Review of BARE BONES by Kathy Reichs (see her website)
Dr. Tempe Brennan, forensic anthropologist, can't seem to get a break. She's counting the minutes to her long-awaited vacation with a possible new boyfriend, but she simply can't break away from her work. Her expertise is suddenly needed everywhere--first, to examine the charred bones of a newborn, who happens to be the grandchild of an old acquaintance. Then, it's the charred bodies of the pilot and passenger in a suspicious private plane crash. And even her irrepressible chow, Boyd, causes trouble by digging up a pile of suspicious bones. But it soon becomes apparent that these cases are intriguingly linked.
The possible boyfriend, Montreal detective Andrew Ryan, takes the postponed vacation in stride. He helps Tempe investigate, fields nosy questions from Tempe's daughter, Katy, who is causing Tempe additional anxiety with a suspicious new boyfriend of her own. And Ryan bonds with Boyd, whom he insists on calling "Hooch."
The stakes become higher than a canceled vacation when Tempe gets threatening phone calls and e-mails from a stalker who wants her to stop asking so many questions. But this only makes Tempe more determined to get to the bottom of the mystery. Along the way she's forced to work with her least-favorite detective, Skinny Slidell, who is a smoking, junk-food-scarfing, sexist neanderthal.
You just can't fault Ms. Reichs's forensic-science details (see more BooksForABuck.com reviews of novels by Kathy Reichs). Tempe's investigative techniques are rendered with so much verisimilitude that the reader feels as if he's reading an actual case study of a true crime. Ms. Reich is very much in the same league as Patricia Cornwell in that respect. The bits and pieces of trivia picked up along the way are downright fascinating--everything from the nuances of DNA testing and bone identification to the smell of a 50-year-old privy on a sweltering summer day.
I do have a beef about this book, however. There was too much coincidence. In addition to the three separate cases that all ended up being parts of the same case, there were numerous smaller coincidences that dulled the believability factor. Tempe just happened to be at some obscure picnic out in the middle of nowhere where her dog dug up bones related to her current cases? And she happens to spot a fugitive drug dealer, the probable father of the dead baby, at a restaurant? And as the name of a missing person comes to Tempe's attention as a possible connection to the case, someone accidentally stumbles across his body floating in a lake--where he's been for five years. How convenient that he picks now to surface.
That said, I will continue to buy and read Ms. Reich's books. Even with coincidences, Bare Bones is still a great read.
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