In this episode of the the travails of Temperance Brennan he has moved out of her usual haunts and is helping an international agency do some recovery work in Guatemala. The excavation of a well in Chupan Ya is helping to bring some closure to the ravages of that nation's civil unrest and giving the villagers there the final word on what happened to their “disappeared” loved ones.
Tempe (that is “Tempee”) is on temporary leave from her work as a forensic anthropologist working for the police in Montreal and Virginia, but that doesn't mean she gets to take a rest from crime. There are other kinds of “disappeared” people, after all.
Four young women, including the daughter of the Canadian ambassador, have recently vanished. Human remains have surfaced in the backed up septic system of a hotel in the city. Unfortunately, Tempe knows all about how to recover cadavers from septic tanks and she is loaned to the local constabulary to do just that.
At almost the same time, two of her fellow human rights workers, a man and a woman, are assaulted by what seem to be bandits while travelling from the city to Chupan Ya. At the time it seems to be random.
Tempe's professional life is quickly absorbed by the needs of Special Crimes Investigator Bartolomo Galiano, and it soon becomes apparent that other members of the justice system have jurisdictional issues with his investigation. The body parts they exhume are confiscated by the local equivalent of the district attorney, and the investigation stalls.
Then the ambassador's daughter turns up in Montreal, triggering Tempe's return to that city and a joint investigation with detective Andrew Ryan which involves another murder, runaways, and very strange connections to Guatemala.
We have to return there for the end of the story, which has some almost predictable twists and turns, but was still gripping in its way.
There's a lot of personal life stuff in this book. Tempe has what might yet become a relationship with Ryan, which is severely challenged by her chemistry with Galiano. It turns out the two policemen knew each other at college in Antigonish, Nova Scotia, so they are friendly rivals for her affection, but it's all a bit much for Tempe, who spent several earlier books wondering if she might actually have a life. The cliffhanger at the end of this book deals with her personal life rather than the crime, but is still such a teaser it will need further investigation.
Some comparisons can be made between Temperance Brennan and Patricia Cornwell's fictional medical examiner, Kate Scarpetta. For my money Tempe is a much more sympathetic character, but both writers provide the kind of gritty detail that make the investigators on the various CSI programs look simplistic by comparison.
We've reached the point in audio books where you can choose CDs or tapes. This may be an industry adaptation to the fact that so many vehicles (which is, I think, where most of these productions get used) come equipped with CD players. I would also venture that CDs are cheaper to produce than tapes, not that this has had any impact on the prices. Both formats cost the same for this book. Five or six hours on audio tape typically takes 4 tapes. For this package five CDs were needed.
Katherine Borowitz is once again the reader for this book, as for the other I have listened to. She does a great job, even to making you forget that the male characters are being voiced by a woman. My score is two books actually read and three heard, for anyone who might be keeping track. I both read and listened to one of them, and still enjoyed it either way.