THE BONE RECORDS by Rich Zahradnik is a wonderfully edgy “everyman” thriller but don’t expect a Clark Kent action story. THE BONE RECORDS gives us a down-on-his-luck drama with a compelling sense of place and villains who are still fighting the Cold War.

Raised by his father, Griff Orlov grew up surrounded by the Russian diaspora on the rim of New York City. As the book opens, his father is missing and no one can provide any clue as to what happened. Griff has no choice but to sell the house where he grew up.

In the house for the very last night, Griff is shocked to see his father make a surreptitious entrance. Rushed and agitated, the father advises Griff to seek out a former girlfriend before they are interrupted by a stranger.

Griff’s father flees. Griff gives chase over the rooftops, only to see the stranger murder his father and disappear into the night.

Talk about an inciting incident!

When no one else seems to care about his missing-now-murdered father, Griff sets out to find the truth for himself. There’s a whiff of The Fugitive here, although instead of being a doctor, Griff is a lowly government clerk with zero money, a boss who is cheating the system and an ex-girlfriend who doesn’t want anything to do with him.

But Griff has few options other than to keep digging, which lead him to “bone records.”

These are Cold War-era X-rays that have been etched with music banned in the Soviet Union. Under Stalin and Beria, comrades found with Western music could expect a one-way trip to the gulag. Finding albums on the black market was nearly impossible.

But it was possible to record songs on the film used to make X-rays, if anyone could get it, making images of broken bones and skull fractures the base material for new recordings. Single songs were etched onto these makeshift vinyl album blanks for underground Soviet music lovers who risked everything just to hear a Beatles tune.

His father’s disappearance is connected to those youthful listeners, many of whom made their way to the United States. There are more twists and turns in the book than you can count, with multiple shades of gray painted on every character. My heart stopped a few times, sure that Griff was going to become a different sort of bone record himself!

This is a standalone, but I’d love to see Griff make a comeback as he unravels more Cold War era mysteries.

Find THE BONE RECORDS on Amazon.

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