Bones Are Forever by Kathy Reichs is the 15th Temperance Brennan forensic thriller (available August 28, 2012).
I’ll be the first to admit that I am an unabashed Kathy Reichs fangirl, but even for me, this book was not easy to read . . . not because of the writing, but because of the emotions it aroused. Temperance is in Canada (those of you familiar with Dr. Brennan only from the television show Bones should understand at the outset that the character in the books is very different, including the fact that she spends half her time working for the Laboratoire de sciences judiciaires et de médecine légale in Montreal) when she is called in to look at the remains of several dead babies.
And right there, the emotional tone is set.
Reichs doesn’t shy away from the details of the deaths, nor does she sensationalize them. They tug at you as they tug at Brennan, but they are not intended to turn a reader inside out and, honestly, if you are the kind of reader who cannot handle crimes against children, you can still read this book if you just skim over the descriptions of the babies at the beginning.
But Brennan cannot skim, and her usual support system—Andrew Ryan, cop, partner, erstwhile lover—has turned distant on her. This is one of the emotional wrecking balls that made this book difficult for me.
How often Ryan and I had driven together from Wilfrid-Derome, discussing victims, suspects, aspects of a case. I can’t share my work with those close to me who are not on the job—Pete, Katy, Harry, my best friend, Anne. I can’t tell them what I’ve seen lying in a Dumpster or buried in a shallow grave. Can’t describe the congealed blood, the bloated body, the seething maggots. I missed having someone to talk to, someone who understood. Ryan had kept me balanced. Kept me caring. I wondered at Ryan’s current coolness. Yes, we’d always danced around emotion, kept our innermost feelings to ourselves. Even in the good times. Yes, the slaughter of innocents outraged him. Women. Children. The elderly. I knew that. But this current moodiness seemed different. More than me. More than dead babies.
When the Brennan-Ryan relationship faltered in the last book, I hoped Reichs would fix it right away. But instead she presents the pair with a few more hurdles. Which isn’t to say that it’s all depressing—even when things are tough, Brennan’s voice is one that’s entertaining to hear in your head as you read:
Ryan has many fine qualities—intelligence, wit, kindness, generosity. As a traveling companion, he’s a pain in the ass. Ollie’s presence did nothing to improve Ryan’s disposition. Or maybe it was me. Or the croque-monsieur he ate in the coffee shop. The atmosphere in our little band was as friendly as that at a drug raid.
This book had a lot—and I mean even for a forensics-based mystery—of science and history in it. Now, those happen to appeal to me. There’s information on DNA testing, diamond mining, gold mines, Native American populations . . . oodles of really interesting stuff. For example, did you know that:
While CODIS is good at linking unknown suspects to individuals already entered due to criminal activity, it’s useless for predicting ancestry or physical characteristics. And that’s no accident. When the National DNA Advisory Board selected the gene markers—the DNA sequences having known locations on chromosomes—for use in CODIS, they deliberately excluded those associated with physical characteristics or geographic origins. Couldn’t risk offending any ethnic group. No comment on that political reasoning.
DNAWitness, the test Frudakis developed and used in the Baton Rouge case, employed a set of markers selected precisely because they did disclose information about physical traits. Some were found primarily in people with Indo-European roots, others mainly in people of African, Native American, or South Asian heritage.
Frudakis told the Louisiana Multi-Agency Homicide Task Force that the perp they were seeking was 85 percent sub-Saharan African and 15 percent Native American. The Baton Rouge serial killer, linked by DNA to seven victims, turned out to be a thirty-four-year-old black man named Derrick Todd Lee.
But despite all the science, geography, and history, this is primarily a book about families, relationships, and the vain attempts we humans always make to escape our pasts. Temperance has to deal with her own past—as wife, mother, alcoholic—as well as that of both suspects and victims in Bones Are Forever. And, to make things even more complicated, most of the suspects here are victims.
Laura K. Curtis lives in Westchester, N.Y., with her husband and two madcap Irish Terriers who’ve taught her how easily love can co-exist with the desire to kill. She blogs at Women of Mystery and maintains an online store at TorchSongs GlassWorks. She can also be found on Twitter and poking her nose into all sorts of trouble in various spots around the web.
Read all posts by Laura K. Curtis on Criminal Element.