A newborn baby is found wedged in a vanity cabinet in a rundown apartment near Montreal. Dr Temperance Brennan, forensic anthropologist to the province of Quebec, is brought in to investigate. While there, she discovers the mummified remains of two more babies within the same room. Shocked and distressed, Tempe must use all her skills and inner strength to focus on the facts. But when the autopsies reveal that the children died of unnatural causes, the hunt for the mother – a young woman with a seedy past and at least three aliases – is on. The trail leads Tempe to Yellowknife, a cold, desolate diamond-mining town on the edge of the Arctic Circle, where her quest for the truth only throws up more questions, more secrets, and more dead bodies. Taking risks and working alone, Tempe refuses to give up until she has discovered why the babies died. But in such a hostile environment, can she avoid being the next victim?
From the distressing opening scene of a small maggot-infested corpse, you know straightaway that this latest from Kathy Reichs is seemingly more edgy in it’s subject matter and choice of victim than her usual fare, as Temperance Brennan once again finds herself embroiled in murders most foul. With typical attention to detail, we follow Brennan’s crucial forensic discoveries as she pieces together- sometimes literally, as later she solves a macabre jigsaw involving exhumed remains- the secrets that dead bodies can yield up under her close scrutiny . No matter how many times the song ‘Dem Dry Bones’ crosses my mind in Reichs’ detailing of which bone connects to which, I always find the specificity of this information strangely compelling andit always adds to the perennial authenticity of Brennan’s logical and focused investigations of the human body.
Another weapon in Reichs’ armour is her ability to perfectly capture place and atmosphere, whether in the ‘nuts and bolts’ description of location, or is as particularly evident in the setting of Yellowknife, the own peculiar history of that location. Reichs’ takes us on a historical trip back through Yellowknife’s former fortunes as an area rich in gold, to it’s now new lucrative position as a diamond -mining town. Personally, I rather enjoy this sojourn down a rags to riches memory lane (at least for some of the prospectors) to flesh out what is at times a slightly leaky story with some twists in the plot signposted a little too clearly for the seasoned crime reader. Also, in the course of the book, Reichs’ tries a little homespun social analysis on the subject of race and dips her toe into a somewhat stereotypical depiction of environmental campaigners and, although I can understand her needing to employ these facets of the story to drive the plot forward in a particular direction, it does feel a tad forced and, dare I say it, slightly clunky at times.
On an altogether lighter note, Brennan finds herself torn between two lovers as a couple of former suitors flex their muscles and vie for her attention, with the inevitable butting of heads that always ensues in these situations, and with rather a surprise announcement by Brennan’s daughter Katy to add to her personal chagrin, there is a nice balance as usual between Brennan the professional forensic anthropologist, a concerned mother and quite possibly a lover…no spoilers here!
I must confess after not having read a Kathy Reichs for a while it was quite nice to revisit a familiar character- like pulling on a comfy pair of slippers- and despite its flaws it was great to spend some time in the company of Temperance Brennan. I’d rather missed her!
(And it goes without saying, extra points for the adaptation of a Bond movie for the title…!)
(Thanks to Random House for the advance reading copy)
Kathy will be appearing at the Cheltenham Literature Festival on Saturday October 13, 2012
12pm — Kathy Reichs & Val McDermid – Two bestselling crime writers from opposite sides of the Atlantic discuss how their novels have bred successful TV series. Kathy Reichs from the US, whose Temperance Brennan novels were the inspiration for TV series, Bones. And from the UK, Val McDermid, whose Tony Hill & Carol Jordan novels inspired Wire in the Blood.
6.30pm —- Kathy Reichs, Ian Rankin, & Dr. Stuart Holmes – Science and the art of murder come together in this fascinating discussion. Bestselling exponent of taut and compelling Scottish noir, Ian Rankin, forensic anthropologist and author, Kathy Reichs, and Dr. Stuart Holmes of the Royal College of Pathologists join us to discuss the true relationship between writing about murder and getting the science right.