Bones of the Dark Moon by Richard E. Lewis

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All of us have favorite authors whose work we anticipate and whose books we snap up whenever they are available.  Richard Lewis is one of those authors for me.  I find his interesting life and perspective brings something different to his work.  As a result I always enjoy his books. He has written a number of young adult works but decided he wanted to go in a different direction and write for adults.

So I was excited when his latest novel, Bones of the Dark Moon, was finally available. Here is the teaser:

During construction of a villa on an idyllic Bali seashore, workers uncover long-buried skeletons, their shattered skulls evidence of brutal mass murder. The discovery sets the village of Batu Gede astir. The life of Made “Nol” Ziro, a stalwart member of the community with a little gambling problem, is turned upside down. Could one of those skeletons be that of his schoolteacher father, who disappeared during the political upheaval and massacres of 1965?

As Nol sets out to find the truth of what happened, his path crosses that of American anthropologist Tina Briddle, who has secrets of her own, and who is determined to give a voice to the unknown bones. She suspects that the key to their mystery lies with Reed Davis, an enigmatic retiree dwelling among the Ubud expat community and rumored to have been a CIA spy.

Drawing them together is the mysterious Luhde Srikandi, who fifty years ago whispered her enchantments from deep in the shadows of conspiracy, and who begins to whisper again. Who is she? For what happened on that sleepy beach all those decades ago isn’t dusty memory. Secrets are revealed, vengeance is unleashed, and a forbidden love flares to life.

I was not disappointed. Lewis has written a captivating historical novel that highlights some dark but fascinating history in Bali during the cold war. It also offers an interesting and educational glimpse into the culture and complicated relationships of this part of the world. It accomplishes all of this while providing a suspenseful mystery.

What I enjoyed was the mix of characters and the backdrop of Balinese history and culture.  Lewis allows the reader to see Bali through the eyes of these characters and skillfully portrays the complexity and depth of their relationships and emotions. As Bali lurches toward modernity and all that it brings, families, friendships, communities, politics, religion, all of this is shifting and changing.

Into this combustible mix is thrown the fire of revolutionary politics and anti-communism. This in turn provides a cover for revenge and treachery.

In telling the story through the eyes of different characters Lewis approaches the mystery from different angles. Not surprisingly this reveals that few things are as simply as they seem, motivations have both a public and secret side. And as is so often the case, untangling the mystery will have unintended consequences for individuals and communities.

I also liked how Lewis didn’t seem to take a side. Depending on your connection to these events you may disagree, but from my American perspective it seemed like a straight attempt to tell the story in all its complexity and messiness.  Most of the characters are a mix of good and bad motivations and actions; a mix of loyalties and emotions pushing and pulling them in different, and sometimes conflicting, directions.

I am not a big reader of historical fiction, but I really enjoyed Bones of the Dark Moon.  Perhaps because it had the flavor of a political/espionage thriller with the added depth and character development that Lewis offers. The history provided the backdrop and tension but didn’t overwhelm the narrative or detract from the suspense.  The characters, and the setting, shone through and the storyline didn’t feel forced or formulaic.

If you like historic fiction, have an interest in Bali, or just like well done stories with strong characters check out Bones of the Dark Moon.

Kevin Holtsberry
I work in communications and public affairs. I try to squeeze in as much reading as I can while still spending time with my wife and two kids (and cheering on the Pittsburgh Steelers and Michigan Wolverines during football season - oh, and watching golf too).

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