14 April 2010
Review: BREAK NO BONES, Kathy Reichs
Random House Australia, July 2006
Dr Temperance Brennan is filling a vacancy as a supervisor of an archaeology dig for university students. A pre-Colombian burial ground, the dig site on Dewees Island contains sixteen prehistoric graves. Dewees Island is largely a conservation easement north of Charleston, but the rest is ripe for development. On the penultimate day of the dig, just when they are well on the way to wrapping everything up on schedule, Tempe has visitors: local freelance journalist Homer Winborne, and Dickie Dupree, land developer and entrepreneur. As if on cue, an intrusive articulated skeleton is discovered in one of the graves. Tempe quickly realises that this body is not prehistoric. In the subsequent post-mortem she discovers this skeleton has some strange features, and the hunt begins to match this body with local missing person reports.
As with all the other books in this popular series, this Temperance Brennan novel draws on decades of involvement by author Kathy Reichs at crime labs and crime scenes. Reichs says BREAK NO BONES is "a bit of a departure" from her usual modus operandi in that she has drawn from not just one or two cases, but a range of both personal and professional experiences. It seemed to me that I found out much more about Tempe's personal life, too. In order to get to the archaeological dig more easily, Tempe is staying in a beach house owned by a friend. She is joined by her estranged lawyer husband, the adulterous Pete, investigating the disappearance of a local woman. Life becomes complicated when her lover Detective Andrew Ryan also turns up. A further human element is added when Tempe discovers that her good friend Emma, Charleston County Coroner, is seriously ill.
In BREAK NO BONES, as in other books in the Bones series, there is plenty of forensic and medical detail. Reichs is always meticulous in her descriptions. I find Temperance Brennan a rather abrasive and formidable character, whose outspoken approach and impulsiveness initiate plenty of action. Tempe never lets the fact that she is an outsider prevent her from saying what is on her mind or doing what she thinks must be done.
In 'real life' Kathy Reichs is a practising forensic anthropologist working both in North Carolina and Quebec. Her own work is closely parallelled in that done by her protagonist Dr. Temperance Brennan. Reichs began the Temperance Brennan series in 1997 with the immediately acclaimed DEJA DEAD and has added to the series at the rate of almost a book a year. BREAK NO BONES is the tenth in the series.
Reichs has her own website You can read the first chapter of BREAK NO BONES online
August 2006 review, originally published on Murder and Mayhem
Revised review March 2007