Book Review: Carved in Bone by Michael Nava

I have an amazing book for you today. Not just for the story itself, but for its harrowing account of a period during the 80s. If you want a book that will touch your soul, this is certainly one.


Carved in Bone by Michael Nava is set in November 1984. It introduces us to criminal defence lawyer Henry Rios, fresh out of rehab and picking up the pieces of his life, reluctantly accepts work as an insurance claims investigator and is immediately is assigned to investigate the apparently accidental death of Bill Ryan. Ryan, part of the great gay migration into San Francisco in the 1970s, has died in his flat of carbon monoxide poisoning from a faulty gas line, his young lover barely surviving. Rios’s investigation into Ryan’s death – which Rios becomes convinced was no accident – tracks Ryan’s life from his arrival in San Francisco as a terrified 18-year-old to his transformation into a successful businessman. What begins for Rios as the search for the truth about Bill Ryan’s death becomes the search for the meaning of Ryan’s life as the tsunami of AIDS bears down on the gay community.

Goodreads blurb



I’m ashamed to say it but this is the first book I’ve read that has predominately gay characters. Not because I’m choosing to do so but because such books seem short in the market. Regardless, I’m glad Carved in Bone came my way.

This is a deeply moving book. Why? Well, because it is a real insight into what it was like to be gay in the 70s/80s. Not only the gay scene in terms of relationships and parties but what it was like to (1) come out, (2) be rejected from your family, and (3) what it was like to live through the AIDS epidemic of the 80s. Point 3 made my cry. I didn’t realise I had such shallow knowledge of the time.  Fictional or not, to read what gay people went through at this time was absolutely heartbreaking.

You may be wondering why I’m not writing much about the storyline of Carved in Bone. It is because the storyline itself is secondary to the themes that run through the pages of this book. Yes, we have a story of a potentially criminal insurance investigation and, yes, we have a collection of wonderfully interesting characters (Waldo has stolen my heart forever). But they are only placeholders to tell a real-life story and educate a new generation of readers about an extremely difficult time. And boy does Michael Nave do this extremely well.

I can’t praise Carved in Bone enough. It is a book that truly touched me and will stay with me for a very long time. I can only urge you to pick up a copy of this book. You will certainly not regret it.

I was sent a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

*affiliate link (any profits made through this link will be donated to an AIDS charity.)


  1. I was interested in this review and the sensitive remarks made about the book and what the gay community had to deal with in the 1980s. I also hadn’t much idea about that at the time and have not thought too much about it since, with the exception of feeling sorry for victims of AIDs that I’ve heard about over time. I had a little taste of point two from the other side when one of our sons ‘came out’, along with all the fears he’d nurtured that we would cast him off. We didn’t and we remain a united family. However, I do know this happens and my heart aches for those who have been cast out.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.