Once Again, It’s Scientist vs. Criminals (My Money’s on the Scientist)
It’s hard to believe this is the sixteenth Temperance Brennan novel from forensic anthropologist/best-selling author, Kathy Reichs. Good Lord, after everything she’s been through, it’s amazing Tempe is still alive.
“Bones of the Lost” starts off with a sad discovery. Examining a murder victim is never a joyous occasion, but when it’s a girl in her young teens, who has obviously been used as a prostitute and has heroin needle tracks on her arms, Brennan is especially hooked.
Along the way, she finds herself working again with Detective “Skinny” Slidell, a man Tempe finds personally abrasive (and kind of gross), but whom she respects as a fierce, dedicated officer. Together, they manage to track the little Jane Doe to some pretty unsavory people, including a huge tank of a man, whose face was burned during Desert Storm. Was the poor young girl somehow tied to this very bad man? Or to his creepy boss?
While Tempe is busy tracking down leads on her young murder victim, she finds herself dealing with an almost-as-big pain in her gluteus maximus, her estranged husband, Pete. Pete is about to get married to a bimbo, and he needs Tempe to sign their divorce papers so that he can move on to his new wife.
He also has just one tiny favor to ask…
It seems a friend of Pete has a son, a decorated Marine, and the son is facing trial for shooting unarmed Afghanistani civilians in the back. After her ex-husband begs her, she agrees to go to Afghanistan and perform a forensic autopsy on the deceased.
It was a good trip. She did her autopsy, and managed to get buried alive in a mortar attack only once (not bad for her).
Back in Charlotte, Tempe and “Skinny” Slidell find themselves almost nowhere tracking down their Jane Doe’s killer. The going is slow. One by one, though, bits of evidence accumulate, and begin to come together like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle. When Tempe solves it, she can’t get ahold of anyone. She leaves Slidell a voicemail, and rushes off to test her hypothesis. On a dark Charlotte night, Dr. Temperance Brennan finds herself in more mortal peril than she ever was in Afghanistan.
I’ve always loved Temperance Brennan, and in her, I think Kathy Reichs has created one of the best characters in the genre. The mixture of science, logic, and pure guts makes Tempe a winner; the fact that her love life is a mess makes her human.
This particular investigation is among my favorites in the series, because they start with so little. A little girl nobody misses is run down on a dark North Carolina road. If Brennan had just signed-off on it—Jane Doe, hit-and-run, no clues, done—this book would be five pages long. Because she’s so thorough, and because she hates the injustice that this little girl had been murdered—regardless of whether she was a drug-addicted prostitute—Brennan throws herself entirely into this investigation. With her scientific knowledge, investigator’s tenacity, and desire for vengeance for this unloved girl, she risks her life searching for answers.
I’ve never read a Kathy Reichs Temperance Brennan novel I haven’t loved. This combination of smarts and heart keeps that streak very much alive.
(nb: I received an advance review copy of this novel from the publisher via Netgalley)