Keith Staskiewicz
March 19, 2010 AT 04:00 AM EDT

You’ve got three to choose from. These books may have similar-sounding titles, but some of the characters have skeletons in their closets, while others have them on their lab tables. So straighten your back, crack your knuckles, and take a gander at this literary bone-anza.

Bone Fire
Mark Spragg
The Bare Bones From the author of An Unfinished Life, this big-sky slice of life follows a cast of tired and wounded Wyoming natives whose lives are loosely intertwined.
The Skinny The story is as slow and shambling as a run-down pickup, but that allows the fine-tuned characters wide-open space to breathe and their grief to become palpable.
The Movie Pitch Short Cuts in the country, and preferably better than the disappointing Robert Redford — Jennifer Lopez version of Life. B+

Bone Dogs
Roger Alan Skipper
The Bare Bones A beer-soaked but shrewd boozehound finds himself at the bottom of a downward spiral and returns to rebuild his childhood home.
The Skinny Tuesday Price is a compellingly repellent figure, but Skipper’s prose reads like Faulkner that has been left out in the sun for too long.
The Movie Pitch It’s like Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House if Mr. Blandings were an alcoholic misanthrope who pushed away everything he loved and festered in self-hatred. So, yeah. B-

The Bone Thief
Jefferson Bass
The Bare Bones The fifth book in Bass’ Body Farm series has Dr. Bill Brockton, its cadaver-connoisseur protagonist, and his team disinterring a corpse whose limbs have been stolen.
The Skinny Some fascinating forensic science and snappy wiseacre dialogue give this otherwise by-the-numbers procedural a good, solid backbone.
The Movie Pitch A big-screen combination of CSI and Bones, with a sassy cast bantering over a dead body while a Who song wails in the background. B

You May Like