Monthly Gem: ‘Closet Full of Bones’ by A.J. Aalto


Title:  Closet Full of Bones

Series:  Stand Alone

Genre:  Mystery/Suspense

Age Category:  Adult

Release Date:  May 2017

Descriptive Blurb:  Ever since they were children, Gillian Hearth has been her sister Frankie’s guardian, her sounding board, and her best friend. Together, the Hearth sisters quietly bury their secrets and form a formidable team during any crisis. Purchasing the old Blymhill house with the hopes of turning it into an artists’ retreat, the sisters are finally living their dream. But when Frankie’s stable ground is rattled by a vengeful ex-boyfriend, an unstable friend from the past shows up unannounced with delusions of intimacy, and a cold case cop starts sniffing around their door, the sisters are forced to wonder how far they will go to keep their secrets safe.

Gillian discovers that, this time, her fight is about to land her in the crosshairs of a dangerous predator who will use any means necessary to remove her from the equation. With everything she holds dear under threat, Gillian battles to keep her head above water and her skeletons in the closet.


“An engrossing journey into the macabre.”

My Impressions:  The character of Gillian has a very unique voice…an odd mixture of sarcasm and macabre which is what first peeked my interest.  Lots of characters (too many, I think) and we see a variety of different POVs.  The characters are introduced fairly quickly.  I had to make a list to keep them straight since I had no way to know who was important and who wasn’t.

Bones, Thugs-n-Disharmony:  OMG…Frankie has no normal people around her besides her sister.  Which begs the question…Is Frankie normal herself?  She has to be a little nuts to attract the crowd that she does.  Travis, the crazy stalker ex. she just broke up with won’t leave her or Gillian alone…non-stop phone calls, texts, creepy notes, home invasions, etc.  But the sisters hesitate to call the police because of Mike, a previously abusive ex-fiance’ of Frankie’s, whose disappearance and presumed death the sisters’ are implicated in.  (The body was never found).  Aaron, yet another crazy ex-boyfriend of Frankie’s has transferred his weird affections to Gillian and thus she acquires a stalker ex that’s not even hers!  And still that’s not all.  There’s also Henry, Frankie’s gambling ex-husband (he’s a loon too).  And last but not least, toxic ex-friend Bobby, the only female of the group, but no less certifiable.  She too, has a weird fixation on Frankie.

All of Frankie’s relationships are unhealthy in some weird or bizarre way.  Even her relationship with Gillian.  She is totally co-dependent and Gillian is an enabler.   Neither makes any attempt to cut the cord…which results in tragedy.  The whole situation could have been avoided with some tough love early on.  But alas, I digress.

Twisted Logic:  It becomes more and more difficult to have sympathy for either Frankie or Gillian because so much of their increasingly precarious situation(s) is self-inflicted…brought on by not just one, but a long string of inexplicably stupid decisions.  A level of stupid which cannot be explained away by fear, intoxication, naiveté or any one of a hundred legitimate excuses.  They just do stupid things for no reason….either that or they are both mentally impaired.

Why is Gillian buying pain-killers on the black market when she could simply get Vicodin, Codeine…and any other pain-killing cocktail from a pain management doctor legally with a prescription and as many refills as she needs?  I get that she’s kinda hooked on them, but still she has a chronic condition (shoulder injury) which causes pain…not to mention the migraines on top of that (which are also a very legitimate reason by any medical standards for a prescription.)  Makes no sense to me.  Ok, perhaps there are no migraines…and the headaches are really just withdrawal from her pill habit.  That would make more sense actually.  Also, why is she buying a gun illegally???  Why not just get a permit to carry and purchase a legal firearm???  There is a guy actively stalking her and her sister??  There’s evidence (text threats, phone calls, hand-written notes)…and the dude has a prior record of stalking his ex-wife.  Call the bloody police and get a restraining order.  Hell, Gillian is the widow of a police officer killed in the line of duty for goodness sake!  They would probably help her shop around for the right gun.  Even if she shoots the guy…who’s going to question it with his record?  They’d probably throw her a party.

And Frankie makes even less sense.  Her bohemian flightiness can only account for so much.  Why would she write down details of a manslaughter and body dump in her diaries???   And then not hide or destroy them when she knows that this crazy ex-boyfriend knows about them…and the manslaughter?  They’re just lying around her place waiting to be stolen.  (Ever heard of a safe deposit box?)  Why does everyone and their dog know that Frankie keeps a diary…knows where they are…and have easy access to her house??  Everyone except the people who should logically know.  The police obvious don’t know because they didn’t ask to see them during the original investigation.  And Gillian, her sister, doesn’t appear to know even though she is the one who originally gave her the first one as a gift.  Their relationship is such that they are very tight, Frankie is highly dependent on Gillian, calls her for everything, blah blah blah…yet she doesn’t know she keeps a diary?  But some boyfriend who’s only been around a few months knows?  Bobby, the drunken basket-case friend, knows.  *Shakes head*  How is Frankie not already the victim of crime with her dangerously open lifestyle?

The Creep Factor:  Very high.  As far as the characters go, I don’t know who was  the creepiest…Aaron, Travis or Bobby!  Honorable mention goes to Mrs. Blymhill, a horder who collected dead rats and kept jars of her own urine.  (Of course, to be fair it would have been even creepier if the urine *hadn’t* been hers.  ewww!)   In addition to the characters themselves, there’s an oppressive atmosphere to the entire story.  The foliage, soil, and the weather.  Just the way the author describes things are disturbing in a subtle way.  Gillian’s weird fixation on a certain type of rose and her visits to different sites in the woods marked by the roses…totally gave me the creeps.  Gillian works as a groundskeeper at a graveyard/cemetery, so throw that in the mix…*shudder*.

Random Thoughts:  1. I almost wish there was a supernatural element to this story, because otherwise I have to keep reminding myself that this is just a book.   2. Why on earth does everyone have their sights set on either Gillian or Frankie?  Are they the only two women in town?

The Verdict:  The goings-on in the book are morbidly fascinating…and with the exception of a few too many typos, very well written.  It will certainly please the lovers of macabre mystery thrillers.


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About the Author: 

In addition to being the author of the Marnie Baranuik Files, AJ Aalto is an unrepentant liar, a poor Sudoku puzzler, a badge bunny, a PVP gamer, and a fruitcake. When not studying murder, you can find her singing Monty Python songs in the shower, eavesdropping on strangers, stalking her eye doctor, or failing at life. Readers will find her work littered with dark creatures and flawed monsters.







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