The Bone Code (Temperance Brennan #20), by Kathy Reichs

Eight stars

I have long been a fan of Kathy Reichs novels, particularly her forensic anthropology series featuring Temperance Brennan. The stories not only entertain and keep the reader on the edge of their seat, but are full of educational moments and peppered with humour to keep things moving along. This was another winner by Reichs, with her cross-border protagonist working magic with bones and unsolved cases. While Dr. Temperance (Tempe) Brennan is preparing for a hurricane in North Carolina, she is visited by a patient woman with a curious mission, to help uncover a death mask that might have been made of her great-aunt many years ago. Brennan is intrigued, but also wary of the heightened winds. She decides to head to South Carolina to see a friend for a few days and is pulled into a mysterious case when the local coroner enlists her assistance with a medical bin that has two unidentified bodies within. While Brennan helps, she is chilled by the memory of a similar case she worked in Montreal. Might they be related? Crossing into Canada, Brennan works the angles of the cold case and tries to find a link, all while being helped by her lover, retired homicide detective Andrew Ryan. Things take many a twists and Brennen will have to work both cases at the same time to find an answer. Reichs uses all her abilities to really bring this story to life and keep the reader hooked until the final page turn.

There’s nothing like the thrill of a hurricane, said no one. Dr. Temperance Brennan is prepping for one and rushing around her office to get things in order, while meteorologists are calling for evacuations. That does not seem to stop some woman from seeking Brennan’s assistance, even if it means waiting all day. Brennan agrees to meet the woman, who shared a twisted tale about her twin sister and how multiples run in her family. It would seem that the woman’s great-aunt was also a twin but disappeared long ago. Now, there is only a death mask of her and yet nothing to go along with a photo of it. Intrigued, Brennan agrees to look into it, but is also leery of the advancing storm.

After surviving the gale force winds, Brennan agrees to visit a friend in South Carolina, particularly with this new mystery of the death mask. On her way there, Brennan is contacted by a local coroner, with a case consultation request. It would seem that a medical bin has washed up after the hurricane, with two decomposing and unidentified bodies within. While Brennan goes to help, she is eerily familiar with the details, as she was part of a case like this in Montreal. Unknown bodies, presumably a teenage girl… could the two be connected, even though they were years apart?

Brennan begins working the angles, which will require her to head north to her second home in Montreal. There, she tries to dig up the case file and draw parallels to the Carolina case. While the detective in Charleston is keen to solve the case she is not one to take any guff, causing Brennan to grit her teeth with some regularity. Luckily, Montreal brings Brennan closer to her lover and former colleague, Andrew Ryan. They are able to make some headway and soon discover that the victim may have arrived in Canada from elsewhere long ago.

While unravelling the story on the old Montreal victim, Brennan uses some newer DNA testing to identify the Charleston victim, a teenage runaway with a sordid past of her own. However, there is much to uncover while trying to trace the story from her last day at home until she ended up in a medical bin. Brennan is determined to not only put a face the the victims, but also find the killer (or killers) who could do such a thing. It won’t be easy, and there is still that nagging death mask query that has Brennan pulled in many directions.

I have long been a fan of Kathy Reichs and her work (including loving Bones, the television spin-off of the books), which has never left me feeling cheated in the world of forensic anthropology. Reichs uses her own life experiences and turns them into wonderful books, helping readers better understand the ins and outs of forensics, medicine, and how victims can go from unknown to identified. While the book series has been long, Reichs has been able to keep it fresh, working two primary setting ands pushing her protagonist out into other parts of both countries when it suits the story. Kathy Reichs is a master of the genre and I hope many others will find (or continue with) this series to see how intense things can get.

Dr. Tempe Brennan is nothing if not a busy woman. As series fans will know, she never rests on her laurels and always has something going on to keep her busy. When she is not using forensics, she’s trying to keep her life in order, finding humour whenever possible. She’s come to really connect with colleagues and friends in both the US and Canada, which adds depth to her character and allows the reader added entertainment throughout. I’m always eager to eye what else one can learn about Brennan in these novels, as Reichs adds tidbits in each piece.

While there is always a strong core of secondary characters, Reichs is sure to add some new faces to keep things interesting. The reader will find many of those here, some who are meant to be loved while others are best left at arm’s length. Reichs uses her great style to breathe life into each individual and uses them as needed to advance the cases or backstories of others, which appears to work well here. It’s nice to have some of those familiar faces, including Andrew Ryan, though old storylines are sometimes best used to pass the time, rather than plan centre stage.

The story was strong and held my attention throughout. Reichs uses COVID-19 as a passing subplot, hinting that it has passed, so there is no mention of pandemic protocols or masked limitations, though something new has popped up in South Carolina (read the book to learn more). The plot works well and, in usual Brennan fashion, ties unknown remains into a quest to offer a victim their own identity. In a story that spans a few months, Reichs adds some ‘realism’ to the story, ensuring it does not seem that a week is long enough to crack open the case with ease. This paced approach and mid-length chapters keep the story moving along at a relatable pace, with twists and turns throughout to keep things exciting. With strong medical and forensic topics throughout, Reichs educates her readers as they are highly entertained, adding humour where needed to keep things from getting too somber. I have come to love the series and cannot get enough of these books. I cannot wait to see what’s next, as Tempe Brennan has not lost any steam, in my humble Canadian opinion.

Kudos, Madam Reichs, for another winning novel. This series is one that always gets me excited and reader for new discoveries. I hope many others will find it, if they have not already!

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/248185-a-book-for-all-seasons

Conspiracy of Bones (Temperance Brennan #19), by Kathy Reichs

Eight stars

First and foremost, a large thank you to NetGalley, Kathy Reichs, and Simon & Schuster for providing me with a copy of this publication, which allows me to provide you with an unbiased review.

After a long wait, Kathy Reichs is back from her hiatus with a new and exciting novel in the Temperance Brennan series. Fans will be happy to have the forensic anthropologist back, whose grit and gumption are even more heightened. After suffering a brain aneurysm that required surgical intervention, Temperance is on the mend and trying to find her feet. She is still contracted to work both in Montreal and Charlotte, but has not been working much. At home in Charlotte, Temperance has horrible dreams and witnesses a mysterious man along her property, but there is no one there when she makes her way outside. A week later, an odd text message arrives, with photos of a body, without head or limbs. Trying to get herself on the case, her new boss shuns her and demands that she stay away. They have a history, one in which Temperance has no doubt has led her her being ostracized. Deciding to do a little rogue work, Temperance works alongside an old colleague and discovers some odd pieces of evidence, including cryptic writing on some paper that includes her phone number. The case takes an odd twist as Temperance seeks to find out who the body was in those text photos, and where the body might have been found. Working as best she can, Temperance finds herself delving down into the dark web to find answers that may help. Her explorations lead to many conspiracy theories, as well as a few twists that could tie into a few missing children from years ago. Armed with her determination and pieces of the puzzle slowing coming together, Temperance uses her deductive reasoning to determine that there are some bad people on the loose, seeking to silence her before the aneurysm can do the same. A great new thriller in this captivating series, sure to impress readers as they find themselves in the middle of this intense novel. Recommended to those who love Reichs’ forensic anthropology stories, as well as the reader who wants something a little more mentally challenging in their mysteries.

I have been following Kathy Reichs through the Temperance Brennan series since the debut novel. While the books differ greatly from their television show spin-off, Reichs is able to present forensic anthropology in such a way that it is both entertaining and informative. As Reichs as readily admitted, she sometimes mirrors Brennan in her own experiences, which left me to wonder if the recent aneurysm development for the protagonist might explain why the delayed release of this book by two years might also be related to a similar medical issue. Brennan works through this medical hurdle effectively, showing off her rebellious side with increased intensity. Still sharp when it comes to solving mysteries, Brennan uses what tools she can to make sense of the situation before her. With little mention of others, save some minor updates for other familial characters, the focus is on Brennan and some of her stumbling blocks. Others help to complement her desire to overcome limitations, while also show that no brain aneurysm can stop her. In a story that sees Brennan working from the outside of the goldfish bowl, the reader is able to see how her field work and reliance on others help uncover one of the more disturbing cases of her career. I hope that there are other stories in the Temperance Brennan series before tying things off, as I have come to really enjoy all she has done and overcome in the years, especially when she makes her way to Canada!

Kudos, Madam Reichs, for a great return. I can only hope that you have some ideas to keep your fans from going stir-crazy.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/248185-a-book-for-all-seasons

Two Nights, by Kathy Reichs

Seven stars

First and foremost, a large thank you to NetGalley, Kathy Reichs, and Simon & Schuster Canada for providing me with a copy of this publication, which allows me to provide you with an unbiased review.

Kathy Reichs is back with another thriller, though it is not of the forensic variety. Sunday “Sunnie” Night lives an isolated life after leaving the Charleston PD under a cloud of scrutiny. She is happy being off the grid and living alongside nature. When she is approached with a chance to get back in the game, Night remains somewhat skeptical, but takes a gamble and heads to the mainland. There, she meets with Opaline Drucker, a rich socialite who wants answers related to the murder of her daughter and grandson, as well as the disappearance of her granddaughter. The payout and the chance to call the shots are too alluring for Night and she agrees to explore this case, which takes her to Chicago. There, Night learns that the murders took place at a Jewish Girls’ School when a bomb detonated. Setting out some feelers, Night must try to ascertain who is behind this and how she can trap them, where the local cops failed. After discovering a few digital breadcrumbs, Night becomes enmeshed in a game of cat and mouse, almost losing her life. However, she is able to trace some of the bombing events to a larger group, a collective who sport a double-J tattoo. Travelling from Chicago to Los Angeles and eventually into the Old South, Night will stop at nothing to get answers. Layered with in the narrative is a side story about how Night got her name and the personal struggles she faced at a formative time in her life. An interesting story that will have some readers on the edge of their seats while others might be praying that Tempe Brennan will soon reappear.

I am of two minds about this book. I applaud Reichs for venturing out of her comfort zone (Tempe Brennan and anything VIRALS), which has given her the chance to create a new and highly curious protagonist. However, I also have such a deep appreciation for Temperance Brennan that I find it hard to step away from that character or at least not to draw large comparisons. The premise of this story is strong and the development of Sunday Night is also done with considerable delicacy. As I mentioned before, it could be that she contrasts so much with Temperance that has left me leery to latch onto her. The story moves along effectively and flows with ease, though I did not find myself as ensconced as I would have liked. I sought something stronger and deeper, rather than bouncing from one side of the country to the other before landing in Kentucky for a terror-based standoff. The banter between characters was decent enough and the backstory that Reichs provides could bear some fruit, but it did not capture me as wholeheartedly as I would have liked. Overall, this is a decent book, but I regret to say, it pales in comparison to the forensic gems I am used to finding when Kathy Reichs is at the helm.

Kudos, Madam Reichs for stepping away and allowing your readers to see another of your layers. I know some authors like to be known not only for a single character, but you have done so well that perhaps Reichs and Brennan will forever be intertwined.