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Review: The Bone Code by Kathy Reichs

The Bone Code (Temperance Brennan #20)
Kathy Reichs
Simon & Schuster AUS
2021, 368p
Copy courtesy of the publisher

Blurb {from the publisher/Goodreads.com}: A storm has hit South Carolina, dredging up crimes of the past.

On the way to Isle of Palms, a barrier island off the South Carolina coast, forensic anthropologist Temperance Brennan receives a call from the Charleston coroner. During the storm, a medical waste container has washed up on the beach. Inside are two decomposed bodies wrapped in plastic sheeting and bound with electrical wire. Chillingly, Tempe recognizes many details as identical to those of an unsolved case she handled in Quebec fifteen years earlier. With a growing sense of foreboding, she flies to Montreal to gather evidence and convince her boss Pierre LaManch to reopen the cold case. She also seeks the advice—and comfort—of her longtime beau Andrew Ryan.

Meanwhile, a storm of a different type gathers force in South Carolina. The citizens of Charleston are struck by a bacterium that, at its worst, can eat human flesh. Thousands panic and test themselves for a rare genetic mutation that may have rendered them vulnerable.

Shockingly, Tempe eventually discovers that not only are the victims in both grisly murder cases related, but that the murders and the disease outbreak also have a common cause… 

I wasn’t really intending to read this – I read the last one, which appeared after a gap of several years and didn’t enjoy it that much. It feels like it’s been quite a while since I had enjoyed one of these. Early on, the writing style didn’t bother me as much, or it’s become more clipped over time. But so much of this feels like key words that make up sentences are missing and Tempe tends to think in like handfuls of words that get the point across like “Got up. Drove. Snowy roads. Work. At my desk. Bones. Phone calls. No sign of Ryan”. It just gets on my nerves a bit but I don’t know, I’m a sucker for a series and I think I always have this hope that the new one is going to be better. I did the same thing with the Janet Evanovich books before I finally let the dream go.

In this book, bodies that wash up in a barrel after a hurricane in South Carolina, turn out to be connected to a case Tempe once had in Montreal over 10 years ago (because of course they are, it’s like there’s literally only Tempe investigating everything in the US and Canada and something is almost always connected to something else from her past). It becomes a goal of hers to finally be able to identify the two bodies in the barrel in Montreal, who were buried unidentified. She’s back and forth between the two locations, investigating and digging and pressuring the relevant people to conduct this test or that, as science has moved on in the decade plus since the Montreal case.

I actually quite enjoyed the case, it was gruesome and sad and you could understand Tempe’s desire to give the victims a name and also, get some justice for them. The two in Montreal seemed to be a grown woman and a child, the two in South Carolina teen girls. Someone murdered them all, presumably the same person, given the identical methods, even with the distance and time between the two. Tempe is always the sort of person that crusades and doesn’t rest until she has her answers. Also if you’re curious, her head still might explode but she’s too busy to do things like book an MRI.

There be ***SPOILERS*** ahead.

But. There was one problem I did have with this plot and I’m surprised that the author thought it was a good idea to be honest. This takes place in a post-COVID19 world and presumably everyone is vaccinated and things are fine now as life is “back to normal” and Tempe and Ryan have no problems travelling around everywhere. However, what Tempe uncovers is that someone developed a way to use a vaccine to be able to make people more susceptible to a particular disease, transmitted via canine saliva. The same person would then profit off how to “protect” people from this disease.

I found this a really, really unfortunate time to make vaccines the bad guy. It feels like the anti-vax movement is at an all time high and given we are going through a worldwide pandemic which has decimated places, killed millions and affected pretty much every country on the planet in some way or other, despite that, there’s still a distrust of vaccines. There’s some pretty crazy stuff peddled out there on the internet and it’s actually surprising what people will believe: that vaccines cause autism, that they are a way for the government/Bill Gates to control us by inserting microchips, that the vaccines are worse than the disease, that they contain XYZ, it will infect you with the disease it’s claiming to protect you from, they don’t work so what’s the point anyway, everyone else is vaccinated so I don’t need to be, healthy people won’t die from COVID/the measles/the flu/etc. Now some of these are so crazy you wonder how any could believe them….but vaccination levels are actually at severe lows as more and more people “conscientiously object” and nut jobs like Pete Evans (an Australian chef of all things, who thinks he’s some sort of medical expert) spout their beliefs with zero medical evidence. Sometimes, it’s a genuine fear that people have, and it’s becoming harder for people to actually discern between actual medical fact and something Uncle Joe shared on Facebook. I honestly didn’t think vaccines needed another potential scaremongering, even one in a fiction book as the world attempts to get its citizens vaccinated for COVID19 as people are still dying in the thousands every day. Especially by an author who is a scientist.

Look it’s possible this is making fun of the ways in which people mouth off that vaccines are dangerous but Tempe is a scientist who uncovers a bunch of people working for a vaccine company that discovered a way to do this and a person killed like 5 people to protect this secret and make money. It doesn’t feel like satire or a joke and it just felt like it was a really ridiculous time to try and do this, even though this is a fiction novel. There’s already so much difficulty out there regarding trust and vaccines at the moment, it literally felt like the author could’ve made anything else the reasoning for murder.

4/10

Book #76 of 2021

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Review: A Conspiracy Of Bones by Kathy Reichs

A Conspiracy Of Bones (Temperance Brennan #19)
Kathy Reichs
Simon & Schuster AUS
2020, 336p
Uncorrected proof copy courtesy of the publisher

Blurb {from the publisher/Goodreads.com}:

It’s sweltering in Charlotte, North Carolina, and Temperance Brennan, still recovering from neurosurgery following an aneurysm, is battling nightmares, migraines, and what she thinks might be hallucinations when she receives a series of mysterious text messages, each containing a new picture of a corpse that is missing its face and hands. Immediately, she’s anxious to know who the dead man is, and why the images were sent to her.

An identified corpse soon turns up, only partly answering her questions.

To win answers to the others, including the man’s identity, she must go rogue, working mostly outside the system. That’s because Tempe’s new boss holds a fierce grudge against her and is determined to keep her out of the case. Tempe bulls forward anyway, even as she begins questioning her instincts. But the clues she discovers are disturbing and confusing. Was the faceless man a spy? A trafficker? A target for assassination by the government? And why was he carrying the name of a child missing for almost a decade?

With help from a number of law enforcement associates including her Montreal beau Andrew Ryan and the always-ready-with-a-smart-quip, ex-homicide investigator Skinny Slidell, and utilizing new cutting-edge forensic methods, Tempe draws closer to the astonishing truth.

But the more she uncovers, the darker and more twisted the picture becomes…

I could not have been more surprised when this book turned up on the doorstep. I had figured that this series had finished – I gave up years ago. I would’ve said it had been about three years but I just looked it up and I last read a Temperance Brennan book (#17) over five years ago – December 2014. But I actually only missed one book – #18. Apparently the series was in limbo a couple of years and the author has now switched publishers. I think the only thing I missed appears to be that Tempe and Ryan are back on (again) and Tempe has a brain aneurysm because well, of course she does. Why not.

In this one, Tempe is back in North Carolina but things aren’t….great. Ryan is somewhere else, back in Canada starting up some PI business after having retired and then he’s in France for portions of the book on a case. Tempe’s old boss in North Carolina is dead (murdered? I must’ve missed that too actually) and the new one hates her so Tempe finds herself out on the outer, especially when a case that’s right up her professional alley is discovered. Someone texts her anonymously, pictures of a corpse that has been attacked by wild hogs post mortem. Tempe tries to help but finds herself rebuffed and threatened but when she sees that the professional is looking like making some critical mistakes, she decides to investigate herself along with Skinny Slidell. Skinny appears to also have followed Ryan in quitting the force and running his own PI business but he’s still at the police station all the time and has a desk there due to assisting on some cold cases or something, I don’t know. Seems like a convenient way for them to have access to police resources but also for Skinny to be able to do whatever he wants.

I nearly DNF’d this. I came really, really close. Tempe was really annoying me, more than I think she has in any other book before. I know she’s always been somewhat reckless and just also does whatever the heck she wants with little regard for her actual job description but it was getting a bit out of control this book. And also her head might explode or something, I don’t know, people seem concerned about it, unless your name is Temperance Brennan and then you are decidedly not concerned about it and you do stupid things that place yourself in danger and then you absolutely do not tell anyone that you are doing these things or wait for assistance and you definitely do not stop once it seems quite likely that someone drugged you, kidnapped you and bashed you over the head (the one that might explode). A lot happens to Tempe in this book, her house is trashed, she is constantly threatened, she discovers disturbing things about the corpse where he has a connection to her and look normally I’d say it’s just an average day in Tempe’s life. But in this one, Skinny is half in and half out of the picture and despite the fact that Tempe and Ryan are ‘on again’ she basically tells him nothing that she should tell him. He turns up at one stage after they find her knocked out under a hedge or something, they bone a few times, he leaves to go back to his case. Ryan used to be almost militantly concerned for her safety in Toronto, he once broke an undercover identity to save her from something, way back in about book 3 or so. Now he’s more like eh, I’ll pop in with some flowers for some love, make sure she’s not dead and then I’m out again. Got a horse to find. To be honest, Ryan feels like a completely different character. And I know things have happened to him since those early days…..but he’s barely Ryan anymore.

There was just a lot about Tempe’s actions in this that actually really bothered me, more than they usually would. Dumb stuff like her phone constantly not working so she constantly finds it turning off/no battery or something, which seems really suspicious and also means that she can’t contact people/be contacted and when you’re stumbling around into some really dangerous stuff, it’s just stupidity to be walking around with this stupid phone that hardly ever works and Tempe for the love of all that is holy go and get a new damn phone. Also the writing…..Reichs has always a very short, clipped way of writing and I guess you either like it or you don’t. It’s bothered me to varying degrees in the past but this book felt really over the top. It’s littered with passages like: got up. Found clothes. Coffee. Drank it. Sat down. Computer. Time to work. That’s paraphrased, not a quote (I’ve an uncorrected proof, I can’t quote from it), but it’s similar. And the more the book went on, the more I felt like Tempe might need a section for mental health reasons. She’s really paranoid throughout most of this and it comes across in almost hysterical sounding internal ramblings. She’s not sleeping and it shows. The only people she really has for support in this are Skinny (a good detective, pretty much does whatever Tempe asks but she rarely if ever listens to him) and her mother, an oddly proficient computer wizard but who is barely capable of a conversation that is in any way grounded in reality and not about men and/or sex.

I finished this, for the love of the series that I once had. I know what these books are capable of being but for me, this one was way off the mark.

4/10

Book #42 of 2020

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Review: Bones Never Lie – Kathy Reichs

Bones Never LieBones Never Lie (Temperance Brennan #17)
Kathy Reichs
Bantam Books (Random House)
2014, 323p
Read from my local library

Forensic anthropologist Temperance Brennan is unexpectedly called in to the Charlotte PD’s Cold Case Unit. When Temperance sees the briefs, two murders thousands of miles apart but with the same MO, she knows why she’s there. They look to be connected to Anique Pomerleau, the one who ‘got away’ from Tempe and her then-partner, Detective Andrew Ryan. In Canada, Anique kidnapped, tortured and murdered girls and after escaping, vanished off the radar. The only photo they had of her was one from when she was 15 years old, which would be over 20 years ago. Now it seems that she has resurfaced in America and this time Tempe is determined to get her.

But to do that, they need Detective Andrew Ryan who has vanished, disappeared off the radar himself since the death of his daughter Lily. Those involved think that Tempe is the best person to draw Ryan out – if anyone can find him, bring him back and get him to help, it’s her. But Tempe has had only an email from Ryan and she has no idea where in the world he is. He could be anywhere. She gets help from a surprising source that allows her to find him but Ryan is reluctant to return with her. He’s left that life behind and he’s a shadow of his former self, a broken man.

The cases keep coming and Tempe has her hands full. There are several unsolved cases that fit the profile that were ignored for other reasons and eventually a pattern is recognised. These are definitely connected to Pomerleau and the disappearances in Canada and Tempe knows that this time, she has to solve them, get them justice. But she also has to get Ryan motivated, keep the various different bureaucracies from each other’s throats and deal with personal news that rocks her to the core.

Bones Never Lie is the 17th novel in the Temperance Brennan series and for me, this one is a pleasant return to form after a few that have been well, rather lacklustre. I think that for me, it’s really not hard to guess why I enjoyed this one more than some of the other recent books. For a start, we don’t have to deal with Tempe’s annoying-as-heck ex-husband Pete and his new partner/wife/whatever she is Summer and also, Tempe’s daughter Katy remains far away in Afghanistan. Thankfully Ryan returns in a proper capacity after just basically phoning it in the last couple of books as he dealt with personal issues and then dropped off the planet completely. He’s not the Detective Andrew Ryan of old but there were some glimpses. It’s kind of odd that everyone makes a huge deal about needing Ryan though, because once he actually does decide to go back with Tempe to help when she tracks him down, he really doesn’t do that much. It’s mostly Tempe who puts most, if not everything together with the help of her mother (yeah, what? I don’t know where that come from either). My belief in Tempe’s foray into crime solving was always tenuous at best but it did seem to work better with Ryan.

This book is connected to book number 7, Monday Mourning. I actually didn’t realise that when I started to read it – I knew it was referencing a previous book but I read a lot of the earlier books in 2010, so nearly 5 years and about 600 books ago. The details are fuzzy. Even after reading the blurb for Monday Mourning I still don’t really remember that much about it so I’d recommend anyone who hasn’t read that one in a while to revisit it before picking up this one. It would definitely help to remember the actual villain that they’re chasing. Bits and pieces came back to me as I read it but not enough. For some reason, Tempe’s mother plays a large role in researching the crimes in this book. I don’t know why Reichs always seems to find a way to shoehorn people who aren’t cops into investigations or if she’s trying to say something? But the fact that Tempe’s mother in some sort of “facility” is able to find out so much information and discover random things that end up being the “big bang” moment in the case, didn’t really ring true to me at all.

Despite my reservations about the involvement of Tempe’s mother, I did enjoy this one more than I have some of the other more recent ones. There’s lot of digging – they have to do a lot of work to connect the cases and prove that some of the other unsolved cases could also potentially be linked so you get a feel of how various people work on attempting to solve a cold case as well as a more recent one. There’s not as much scientific jargon in this one either, Tempe isn’t needed to explain things to people in great detail although she does kind of receive a lecture herself which makes a nice change. There’s no denying that Kathy Reichs must possess an extremely broad knowledge base and do lots of research for her books but sometimes those descriptions can make these books feel like they’re interspersed with chunks from a textbook.

The end of this one made the next one look quite interesting….I’m interested to see where things go for Ryan and Tempe after their hiatus. Their relationship has always been off/on but whenever it was off you always saw the way back for them. The last few made that very difficult to see so, I’m curious after Ryan’s seeming change of heart whether or not Reichs will honour the promise she seems to have made readers here.

7/10

Book #260 of 2014

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Bones Of The Lost – Kathy Reichs

Bones of the LostBones Of The Lost (Temperance Brennan #16)
Kathy Reichs
Scribner
2013, 336p
Copy courtesy of the publisher via NetGalley

When the body of a young girl is found dead by the side of the road, Temperance Brennan finds herself unusually invested in her fate. The detective who has caught the case, Skinny Slidell thinks she’s just another hooker, probably illegal. But she’s also a young girl, a nameless young girl and Tempe desperately wants to not only find out her identity but be able to return her to her family so that she may rest in peace and that they have some closure.

Tempe ignores her own cases, including the inspection of some mummified dogs from Peru and the case of a skull found down an outdoor toilet, for digging around in the case about the young girl. However once she finally gets around to doing some investigating into the Peruvian dogs and who is connected to that she starts to find that the same names are cropping up there as in the case surrounding the young girl. Was she part of an illegal trafficking network?

Tempe also travels to Afghanistan to review the bodies of two locals shot by an American who now faces court action. It is Tempe’s job to determine whether or not the American soldier shot them in defense because they were rushing at him, like he claims, or if he shot them in the back as they were fleeing him, like a witness claims. The career of this soldier hangs on what Tempe will find now that the local authorities have finally granted permission for an exhumation and examination.

Whilst in Afghanistan, Tempe gets the chance to see her daughter Katy who is serving there after signing up. Katy lost a boyfriend, killed in action and signed up in response to that and now Tempe fears for her day and night, much more than her ex-husband Pete does. And speaking of Pete, he’s getting ready for the wedding of the year – or is he? And are him and Tempe finally divorced? Her life is complicated in all corners but even Tempe is surprised when her trip to Afghanistan begins to tie in with her cases at home. If she’s right, then she could be able to save the lives of many more girls like their unnamed victim. But she could also lose her life.

Okay Temperance Brennan. This is the sixteenth book and it’s hard to sustain a series for so long at a high standard. I’ve read all of these books and most -most- have been fabulous. However there are a couple out there that really fall short of the mark and for me, this is definitely one of them. Kathy Reichs has always had a rather clipped way of writing which can become extremely tedious at times and this book takes that to a whole new level. Every sentence. Is truncated and. Seems. To. Be. Like this. It’s. Annoying. Speak. Like A. Normal. Person. Also, she has people ask other people questions that they would know the answer to in order for there to be a large information dump about some form of forensic science or life serving in the armed forces or whatever it is that Kathy Reichs needs to expound upon so that the reader understands as much as the characters do. The downside of this is you have someone lecturing Tempe on something she would already know about or Tempe lecturing someone else. It reads awkwardly.

Paging Detective Lieutenant Andrew Ryan – are you still even in this series? For the first ten books, the chemistry between Tempe and Ryan and then their off-on relationship kept these books sizzling. The last 4-5 books though they’ve been decidedly more off than on and it’s getting worse and worse each book. I can’t figure out if Reichs is phasing out Ryan entirely (and that’s what his 2 page scene in this book was) or what. If she is doing that, then please just do it and be done with it. Don’t mention him (or the lack of him) every other page so that we keep thinking about him. And if you are getting rid of him permanently then please please do not have Tempe go back to her former husband Pete. I cannot stand the Pete character and the stupid “sugarbritches” endearment he keeps dropping. I suspect that Pete must be based upon someone that Kathy Reichs adores because we just can’t seem to get rid of him, no matter what. Their marriage is over, the shared child is well into her twenties. We really don’t need him popping up half a dozen times every book.

I’ve read many books where a character like Tempe is working on two (or more) seemingly unconnected cases and then bam! all of a sudden they are linked. This book does this but unfortunately it does not do it well. It’s drawing rather a long bow to connect the dead girl Tempe is so drawn to with the Afghanistan case and the Peruvian dogs and the same players all being prominent in each. All of this stuff ends up revolving around someone from North Carolina. I know there aren’t many board certified people like Tempe but they do exist. She’s not the only person in the world qualified in her field. To have her connected to so many things was ludicrous. I’d have found it more believable if a colleague had contacted her with a connection or was looking for advice or information which allowed her to put everything together. Instead of her being in possession of all the information about all of the people which connected all of the cases. Not to mention all of the thing Tempe is included in – like going on police raids. “Stay in the car,” says Slidell. “Okay,” says Tempe. 5 seconds later, she’s out of the car and searching the building too. I like Slidell and I like the two of them together (not in that way) but I think he’d be less tolerant of Tempe interfering and being involved than Ryan was in Canada.

This installment isn’t the worst I’ve read in this series but unfortunately it’s far, far below the level of the best.

4/10

Book #224 of 2013

 

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Bones Are Forever – Kathy Reichs

Bones Are Forever2Bones Are Forever
Kathy Reichs
Scribner
2012, 288p
Read from my local library

A woman who says her name is Amy Roberts attends a Montreal hospital complaining of vaginal bleeding. When she is examined, it looks as though she has recently given birth but she disappears before the doctor, who is then distracted by another emergency case, can investigate further. When the doctor finally does remember the situation and calls the police, they are sent to the address Roberts gave the hospital and discover bloody towels in the dumpster outside. Fearing the worst for both the woman (who has now disappeared) and the child, others are called to the scene.

Dr Temperance Brennan, a forensic anthropologist finds the corpses of three tiny babies in the squalid flat – the one that has been recently birthed and two other almost mummified corpses. There’s no sign of Roberts but the police do find that she has been using several aliases. Although it’s too early to know the cause of death, three full term babies dying of natural causes is very unlikely and this becomes a homicide investigation but Amy Roberts has disappeared into thin air.

In charge of the investigation is homicide detective Lieutenant Andrew Ryan, Tempe’s former lover although relations have been somewhat strained between them in recent times. Normally Ryan would ask Tempe along, or keep her in the loop but this time she finds herself having to pry information out of Ryan and keep herself in the loop, even more so when some evidence comes in to suggest that Roberts has come from Edmonton, involving an even more distant lover of Tempe’s, Royal Canadian Mounted Police officer Sargeant Ollie Hasty. It was a long time ago but Ollie seems to be making noises that he wouldn’t mind a re-visit, despite Tempe’s lack of interest. This has not helped relations between Ryan and Tempe, or working relations between Ryan and Hasty for that matter and it’s a very tense threesome that undertake a journey first to Edmonton and then up to Yellowknife, a mining community in the Northwest Territories. Once in Yellowknife, the investigation takes a turn that no one could’ve possibly predicted.

Bones Are Forever is the fifteenth installment of the Temperance Brennan novels, which have been spun off into Fox Network’s Bones series. Although I’ve only seen a handful of episodes, the TV series bears little resemblance to the books other than the lead characters share the same name and the same job. I’ve always really enjoyed these books although the last couple seemed to have suffered quality wise and it seemed like Reich’s abrupt way of writing Tempe was getting ridiculously so which made it extremely difficult to read. The cooling off between Tempe and Ryan had also played a part in my decreased enjoyment of these because the chemistry they had in the earlier novels was awesome and kept me turning the pages. However Ryan had turned into a bit of non-entity in the last couple of novels and the chemistry between them had pretty much dipped into the minus.

So it was with a little apprehension that I began this one. Unfortunately I chose to open the novel while I sat down to eat my lunch, only to be confronted with descriptions of decomposing babies! I actually had to set the book aside until I’d finished eating and then pick it back up again. Naturally it was only the first 2 pages that contained the descriptions! Decomposing babies are a pretty punchy way to open a novel and Tempe doing what she does best, examining scenes, collecting evidence and noting markers for identification was a promising start. So was the fact that there was tension between Ryan and Tempe (albeit all on Ryan’s side, Tempe has actually no idea why he’s being like this and contemplates asking him several times throughout the book until he spills his guts why, but more on that later). It looked like I was going to enjoy this one and I was hopeful I’d find it as fun as the first dozen or so in this series.

Although it didn’t quite reach that height for me, it was still quite an improvement over the last two or so and I enjoyed the read. It did seem very short though, only 288p in large hardback form, well spaced. I seem to remember the earlier ones being longer and meatier than this story (Tempe’s life was really only threatened once which is pretty much an all-time low). I enjoyed the fact that Tempe, Ryan and Hasty managed to work together even with all the underlying tensions and the snark was at times, quite funny. I also enjoyed the mystery of Amy Roberts, etc and what happened with her and the babies, which wasn’t exactly what I thought it would be and I appreciated the extra depth to the mystery.

What was a bit lame was Ryan’s reason for being so abrupt with Tempe which I felt was extremely weak and just…really quite random. I’m actually extremely sick of both Ryan’s daughter Lily (who is rarely in this series but seems to penetrate every bloody book) and Tempe’s daughter Katy (ditto). They just detract from the actual story and both of them are extremely unlikable and provide no actual plot development or character development or anything interesting ever. Please can they both just GO AWAY now.

I’m also not sure that I agree with the action Ryan takes when Tempe witnesses something distressing. It has the potential to really stuff up her life and set her backwards with something she has struggled with and although I think he meant to help her it could’ve (and most likely would have in real life) set her on a very destructive path. I think it was glossed over and I know these books don’t really do deep and meaningful much but I think they should have talked about the fact that he made her do it and how wrong it could’ve gone.

7/10

Book #272 of 2012

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Flash And Bones – Kathy Reichs

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.

6/10

Book #166 of 2011

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Mortal Remains – Kathy Reichs

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.

4/10

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.

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Monday Mourning – Kathy Reichs

This book should’ve been read before Cross Bones, but it was the one that wasn’t in Borders that I had to have shipped from the US. It arrived on Friday, with Dead In The Family and another book and I’ve read all 3 of them already. I really do have no life. It’s cold (winter here, and currently pretty freezing). My fiancé has been doing muchos work and is barely home. Usually it’s me and the bubba. He’s pretty good at playing with his toys, watching the shows he likes on TV or hopping up on the couch with me and giving me snuggles while I read.So, because of all that – I’m getting through a lot of books right now.

First off – this one is about 20x better than Cross Bones,  so I’m hoping that Cross Bones really just was a once off shocker. This one starts off with the bones of three young women being found in a basement underneath a pizza parlour. The bodies are all decomposed and dry so the cop who caught the case, the charming Luc Claudel thinks they are old, probably over a century and not really worth worrying about because 100+ year old buttons were found with the bones. Can’t arrest someone for a murder that’s 100yrs old. Anyway, this gets Tempe’s back up (actually, Claudel pretty much always gets her back up) so she organises some expensive tests and has the bones Carbon-14 dated. The results come back – either the bones have been there since the 1950s, or they’ve been there since after the 1980’s. Something something, radiocarbons in the atmosphere/soil/something. I’m not very scientifically minded, but you don’t need to be. The gist is – either 1950 or post 80’s. And because this is a novel I’m not yet a quarter of the way through, I know immediately it’ll be post 1980’s. And it is, because a sealant on one of the victims teeth wasn’t developed until the 70s and was widely used in the 80s and 90s. Cop that, Luc Claudel!

While Tempe is investigating, she gets a call from an elderly lady who claims to know why there are bodies in the basement of the pizza parlous. It’s a bad connection and Tempe only hears that her name is possibly Gallant or Ballant, something like that. The connection cuts out and although she rings back and leaves her number on Tempe’s machine, Tempe cannot get in contact with her at all over the next few days. That throws her in to working once again with Andrew Ryan, her on-again, off-again lover. At the end of the last book they seemed pretty happy, but it’s clear in this one that things aren’t right. Ryan is distant, vague. Making excuses and ducking out. Leaving in the middle of dinner. And then Charbonneau, Claudel’s partner, tells Tempe (he’s unaware the two are lovers) that he’s seen Ryan “squiring one half his age” around town. Tempe’s hurt and yet, sort of resigned. Detective Ryan’s Lothario rep was well known to her. I do like that in this book, she calls him ‘Andy’ when speaking to him. Even if one of the times  is incredibly sarcastic. Often she refers to him as ‘Ryan’, even when speaking to his face, which I find very odd. I can’t imagine ever seriously calling my fiancé as {last name}. I may do it on a very rare occasion when we are mucking around competitively or something. But not in everyday conversation.

I enjoyed everything about this one. The mystery and trying to find out what happened to those girls. The interaction between Tempe and the other characters, particularly Claudel and Ryan. The forensic details were enough for you to know some sciency sh*t was going on but they didn’t go for pages and pages and take over the whole story.

7/10

(Book #31 of my 50 Book Challenge)

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Cross Bones – Kathy Reichs

I finished this book quite a few days ago but I’ve been putting off writing this review, because I didn’t really know what to say about it. Firstly, I do like these books. A lot. This is #8 I think, I skipped #7 as it wasn’t in Borders and I had to have it shipped in from the US, so I bought this one and read it instead. And I can honestly say that it is the first one that I have not enjoyed. At all.

The basic plot (if you can call it that) is that Tempe is called to determine whether or not the death of an Orthodox Jewish man is murder or suicide. He has his own business, is married, well-to-do. Before she can really get into that, a man accosts her in the hallway of the Medical Lab and hands her a photo, saying what is in the photo is the reason the man is dead. She assumes he was one of the Jewish people selected to view the autopsy to make sure it’s in keeping with…whatever is supposed to be done when a Jewish person dies, but it is discovered pretty quickly he wasn’t cleared to be in the room. When Tempe looks at the picture, it’s of a skeleton. So far, it was kind of interesting. Especially when she discovered that it definitely wasn’t suicide.

And here is when the book lost me, because it skeered into the bones possibly being those of Jesus Christ. I’m an athiest, and a fairly devout one at that, so I lack a lot of religious knowledge. Never mind! This book explains everything for me! About thirty-five times! The passages are long and tedious. And repetitive. I might not have much religious background knowledge, but I’m also not stupid. I don’t need everything rehashed for me many times. And if the author felt the need to rehash so much, she must’ve known that it was tedious. And that maybe, a lot of people would skim those bits. So she’d better throw them in a few times so that hopefully, most of it stuck. There was lots of  Yeshua, son of Joseph and Jude, son of Jesus type stuff. It centres around the fact that these bones were found at Masada, a Jewish mountain/cave type fort thing from about 2000 years ago where a bunch of fantatics Sicarii rebels committed mass suicide rather than be captured/beaten by the Romans. And, oh the worldwide devastating effects for Christianity and Catholicism (mostly Catholicism) if it turns out that Jesus didn’t die on the Cross and lived to be a ripe old 80! And got married! And had children! And did normal type things. In the tomb where the bones were found, there are also other bones which are posited as being Jesus’ family – Mary and some brothers and sisters. I didn’t even know he had brothers and sisters and apparently that opinion differs on what religion you may be. Catholics believe she was a Virgin for life. The whole purity thing and all. Same for Jesus.

In process that actually seems far too easy, Tempe gets her hands on the skeleton in the picture. She carbon dates it, or whatever it is that they do, to about 2000 years ago, which fits the timeframe! So then she feels the need to inform the Israeli authorities and before you can blink, her and her boyfriend, Andrew Ryan, are on their way to Israel. With the bones. And one of her archeologist friends happens to be on a dig in Israel! And he takes her into some random caves or something, where they find more bones. Because random archeologist friend doesn’t believe the bones Tempe has are those of Jesus Christ (which is handy, because they’re stolen about 5m after Tempe enters the country. She has just been carting them around in a bloody sports bag or something) he believes that the bones in the cave are those of Jesus Christ.

Ugh. It was just too much for me. First one set of bones, then another set, both they stumble upon so so so so easily it was just amazingly ridiculous, are presumed to be those of Jesus Christ. The religious posturing and historical rambling goes on for pages. I found it tedious and boring to read. There was no real storyline to this book. Why was Ryan there? Because one of the subjects from the murder in the first pages of the book was spotted in Israel. So instead of just extraditing him to Canada, or waiting for him to return, the Canadian authorities okay Ryan to go to Israel and question him on the murder. And the Israeli detectives (holding him for nicking a necklace {a stupid deus ex machina to get him into custody}) are fine with Ryan wandering in and taking over.

Lastly, the book is written in a clipped, choppy style that I found incredibly distracting. Paragraphs are a sentence long. And sentences are between 3-5 words long. It was like the author realised the pacing of the book was going incredibly slowwwwllly so she tried to disguise that by making the writing feel like an episode of the Gilmore Girls on crack. Ryan and Tempe amped their ‘witty banter’ up a notch to forced fakery. I didn’t particularly like either of them in this book. And even though Ryan expressly warns her against going off alone, and to wait for him, after she’s tailed….she blindly goes off alone doing stupid things. Again. Except this time, I never really felt the suspense when she was held at gunpoint. I almost wanted them to shoot her so that this book would be over.

I also didn’t like the last chapter. The second-to-last chapter ends with a fiery crash and Tempe, random archeologist friend Jake and other person trying to escape before the car explodes into a fire ball. And then the last chapter starts with a narrative after everything is all fixed and right. I just thought that it was a lazy way to finish the book.

The authors notes in the back of the book that this was based loosely on a real story – finding of bones and some proposition that they could be the bones of Jesus and someone asked her if she might like to use it as a storyline for Tempe. I didn’t really look into it too much as by then I was just done with this book and everything in it but I might see if the real story was ever published and what happened there. I haven’t heard any major world-wide news broadcasts that the bones of Jesus have been found though. I think she should just stick to writing her mysteries between Montreal and North Carolina. They’re the ones that are the most tightly written and the most enjoyable. Where she uses her real life forensic experiences to create a story. Overall this book felt very forced, like she wrote it because someone else thought it was a good idea, or because she felt she had to. I’ve seen it described as the ‘poor man’s DaVinci Code. I have read The DaVinci Code but about 6 years ago now and I don’t remember it too well. I only remember that I didn’t like it that much either and the world-wide phenomenon that it was completely passed me by.

I really hope that the next book is a return to her old formula.

3/10

(Book #28 of my 50 Book Challenge)

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