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Monday, June 04, 2012

Bone Reapers by Jeanne Matthews

I was doing a fair job keeping up with and scheduling my reviews for a while, then fell down on the job and have 4 or 5 reviews to write and schedule.  Hate it when that happens.

Bone Reapers initially caught my interest because the blurb mentions a seed repository to preserve seeds in case of a catastrophic event or gradual climate change that could potentially destroy our current agricultural systems and eliminate countless species of plants.  There are various gene banks around the world, but the one in Svalbard, Norway is the last-ditch hope, built to preserve the seeds in all foreseeable disasters.

The Svalbard Global Seed Vault does exist, and the author uses both the vault and the town of Longyearbyen--located not terribly far from the Arctic Circle--as part of  setting and plot.  Dinah Pelerin is a minor part of a U.S. delegation delivering seeds to the plant.   Her superior at the University of Hawaii is a bit suspicious about the safeguarding of the seeds (think genetically modified crops) and sends Dinah to discover more about the procedures, contracts, etc.

Matthews descriptions of the town, the formidable cold (in January, the average low in Longyearbyen is -20 and the average high is -13), and the effects of Polar Night are very well done.  Also interesting are the possibilities for corruption and mismanagement concerning gene banks and seed repositories that Matthews employs in her mystery.

While some of the corruption possibilities seem far-fetched at first glance, it is interesting that a large part of the funding for the Svalbard Vault comes from Monsanto.  Gives one pause.

I liked this book mostly because of the information about the seed vault and the location, but the mystery was just OK.

Poisoned Pen Press.  Net Galley.

Fiction.  Mystery.  June 2012.  250 pages (print version)


  1. The name "Monsanto" makes me shiver.
    Interesting setting in any case. Too bad the story as such wasn't that gripping.

  2. It would seem wise, to me, to have at least one backup vault around just in case something destroys this one. Wonder if they have several of these around the world...just saying.

  3. Caroline - I didn't think the story so far-fetched once I realized part of the funding was from Monsanto.

    Sam - I don't know how many there are, but there was one seed vault wiped out by a typhoon or storm surge. This one was created to withstand any natural or man-made disaster that could be foreseen and has the advantage of the cold climate.

  4. Hello Jenclaire,
    The subject matter seems interesting,but I'm sorry to hear the mystery wasn't gripping enough.
    Loved your review though, and your blog. Following you now!
    please do visit my book blog at and if you like it, please follow!