All The Books I Can Read

1 girl….2 many books!

Flash And Bones – Kathy Reichs

on October 31, 2011

In the 14th installment of the Temperance Brennan novels, Tempe is in North Carolina at her job there and it’s NASCAR season! NASCAR is very popular in North Carolina and has its origins there and the population has swelled for the races. When a body is found in a dump near the NASCAR track, there’s some speculation that it might be either a young girl Cindi Gamble, or her driver-boyfriend Cale Lovette who vanished without a trace years ago. The investigation was taken over by the FBI and eventually it was decided that they had eloped but everyone that knew them didn’t buy that as a genuine excuse. Cindi’s brother is sure that the body will turn out to be either his sister, or her boyfriend.

Called in to assess the body, which was found in a 44 gallon drum, Tempe decides that it is a male somewhere between the ages of 30 and 40, with bad teeth. It rules out the girl half of the couple and even though the male half was only 24, Tempe can’t rule out entirely that the body as him as she can’t get an exact age and the victim could’ve had obscure age markers.

Before they can get an ID on their victim, the FBI waltz in and take the body, much to the fury and astonishment of Tempe and her colleagues. They are further astounded when the body is cremated in an “office error” – clearly something is going on here that the FBI don’t want known. They’re investigating a missing person who works at a nearby research facility and looking into whether or not the unknown victim was him. Things are further complicated when the forensic tests return a high amount of a lethal poison in the victim’s body.

Frustrated, Tempe decides to investigate things herself – of course. She teams up with a character we’ve met previously, Skinny Slidell, a cop with a rough manner but who gets things done, and also, the head of security at the NASCAR track, Cotton Galimore, a former detective who worked the investigation of the missing couple years ago before the FBI took over the case. Galimore went down as a bent cop and spent some time in jail and Skinny warns Tempe off him numerous times, claiming that he’s no good. Galimore is an enigmatic character, cards played close to his chest and Tempe is never quite sure how much he can be trusted – however he’s opening doors in the investigation she couldn’t open alone, so she’s going with it.

Investigating the disappearance of Cindi and Cale lead to the Patriot Posse, a right wing extremist group that were believed to be harbouring domestic terrorists and plotting their own terror attacks, hence the involvement of the FBI all those years ago. When Tempe’s interest in the case leads to a reopening, that group become the focus once again – but how easy can it be to track down people from so long ago? Can Tempe solve not only the case of Cindi and Cale, but also the mystery of the body in the barrel and the man reported missing by his wife?

I’ve been reading the Temperance Brennan novels only for a short time – I think I was recommended them about 18 months ago and I read the first 10 or 11 or so in very quick succession and then 12, 13 and 14 as they were published. Early on these books were gritty and quite medically detailed and very interesting in terms of story lines. Some of the later books have been a bit of a disappointment and I think that this one was also a disappointment for me. I think part of that is because I tend to enjoy the books where Tempe is working in Quebec more than the books where she is working in North Carolina. There’s something about the Quebecois setting that is far more interesting and conducive to a gloomy medical mystery novel than sunny and beachy North Carolina.

Secondly, this novel contained almost none of the characters Reichs has spent a dozen books building up – especially Detective Andrew Ryan, Tempe’s on-off love interest who has been mostly ‘off’ in the past few books. Ryan doesn’t even actually appear in person in this book, but he sends Tempe a couple of emails and they exchange a couple of phone calls. The chemistry here has really cooled off between the two of them which is disappointing! Tempe’s daughter Katy and Ryan’s daughter Lily don’t appear either but this wasn’t a hardship for me as I like neither character. Instead we’re treated to more of Tempe’s doofus ex Pete and his blonde bimbo trophy-wife-to-be, Summer. In unprecedented stupidity, Pete asks Tempe to find out why Summer appears to be unhappy with their wedding preparations – and Tempe actually does this. There’s an amicable separation and then there’s just blurring boundaries. Tempe doesn’t like Summer and given that Summer is portrayed as having about six brain cells, it’s not entirely hard to see why.

The crime in this one wasn’t as interesting or as suspenseful as previous novels – I’m not a great NASCAR fan – it almost seems like you have to be American to understand the fun in driving cars around a small circle. There are long and tedious explanations about the origins of NASCAR and such and I skimmed these because I didn’t care and they seemed mostly just filler. I never really felt that Tempe was in that much danger, even when she was supposed to be.

Thumbs up to more Slidell, he’s a character I enjoy and the introduction of Cotton Galimore, despite his ridiculous name. Thumbs down to removing Ryan so far from the story that he may as well not even exist. Either bring him back or get rid of him completely. Tempe barely cared about his absence so you can’t really expect the reader to.

Not the worst installment  in this series but far, far below the standard set by the first half dozen.


Book #166 of 2011

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