Dr Temperance Brennan in common with her creator Kathy Reichs is an experienced forensic anthropologist. This book, number 13 in Reichs’ series featuring Dr Brennan, investigates the death of military man Spider Lowery. The story opens with a body being recovered from a lake in Quebec. Finger print analysis identifies it as that of Lowery. However he was believed by all to have been killed in action in a Hughie crash whilst serving a tour of duty in Vietnam. If the body from the lake is Spider Lowery, then who is buried in the military cemetery? Tempe, as her fans call her, is called in for her expertise in identifying remains in order to unravel the mystery.
The story, and the exhumed body, then transfer to Hawaii, to the US Joint Prisoner of War and Missing in Action Accounting Command (JPAC) where Brennan manages to get caught up in Polynesian gang warfare at great risk to her and her daughter’s life.
At JPAC she has the grim task of examining all the corpses associated with the deceased soldier and a few other body parts in a parallel story featuring sharks and Samoan gangsters. The examination of the remains is described in exacting and harrowing detail. Due to the technical nature of the forensics it is written in a very didactic manner, however the story would not make any sense to a reader who hasn’t been to medical school were it not. This aspect actually makes the story interesting and was cleverly used as a device for weaving further intrigue into the narrative.
The plot is full of drama and tension however I found it to be increasingly unbelievable, farfetched and rather contrived as the story progressed. The characters on the other hand are wholly believable and make for the most enjoyable aspect of the book. The novel explores the relationship between Brennan and her needy daughter Katy, her partner Ryan, and his recovering addict daughter Lily, in a strange quadrangle of competing loyalties. It’s family versus work versus friendship.
Overall the book is an interesting insight into the US military’s recovery and identification of those who’ve fallen in the conflicts of the last 50 years. However the convoluted plot line and over-use of acronyms and scientific jargon can make for a confusing reading experience. The threads of the parallel stories that come together at the end left me unable to suspend disbelief and unfortunately I didn’t enjoy this book as much as I thought I would during the first few chapters.
CFL Rating: 3 Stars