19 October 2009

Crime Fiction Alphabet: CROSS BONES, Kathy Reichs

This post is for the Crime Fiction Alphabet Community Meme.- letter C

Arrow Books, Random House Australia, April 2006

Forensic anthropologist Dr. Temperance Brennan is called in as a consultant to the post-mortem of a middle-aged orthodox Jew found shot dead in Montreal. Tempe sees her job as restoring the identity that death has erased. In this case the mutilated body was found in a cupboard with some very hungry cats. Tempe must decide whether it is possible for the man to have committed suicide. At the mortuary a man, who appears to be one of those assigned by the local synagogue to observe the post-mortem, hands Tempe an envelope containing a photograph of an ancient skeleton. He assures her that the photograph holds the key to understanding this death. The mystery that unravels leads Tempe to Israel, to Masada and Jerusalem, and right to the beginnings of the Christian era.

In CROSS BONES it is easy to get caught up in the action of the investigation that Tempe and Ryan carry out in Jerusalem. The reader only sees events through Tempe's eyes, which can be a little frustrating at times as other characters pursue other lines of enquiry. In the long run, I don't think Reichs managed to make the connection between the death in Montreal and the anthropological investigation in Israel as solid as she would have liked to. Nevertheless, the result is fast-paced, very readable, and contains excellent elements of suspense.

CROSS BONES is the ninth in Kathy Reich's Temperance Brennan series but is a departure from her usual focus. As Reichs herself says, most Temperance Brennan novels spring from a mixture of her real forensic cases, in her real-life role as a forensic anthropologist working in North Carolina and Quebec. This story began with an opportunity presented to her by Dr. James Tabor who carried out investigative research on Masada and is soon to publish a non-fiction book on the Jesus Dynasty. This story may be also be enjoyed by those whose imagination has been tickled by recent publications related to the search for the Holy Grail. It felt to me as if Reichs wanted to put forward some of her own ideas on the issues that are linked to that debate.

The novel opens with a prologue that provides several pages about the ossaries found in Masada and Jerusalem, implying that information about these finds has not publicly been released, and giving carbon 14 dating as first century AD, and names that seem to link the remains to Jesus and his family. There is no doubt that this novel is very firmly based in research. There is a clever melding of historical and technical detail, and over a year's worth of research by Reichs herself, in this fictional story that features Tempe Brennan and her lover, detective Andrew Ryan.

Kathy Reichs has her own website.

My rating 4.3

This review was first published on Murder and Mayhem, May 2006


Margot Kinberg said...

Thanks for sharing this review, Kerrie. The Tempe Brennan mysteries are engaging, and I like the solid science that's behind them, actually. It sounds as though this one is another good one, even if it is a bit different from Reichs' others.

Uriah Robinson said...

James Tabor's fascinating book The Jesus Dynasty was published in 2006.

Kerrie said...

Margot I have read other Kathy Reichs books, and even have another in Mount TBR. I haven't written any other full reviews but somewhere I have some mini-ones, that I should put up

Kerrie said...

Thanks for that info Norman - this was a review I had lurking on another site.


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