Bones of the Lost

BonesofthelostWritten by Kathy Reichs — Temperance Brennan has been around for 16 years now, and has appeared in 15 best-selling novels as well as the TV series, Bones. She is a forensic anthropologist, as is her creator, Kathy Reichs. And that’s what makes Tempe such a realistic main character, because her cases are always grounded in the real world and smack of an authenticity that can only come from an author who has the inside track.

Years ago, I was addicted to Patricia Cornwell’s Kay Scarpetta books, but lost interest when they became formulaic and predictable. That’s something you could never say about Tempe Brennan, because this is a woman who doesn’t believe in playing by the rules.

For a character whose work straddles two cities – Montreal in Canada and Charlotte in the US – Dr Brennan seems to spend very little time in the morgue. Instead, she is often to be found riding shotgun with Detective Erskine ‘Skinny’ Slidell. In Bones of the Lost, she even flies out to Afghanistan. It’s an aspect of Tempe’s character that is beginning to jar a little with me. She’s forever running off alone into dangerous situations, a bit like Shaggy and Scooby in The Adventures of Scooby Doo, though luckily there are no fake ghosts in this book! Reichs wins in the realism of the cases she gives to Tempe, but sometimes the stories fall down when her heroine rushes in where any intelligent woman would fear to tread.

As Bones of the Lost opens, the body of a teenage girl has been found at the side of a lonely highway on the outskirts of Charlotte, North Carolina. Her pink Hello Kitty handbag contains no identification, just an ID card belonging to a local businessman who perished in a fire several months earlier. Who is she, and why was she apparently run over and left to die?

While Tempe ponders upon the fate of the Jane Doe, she is also checking on the contents of two tiny packages smuggled into the country by a maimed Gulf War veteran. They are the mummified bones of two small dogs, apparently stolen from an ancient South American grave. Hmmm… could there be some connection between the two cases?

That’s a question that might just tax you throughout this well-plotted, meandering storyline that manages to take Tempe to the heart of a war zone as she is called upon to oversee the exhumation of two Afghan nationals who died at the hands of a US soldier. Yes, yet another case she has to solve. There are times when you’ll feel the story has gone off on impossible tangents, but as fans will know, Kathy Reichs is adept at taking a load of loose ends and knitting them into a satisfying finale.

Newcomers to the Tempe Brennan fold will find Bones of the Lost an absorbing introduction, while longer term followers will be delighted by several new and intriguing switchbacks in Tempe’s increasingly complicated love life. She’s a woman I can certainly relate to, but I do wish she would think for a while before she throws herself into danger. Usually, she goes in without any backup plan. Surely after all these years Tempe should have learned the error of her ways?

William Heinemann
Print/Kindle/iBook
£8.55

CFL Rating: 3 Stars

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