deep bracken and seconds later he stood alone. Never altering his stride, he vanished over the ridgeline, his receding silhouette outlined by pale light. Fingertips pressed to glass, Grace waited but he did not return.

A swell rises up in Grace's throat and the phone slips through her fingers. It hits the floor and as the cord retracts it skips on the carpet like a flat stone across water, eventually coming to rest under the breakfast bar. Grace hurries to the bathroom, her kimono falling from her white shoulders, revealing the red nightgown underneath. Unable to keep her balance, she grips the toilet with both hands. The pressure in her chest could rip her in two perfect halves. Bile comes up until her throat is scraped raw and her stomach is a hollowed-out bowl. The mirror isn't kind. Her eyes are nests of broken blood vessels shadowed by a sickly blue. She runs the water until it's warm and presses a cloth to her face. Sobbing, she sinks to the bathroom floor but from the kitchen the phone calls out her name. Faint at first, it grows in volume as Grace focuses in on the sound.

"Hello? Grace," it says. "Are you okay?"

Stretching her arms and pulling her body along, she climbs a horizontal wall of carpeting. Her hands shake and the phone jumps from her fingertips. "Please hurry," she says, hanging tight to the back of the sofa and drawing herself upward to her feet. She sways, emptied out and half crazed. For a few seconds she can't remember why she called.

"Yes, I'll stay in the house." Her white-knuckle grip on the handset is unyielding.

The hilltop community, where she lives with her aunt Elizabeth, is all but abandoned. Long before most of the homes were finished the developers went bust. Concrete foundations are disappearing under creeping vines and wooden frames stand like exposed rib cages. Every winter more roofs cave in under heavy snow and arsonists burn the rest. Sometimes groups of homeless move in but they never stay long. It's too far from Collier, the nearest town. So out here in her faux Tudor castle, there are no neighbors to call on.

Leaning against a counter crowded with clipped coupons and medical insurance forms, Grace glances out the kitchen windows again. Beyond the locked wrought-iron gate and high garden wall the wooded hillside looks flat under a thickening sky and colorless trees stand like sentinels, leafless and silent on the still winter morning.

On the other side of the garden wall the forest stretches for miles before hitting the boundary between her country and the next. Grace went there once with her uncle Arnold when he was still alive. While walking an isolated trail, he'd stopped quite suddenly, telling Grace to stay where she was. "Go ahead," he said after turning toward her. "Step over the line." Fearing it was some sort of trick, she hesitated. But he insisted and she was young and did as she was told, even lifting a leg high when he indicated the exact spot. He grinned and welcomed her to Canada. She wonders what her uncle would do now that she has a new heart and could run all the way to that invisible border if she chose to. It is only a month since the transplant operation and she already feels stronger, but after years of uncertainty she doesn't trust it will last.

Grace walks to the back doors and presses her forehead against the glass.

The woman in the woods knew her name.

All the while the phone is calling her back to the kitchen and the early winter morning. "Grace, are you still there?" She says a quiet yes and listens.

"There's going to be a delay. A truck's jackknifed on Route 93. They'll get to you as soon as they can."

Grace runs her hand across her kimono and pauses when she feels a ring of keys through the thin fabric lining the pocket. Very gently she rests the phone on the kitchen counter. A rush of cold air comes into the house as she opens the French doors. The paving stones on the back porch are like ice against her bare feet. Her eyes go wide from the shock.

Imagining unseen things pinching at her toes, she steps out onto the untended lawn, the long hem of the kimono trailing behind her like a slug. Halfway across she steps on a stone and winces. Bending over to pick it up, she folds her fingers around it. It's as flat as the palm of her hand.

Grace peers through the gate and takes her time to scan the wooded hillside. Other than her breathing, there is no sound. No wind, no birds. Nothing.

Hand to chest, her fingers tremble, tiny movements that mimic the frantic pounding of her heart. As her fingers increase their pace, she arches her white neck back, revealing a latticework of tendons stretched to the breaking point. Grace recalls the woman's screams and shrinks back toward the house. As she's turning to leave she hears something soft and primal coming from the woodland.


Her eyes follow the sound. Upward toward the ridge, the woman is lying somewhere amongst the undergrowth. Grace wants to forget, but in her head she can still hear the muffled echo of the woman's voice. She has to know why this woman knows her name. She takes the key from her pocket and slides it into the lock in the gate, wincing when the ungreased cylinders roll and grind against one another plaintively. Her heart is already pounding hard when she takes off in a run, but her legs are awkward and buckle beneath her. She has to stop a few feet up the slope and rest her palm against a tree.

Grace listens. She wants to be sure he hasn't returned.

She starts moving again and the cold air burns her throat. She barely has time to fill her lungs before coming up for air again. Her heart pumps hard. She keeps putting her hand to her chest, a look of surprise on her face. She's not used to this. The hill rises steeply, but she follows the scent, low branches snapping at her like wolves.

Grace finds the woman in a small clearing. She is twisted on the ground, one of her legs bent behind her unnaturally and the other stretched out and barefoot. Grace focuses on the cast-off shoe and the pine needles that sit thick on the forest floor, looking everywhere the woman is not. But the woman's hands reach out slippery and dark like eels, grasping at her before sliding away.

"Grace," the woman says. "Help me."

Dizziness blurs Grace's vision. She's faint from running. She can't think along straight lines. Looking hard into the woman's eyes she is trying to find someone she's seen before. The woman's hat has fallen away and her gray hair is lying in a tangled web, catching late autumn leaves and pine needles in its strands. She is far too thin. Her skin wraps underlying bones like melted candle wax and her pale lips are framed by deep grooves. Wisps of white hair sprout from her pointed chin. The eyes dance though. They dart around Grace's face like a hummingbird collecting nectar.

"Please, Grace," the woman says.

Grace hesitates. She's not thought to bring anything. She thinks of her kimono and looks up at the sky, knowing it will snow. It's so cold. Her feet are bare and her small hands are trembling. Her eyes follow the ridgeline searching for the man with the knife. She thinks of dragging the woman back to the house but knows it's too far. They'd never make it. Grace unknots the kimono's belt, and a sea of cherry-colored carp slips away. She presses the silk to the woman's chest and feels the blood seep through the thin fabric. The dark tide swallows the carp in seconds.

The woman's words are so soft they're weightless, floating through the air like gray-winged moths. Grace collects them all. The woman shapes her story into something Grace can almost forgive. She tells Grace she's sorry for having stayed away so long. She drifts off and Grace shakes her awake.

Her startled eyes look up at Grace in surprise. "You're all grown up." She touches Grace's cheek.

Grace presses the kimono harder against the wounds. Her efforts have exhausted her. There are too many ways her mother can bleed.

"Shush, Momma." Grace turns toward the house and strains her ears for the sounds of sirens, but there's nothing. "You rest now. Help is on its way."

Her mother tilts her chin upward toward the darkening sky. "You know why I left. You know why I couldn't come back."

"I never understood."

Something that sounds like laughter escapes her mother's throat. "I just wanted to see you one last time."

Grace leans in close and raises her voice. "Tell me who my father is."

Her mother's eyes close. "You'll have to be careful. They're still looking for the money."

Grace grabs her mother by the shoulders and speaks as loud as she dares. "I don't understand."

Her mother's voice fades and Grace catches only whispers.

Her mother's voice sputters and Grace loses hope.

Her mother's voice goes out and Grace is alone.

The cold settles into Grace's chest like a stone. She kneels, clasping her mother's hands together with her own like they're in common prayer. The woods are closing in, and above her the sky sits heavily, draping the morning in a blue-hued cloak. From their woodland nest Grace watches the first snowflakes drift down, lazy and slow. They melt against her bare skin but all around her the moldering leaves turn white. Grace cradles her mother in her arms, feeling the sharp bones where there were once fulsome curves. The mother she remembers had a red-painted mouth and kohl-rimmed eyes set into a face framed by dark waves of hair. A haze of cigarette smoke. The clink of whiskey on ice. Laughter that continued long after a room fell silent.

Grace's lips are as cold as her fingertips and her bare limbs taper out like wires from her thin red nightgown but she doesn't shiver. Aside from her frantic eyes, she lies perfectly still, curling up for warmth where there's none to be found.

At the base of the hill, the back of her house rests in winter's palm. Fat snowflakes fall like bits of white plastic in a globe, but beyond her damp lashes she can see right into the kitchen and dining room. All the lights are on. It's a stage. Her eyes shift upward, and she looks straight across into her bedroom window. From where she lies, Grace can't escape its outward gaze. The ceiling light blinks at her erratically before going out. She stares hard into the dim interior, struggling to pick out familiar shapes from beneath her sleepy lids. Beside her, her mother gives way to the cold, cold ground. Everything around Grace slows to the same pace of her mother's failing heart.

An ambulance screams up the last bit of her road and slows to an off-key halt. Its unseen doors slam shut, and behind Grace a startled bird takes flight. The shadow of the crow passes over, solid and black, its wings fluttering faster than her heart. From the highest branches it calls out to others of its kind, the falling snow muffling the sound.

Grace imagines she's so small she disappears. She's drifting into this new reality when she finally hears help coming up the hill to claim her. Through her half-closed lids she can see them move through the trees. In her head she'd assembled an army but there's only two men struggling up the slope. They wade through knee-deep leaves and newly fallen snow. They look small and vulnerable with their heavy cases. She wants to call out to them but her voice sits frozen in her throat. Only their belted radios crackle with life. The sound sends more crows flying up to the barren trees that tower above them like scaffolding.

A dispatcher's disembodied voice asks if they've found anything yet and the two men stop moving. Their eyes sweep a wide arc across the snowy woodland. They see nothing. Grace wants to move but she's frozen by more than just cold. Fear now sticks to her skin like snow. Her pale throat feels severed. She wants to reach up and touch the invisible wound, but her hand stays where it is. Her silence is killing her. More birds call out. The moody blue light of winter shows off their black silhouettes. Caw, caw, caw echoes between the tall trees. The radio crackles once more and when at last they find Grace and her mother, the men come to a halt. The older paramedic is standing the closest, a few more steps and he would have trod on their bodies.

"Damn," he says in a low rolling voice that hints at thunder. He moves forward as he speaks. "That ain't right."

Behind him, his partner scratches around his belt trying to grab his radio, but he keeps missing because he can't tear his eyes away from what he's seeing. When he does find it, his hands shake so much he can hardly push the buttons.

"Where in the hell are the cops?" he yells into his microphone. His eyes dart around the wintry scene. "We've got two bodies out here ... They're covered in snow, for God's sake ... No, me and Jared ... Where you said, but you've got to go through the side yard."

Jared pulls off his gloves and plucks Grace's wrist from the tangle of bodies. "Carson, take a second to calm down. I'm going to see if anyone's still breathing."

Grace feels her eyelids flutter; her curiosity wants to gaze straight into that voice. She feels the familiar prodding of her wrist. It is limp in his bare hands. His knees creak, and there is a smell of coffee, cigarettes, and booze on his breath.


Excerpted from Bone Dust White by Karin Salvalaggio. Copyright © 2014 Karin Salvalaggio Ltd.. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Trade Reviews

Booklist Reviews

Rural Montana's frozen tundra is the setting for this literary mystery debut. Eighteen-year-old Grace is home alone after recuperating from a heart transplant when she sees a man stab a woman on the fringes of the property behind her home. Despite the cold, she runs out the back door to try to help. She is shocked to find the victim is the mother who abandoned her 11 years earlier, but she is too late to save the woman's life. Detective Macy Greeley is assigned the case, as she's been tracking the victim in connection with a sex slavery ring. But Collier, Montana, is a small town full of evil secrets, and no one is talking, least of all Grace, whom Macy believes knows a lot more than she's telling. Meanwhile, Macy must deal with a pregnancy that's the result of a liaison with her married boss. Looming over the action and contributing to the dark, brooding atmosphere is the icy winter, a physical and metaphorical presence in the story. The sharp twists, idiosyncratic characters, and vivid setting should appeal to fans of C. J. Box and Nevada Barr. Copyright 2014 Booklist Reviews.

Library Journal Reviews

Seventeen-year-old Grace Adams goes into shock when she witnesses her mother's murder just outside her home in remote northern Montana. Eleven years earlier Grace's mom had skipped town during the tumultuous aftermath of a still-unsolved grisly sex trafficking murder case. No one understands why she came back, or what Grace knows. Grace struggles to recover, aided by an honest state detective named Macy Greeley, who's been dispatched to run the investigation. Macy, eight months pregnant, worked the earlier case and believes the death of Grace's mother is tied to that unsolved cold case. An increasingly desperate killer strikes again, attempting to get to Grace. With readers privy to Grace's secrets, the suspense meter spikes dramatically. If only clever Macy can connect the dots before she goes into labor. VERDICT This complicated, peel-away-layers debut procedural intoxicates from the opening page and has word-of-mouth selling power. To the fine roster of pregnant protagonists (Elly Griffiths's Ruth Galloway and Tess Gerritsen's Jane Rizzoli), add Macy Greeley. Recommend for fans of Archer Mayor, Gwen Florio, and Craig Johnson. C.J. Box's The Highway comes to mind, too.

Two of the authors I hit up for reading resolutions (see LJ 1/14, p. 76, for the full report) mentioned Patricia Highsmith, which seems timely with the new Highsmith-based movie, The Two Faces of January, coming out this spring. (Grove Atlantic is reissuing Highsmith titles in paperback this year, too.)

Meg Gardiner vowed to read Strangers on a Train. She declared in an email that it's "shameful that I haven't yet read the book" since the Hitchcock movie is one of her favorites. When I caught up with her in February, Gardiner attested that she had found the book "taut and insidious!"

A best-selling thriller writer who writes both series and stand-alones (The Shadow Tracer), Gardiner was the guest of honor for 2013's Crime Bake conference, and is a strong library advocate. She's recently moved back to the United States after several years in London. Her next title, Phantom Instinct, comes out in June.

Gardiner wants readers to try Zoë Sharp in 2014, noting, "Her Charlie Fox novels are fast-paced, gritty, and authentic." With that endorsement, better check your catalog. A quick check of Sharp's website ( indicates ten Zoe Sharp thrillers are out there—just the ticket for your binge-readers.

Author Wayne Arthurson (A Killing Winter) has vowed to read Highsmith's The Talented Mr. Ripley. Playing it close to the vest, the Canadian wasn't divulging whether he's cracked the book yet. He is emphatic in his endorsement of fellow Edmontonian Janice MacDonald's mysteries. In his correspondence with me, he said, "They're traditional amateur sleuth mysteries set in academic backdrops or on the fringes of academia because MacDonald's protagonist, Miranda 'Randy' Craig, can't get a tenure-track job. The books are quirky, funny but very smart." See for more. Give them a whirl.

[Page 69]. (c) Copyright 2014. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

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