All The Books I Can Read

1 girl….2 many books!

Mortal Remains – Kathy Reichs

on October 16, 2010

This was the 3rd novel I read for the Read-A-Thon.

I quite like the Temperance Brennan novels. I’ve read all of them and so far there had been only 1 that I really didn’t enjoy at all, which I think is a pretty good strike rate when there’s 12 novels to the series. Well unfortunately, my toll now stands at 2/13. I didn’t get into this book either.

Like Brennan, Reichs herself is a forensic anthropologist and she always claims that she never writes a novel and puts Temperance in a medical situation that she herself hasn’t been in personally. She’s obviously very smart, very knowledgable in her field but for the average layman who doesn’t have a science brain (like myself) the long winded descriptions of procedures, tests, etc can, very occasionally, feel like a lecture. Even when Temperance is supposed to be using “dumbed down” language in this novel, it often doesn’t feel like that. Or maybe I’m just more dumbed down than the people in the book she’s explaining things to? Anyway, it sometimes leads to me flicking pages in boredom until the pages of scientific descriptions stop. And that happened quite often in this novel.

Firstly – the abbreviations. There are oh so many of them and my brain can only keep track of so many acronyms at a time. It’s even harder because I’m not American and don’t have even a passing knowledge with some of these organisations. But I’m getting ahead of myself…plot first.

A floater is found somewhere in Quebec, Canada and due to being in the water, the body isn’t easily identifiable so Tempe is called in to do her thing. Fingerprints identity the man as John Lowery which is a slight problem, as it’s 2010 and apparently, John Lowery was declared dead in 1968 in Vietnam after a Chopper crash. Everyone is much confused – if Lowery was a Vietnam soldier killed in action, how did he come to be in Canada? Tempe exumes the grave of John Lowery in North Carolina and finds that there is a partial skeleton inside that is supposed to be Lowery. Tempe decides to head to Hawaii to the headquarters of JPAC (one of those acronyms!) an organisation who dedicates itself to recovering American soldiers killed in conflict and bringing them home. Soon after arriving in Hawaii there turns up another body and this one has John Lowery’s dogtags. So 3 bodies, all supposedly the same man. Which is the real Lowery and who are the other two? Tempe as always, is determined to find answers and justice for the fallen. Add in a threat on her life, her daughter Katy in a depression and Ryan and his daughter Lily and that’s about the ballgame.

The plot was actually kind of interesting but I’m used to more action within these novels. There’s always lots of creeping around and questioning people and Tempe usually getting herself involved in all sorts of things that she shouldn’t be involved in and a pretty decent climax. This book lacked…a lot of things. Okay there was an attempt on Tempe’s life but it was pretty lame, came out of nowhere and then totally fizzled out and was related to some random side case that Tempe got pulled in on out of no where. There was so much talking and explaining of organisations and DNA and other sorts of procedures and it was boring. The idea of an organisation that works to bring fallen soldiers home to their families for a proper burial was nice but there were some glaring errors made by an incompetent employee that led to remains being identified incorrectly which has potential disaster written all over it. I’ve no idea if that sort of thing occurs in real life, it probably does. Mistakes are made every day, I know it sometimes can’t be helped, but you’d have to feel for people who were told remains were those of their son/father/brother/husband/etc and then later it turned out that they weren’t.

Tempe’s daughter Katy features more prominently in this one than she does in other novels and that’s not necessarily a good thing. Katy is a selfish and often immature 24yo who is best left to just being the voice on the end of the phone whining about how much she hates her boring job now that she’s graduated from university after a whopping 6 years. Ryan’s daughter Lily appears more in this book too, mostly just to squabble with Katy. They both act like they’re 12 years old for most of their time together and it’s mostly just irritating. I think both of them could do with a good slap. Even Ryan was a nothing character this time around. And yes, she’s still calling him Ryan! Can’t she call him Andy even once? Or Andrew? Anything other than his last name, which, for a guy that she’s slept with on and off for years now, is fairly ridiculous. It bugs me probably more than it should but hearing her refer to him as Ryan was confusing because I started to think his name was Ryan for a while, forgetting about the whole Andrew bit. At least this book laid off the devotion to describing his eyes twenty-seven different shades of blue.

I usually don’t mind the fast pacing but the sentence fragments in this novel were very offputting and a bit reminiscent of the other book in this series I didn’t enjoy, Cross Bones. At least Tempe and Ryan weren’t acting like 4yos although I swear at the end of the previous book, 206 Bones that they were just about back together. However when Mortal Remains opens up it’s pretty clear that they are most definitely at an ‘off’ stage of their relationship. Ryan does a bit of half-hearted trying to get things going again but that mostly just involves him making vaguely suggestive remarks about getting back into Tempe’s pants and Tempe pretending that she doesn’t hear/understand what he’s saying. Usually there’s a bit of sexual tension between them but in this novel it was completely absent! I think the time has come for Tempe to make a decision about Ryan and if Reichs has no intentions getting them back together than they need to move him into the background. And if they are going to get back together, well then they need to do it. Without them having issues and breaking up in like every book from here on in. It’s just getting really old.

Choppy disjointed writing, far too much explanation and lecturing on details of everything, lack of character development/growth, lack of sexual tension between anyone, confusing plot with far too many bodies and too many peripheral characters, not to mention what felt like hundreds of acronyms. It was confusing – I had trouble remembering what organisation did what, what they used to be called before X happened, or they merged with Y, etc. If I hadn’t of been reading this for the read-a-thon it’s quite likely I might never have finished it. That’s kind of sad, because I normally like these books quite a bit.

** Please note: In the US (and probably everywhere else) this novel goes by the name of Spider Bones. I have no idea why it has a different name here, all previous 12 books have all had the same name as international versions. The title of Spider Bones actually makes much more sense, as John Lowery, who the whole novel is basically about, goes by the nickname of Spider.


Book #75 of my 75 Book Challenge. Wow, I’m so pleased that I reached the second leg of my challenge so quickly. I was going to upgrade my challenge from 50 Books for 2010 straight to 100 but I changed my mind thinking that I might not have enough time. I’m going to have a go now, of getting to 100 novels for the year before 31st December.

One response to “Mortal Remains – Kathy Reichs

  1. A great review of the book, and I agree with every word of it. Reichs is usually a good author, but I almost get the sense that her mind just wasn’t focused on this one. Tempe got rescued a little too easily from the car chase. I wouldn’t have minded the fewer action scenes….but they did as you said “fizzled out”.

    I didn’t mind Katy and Lilly as much. Felt like the author is (hopefully) trying to show her family and Ryan’s working as a family. But after the ending of 206 Bones…it did seem like there should have been more chemistry.

    Alas…maybe the next one will be better.

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