- Reviewed by David M. Kinchen
Pardon the pun, but I’ve got a bone to pick with Kathy Reichs and her new Tempe Brennan novel “Bones Are Forever” (Scribner, a division of Simon & Schuster, 304 pages, $26.99) set in Quebec, Alberta and Canada’s Northwest Territories.
Artistic license is one thing, but Dr. Temperance “Tempe” Brennan goes way off the reservation in this novel, the fifteenth in the Tempe Brennan “Bones” series. I’m willing to give the author plenty of slack for dramatic effect, but in the real world forensic anthropologists like Brennan — and Dr. Reichs herself, a fully credentialed professional — probably don’t get as involved in the investigation of crimes as Brennan does.
I found this article on what crime scene investigators and forensic specialists really do:
And I found this very readable academic study about the about the fictionalization of CSI and forensic anthropologists in novels and TV shows:
“Bones Are Forever” explores the deaths of infants, prostitution and the high stakes world of diamond mining in Canada. Who knew? When I think of diamond mining, I think of South Africa, not Canada, but the country in the last few decades has turned into a major diamond producing center, as important to the country as its gold mining.
A woman calling herself Amy Roberts checks into a Montreal hospital complaining of uncontrolled bleeding. Doctors see evidence of a recent birth, but before they can act, Roberts disappears. Dispatched to the address she gave at the hospital, police discover bloody towels outside in a Dumpster. Fearing the worst, they call Temperance Brennan to investigate.
In a run-down Montreal area apartment Tempe makes a ghastly discovery: the decomposing bodies of three infants. According to the landlord, a woman named Alma Rogers lives there. Then a man shows up looking for Alva Rodriguez. Are Amy Roberts, Alma Rogers, and Alva Rodriguez the same person? Did she kill her own babies? And where is she now?
Heading up the investigation is Tempe’s former lover, Quebec homicide detective Andrew Ryan. His counterpart from the Royal Canadian Mounted Police is Sgt. Ollie Hasty, who happens to have a little history with Tempe himself, which she regrets. This unlikely trio follows the woman’s trail, first to Edmonton and then to Yellowknife, the capital of the Northwest Territories on the shores of Great Slave Lake. What they find in Yellowknife is more sinister than they ever could have imagined.
Both Ryan and Hasty try to keep Brennan from getting too involved in the actual criminal investigation, but that’s like telling Hurricane Isaac not to flood houses in Louisiana and Mississippi. Tempe Brennan is a force of nature — and it results in life threatening suspense, if not the verisimilitude I expect from police procedurals.
Why do I harp on the reality of what crime scene techs and forensic specialists do? Because a good mystery novel should have a grounding in reality. The best novels of Joseph Wambaugh, Michael Connelly and an author I’ve just discovered, Deon Meyer, from South Africa — to name just three authors — display this factual grounding. And these authors and others manage to provide suspense. Consider this bone picked to death, Kathy! That said, I’m sure fans of Tempe Brennan will enjoy “Bones Are Forever.”
Kathy Reichs, like her character Temperance Brennan, is a forensic anthropologist, formerly for the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner in North Carolina and currently for the Laboratoire de sciences judiciaires et de médecine légale for the province of Quebec. A professor in the department of anthropology at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, she is one of only 88 forensic anthropologists ever certified by the American Board of Forensic Anthropology, is past Vice President of the American Academy of Forensic Sciences, and serves on the National Police Services Advisory Board in Canada. Reichs’s first book, “Déja Dead”, catapulted her to fame when it became a New York Times bestseller and won the 1997 Ellis Award for Best First Novel. Her website: www.kathyreichs.com.