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Monday, September 08, 2008

Have I Told You Lately That I Love Temperance Brennan?

I may have mentioned (just a million times or so) that I'm a big fan of Kathy Reichs and her

heroine, Temperance Brennan. So, naturally, I was pretty excited when Reichs' newest hit the shelves. Devil Bones is the 11th book in a series which is consistently fresh and exciting. Even the installments that aren't quite as good stand out because the characters are so beguiling. I mean, you've got the city cops - smart-mouthed Slidell and his partner, the impeccable Rinaldi; then you've got Detective Ryan, the sexy Canadian who makes hearts flutter all over the globe; and finally, Tempe herself. She's a smart, dedicated forensic anthropologist who uses all her skills to identify murder victims and their killers. A recovering alcoholic living on Diet Coke and takeout, Tempe's at once sympathetic, admirable and relatable. Her snappy dialogue - both inside her head and out - makes her narrations fun and witty. Have I mentioned how much I love this character?

Yes, I do realize that I haven't even started talking about the book's finer points, but I have to make a quick aside. When I heard that Fox planned to air a TV series based on the Temperance Brennan books, I couldn't wait to check it out. Then I saw the first episode of Bones. And almost didn't watch the second. It's not that the show is terrible (in fact, it's kind of growing on me), it's just that it doesn't mirror the books very well. Plus, the acting is pretty bad. Most of all, though, the Tempe Brennan I know and love from the books is nothing like the stiff, whiny character portrayed by Emily Deschanel on Bones. So, I watch the show and I read the books, but it's like apples and oranges. The real Tempe (that is, the one in the books) will pull you in with her smarts, her wit, and her compassion. Kathy Reichs says she sees the t.v. Tempe as a younger version of the book Tempe (in an interview at the back of the book), but I see no correlation.

Okay, rant over. Back to Devil Bones. The book begins with a grisly site - Tempe is summoned to a vacant home where a plumber has discovered "Satan himself" (15). What he has actually found is the site of some sort of macabre ritual involving a human skull. The voodoo elements lead Tempe on a search of fringe religions like Wicca, Satanism and Santeria. Slidell and Rinaldi, Tempe's cop sidekicks, are investigating other possibilities when a second body turns up bearing disturbing symbols. Tempe's theory seems correct, but further investigation only creates tougher questions. To whom does the skull belong? Was the victim murdered by a bloodthirsty cult? What of a self-proclaimed witch with human remains in his possession? And what, if anything, does a fanatic preacher have to do with the whole thing? Before Tempe finds all the answers, several innocents will be dead, including a friend.

As if Tempe doesn't have her hands full with corpses, she's also got some personal issues. First of all, there's Pete, her ex-husband. Although they're definitely better off as friends, Tempe's not quite sure how she feels about him re-marrying. Well, okay, it sucks. Especially since his intended is "overblond, with breasts the size of beach balls, and far too little blouse to accomodate them" (174). Then, there is her own confusing love life. Andrew Ryan is back with his ex, trying to reconcile in an effort to save his daughter from her downward spiral into drugs. A new man (actually, a disarming blast from her past) is ready to move in on Ryan's territory, but Tempe's not sure she can handle a new complication. She's got enough of those already - her grief over a friend's death awakes her sleeping dragon and her alcohol-soaked mind can't recall the events of the past two days. Did she really leak information about her case to a nosy reporter? Her weakness could get her fired or worse ... killed.

Although I found the investigation process in this book more interesting than its resolution, Devil Bones still kept me turning pages. As always, I enjoyed Tempe's take on things, from her analyses of the cold, hard facts to her struggle to remain objective. Passages like this highlight what I love about this character:

Staring into the empty orbits, I tried to visualize who this young woman had been. Felt sad at the loss. My mind could conjure up rough images of her appearance based on the black girls I saw around me. Katy's friends. My students. The kids who hung out in the park across College Street. I could envision dark hair and eyes, chocolate skin. But what had she felt? Thought? What expression had molded her features as she fell asleep each night, woke each morning?

Fourteen to seventeen. Half woman, half child. Had she liked to read? Ride a bike? A Harley? Hang out at the mall? Did she have a steady boyfriend? Who was missing her? ...

Do what you do, Brennan. Learn who she was. What happened to her.

Setting sentimental musing aside, I refocused on the science.

I love that she's practical, but compassionate, too. Tempe's wry and hilarious observations give the book light and funny patches, which offset the gory nature of her work. The other characters in the book are well-drawn; even the most minor of them receive enough detailing to make them nice and round. The plot grows predictable, but it's still taut, with enough twists and turns to keep the reader interested. With the addition of some fascinating forensic information (which Reichs explains well, without talking down to the reader) and the drama of Tempe's personal life, Devil Bones is downright unputdownable. True, I didn't love the ending, but still ... this series continues to win my devotion. Did I mention how much I like Tempe Brennan?

Grade: B+


  1. I'm a big fan of the TV show Bones, and all the interviews w/ producers, actors, etc. say that TV Tempe isn't based on book Tempe at all; she just has the same name.

    I read one of Reich's books and didn't like it all; so maybe the TV show and book series are mutually exclusive?

  2. I think I'll be heading to the library today. I've seen a couple episodes of Bones, and the premise is appealing, but the shows are usually unsatisfying.

    We've been watching stuff on recently, and saw the season premier of Bones where they're in England.

    The first hour was fantastic: great dialogue, fast plot, good mystery. And then the second hour was all about the sex lives of the characters.

    Now, I have nothing against sex or relationship plots in general, but this wasn't even interesting. BORING.

    You make the book sound a lot better.

  3. Love these books too! I'm waiting to receive a copy to review!

  4. I definitely see Bones and the books as two very separate entities. I love both for very different reasons.

    I can't wait to read this book.

  5. Eva - That's so funny, because I'm exactly the opposite - love the books, ho hum on the t.v. show.

    Jane - We tried a library trip today, but my 3 yo barfed about a mile from our destination. Gotta love kids. BTW: H was excited that A had a new post up on her blog. I was cracking up when she was tattling on you for being late to pick her up!

    A lot of times when I'm watching Bones, I wonder why I keep with the series. Maybe because David Boreanz is so adorable? I don't know, but I love the books - let me know what you think.

    Julie P - What? How did you snag a review copy? I had to shell out real money on Amazon. So not fair.

    Mari - I totally agree. In order to enjoy the tv show, I just had to tell myself it was completely different than the books. Of course, I don't usually like adaptations of books, so maybe I was predisposed not to like it?? Who knows?

  6. Love the books (I've read only 3-4 so far, though) and couldn't even begin to watch the series: the characters are sooo not how I envision them!

  7. I put this book on hold at my library tonight (thanks for the reminder). The library system here has 27 copies. My library has 3 of them. I don't know how many people in my town are on the list, but I'm #86. So I'll get to read it in a few months. :)

    I do like Tempe, though--really fun character. I like the middle aged Tempe in the books better than the young, always put-together Tempe in the show. In the books, Tempe does things like run around saving friends from flaming buildings in her underwear--and it's not at all sexy when she does it. I can't imagine the TV Tempe doing anything that humiliating.

    I do like the show, though--but only if I don't try to compare it to the books.

  8. Enjoyed your review. I'm number 24 on the hold list at my library and I work there. No special privileges!!

    I like the TV show, but then again, I consider it a different character all together. And...I've been a fan of David Boreanz since his Angel days. :-)

  9. I'm trying to catch up on blog reading after time away ...I was lucky enough to go and see Kathy Reichs at the Poisoned Pen two weeks back. She was great. She uses no notes when she speaks and she seems almost interchangeable with her character. We got lots of insight into the show, Tempe's life, her life and forensic anthropology. We also got great insight into fringe cults and religions. It was was eye opening. The series has been a fun romp for me.

  10. Grom - I know exactly how you feel!

    Robin - Good point - one of the reason's I love the book Tempe is that she's so real.

    Kay - Really? You don't get any perks as a librarian? Not fair! Did you see David on the Emmies? He was so stiff - what was up with that?

    Rebecca - You're welcome :)

    Gaye - How did I not know she was in town? Hm ... sounds like Kathy Reichs is fascinating. I can't remember if I said this in my review, but when I picture Tempe in my head, she looks a lot like her creator!


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