Reviewed: September 3, 2009
By: Kathy Reichs / read by Linda Emond
6 hours on 5 CDs, $34.95
In keeping with with the cross-border career of her central character, forensic
anthropologist Temperance Brennon, Kathy Reichs’ first three books had
bilingual punning titles. Tempe, as she is known to her friends, spends part
of her year working for the police in Montreal and splits the other part between
police work and university lecturing in North Carolina.
This is very much like Reichs herself, who divides her time between work for
the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, State of North Carolina, and the Laboratoire
des Sciences Judiciaires et de Médecine Légale for the province
Since the inception of her successful television series, Bones, all of her book
titles have had the word “bones” in them. Devil Bones is one of
her American books, set in and around Charlotte, North Carolina.
I should probably mention that fans of television’s Bones should not expect
to find the characters they enjoy so much there in Reichs’ novels. In
the tv series, Brennan, nicknamed Bones, works at the Jeffersonian Institute
and collaborates with the FBI on cases, assisted by a cast of eccentric scientists.
In her spare time she writes mystery novels about a forensic crime solver named
While a genius in her field, and skilled in martial arts, the tv Brennan is
socially awkward and may be autistic. Her parents were career criminals at one
point and she was raised in foster homes after they disappeared. Her father
is in jail for murder and her brother for various crimes. She and her FBI contact,
Seely Booth, are in love, but neither of them will admit it to themselves.
Though Reichs (who co-produces and consults for the series) is on record as
seeing Bones as a younger version of Tempe, the Brennan of the novels does not
share any of the personal background used in the series. She had a regular family,
has a sister, an ex-husband, a daughter and a slowly developing relationship
with a police officer from Montreal named Andrew Ryan.
Unlike Reichs, Brennan is a recovering alcoholic. This has been mentioned in
earlier books, but Devil Bones is the first time I’ve seen it exploited
as part of the plot. Tempe falls off the wagon for 24 hours after events in
a particularly difficult case result in the death of a trusted colleague. She
wakes up with no memory of that day and has to absorb the blame for things she
might have said and done then, even though she has no idea what happened.
It all starts with the discovery of a hidden basement shrine apparently devoted
to the practice of Santería. In a caldron in the basement there is found
the skull of a teenage girl. This seems to tie in with the headless body of
a young boy that has been fished out of a river and the even stranger headless
body of a young man that was found wrapped in plastic sheeting by a man out
walking his dog at another lakeside location.
In the latter case, satanic symbols had been carved into the man’s torso,
stimulating speculation by an unscrupulous local politician that a cult is practicing
human sacrifice in the Charlotte region. Tempe is working with a local homicide
team on all three deaths when one of them, detective Eddie Rinaldi, is killed,
leaving behind only his cryptic notebook which Tempe and detective Erskine “Skinny”
Slidell have to decode and follow up.
As distractions, Tempe has to deal with a true-crime writer who seems to turn
up at all the wrong moments; an old high school flame who wants to rekindle
romance; the arrival of Andrew Ryan, her on-again-off-again current boyfriend;
her absolute disgust with the unscrupulous crusading councilman; her ex-husband’s
vacuous and big breasted new fiancée; and the consequences of her lapse
at a local bar on the day that Rinaldi is killed.
As one might expect in a Reichs’ novel, there’s lots of discussion
about bones, about technique, about the use of equipment and computer resources.
You will learn why bodies found in water are very often headless, but you will
also learn to distinguish between several different types of Latin American
and New Age cults.
Audiobooks are travel fare for me. With this one I found myself slowing down
a bit so that it would end before I got home. Emond’s reading was effective,
but perhaps a bit quiet compared to some of the others I have heard reading
this series. Since the book runs to about 430 pages, some abridgment was needed
to get it down to 6 hours, but nothing major seemed to be missing.