Monday, September 27, 2010

Reichs Is Back On Track With Intriguing Spider Bones

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

(Note: While this review will not contain spoilers for Spider Bones, it may inadvertently reveal plot surprises from earlier books. As always, I recommend reading books in a series in order.)

Spring has arrived in Quebec, sweeping in with all its glory. The scent of apple blossoms floats in the air, baby leaves shimmer in the breeze, the whole place sparkles as if studded with diamonds. But as the world thaws, forcing the earth to give up all the secrets it's been concealing beneath snow and ice, bodies began to appear. And forensic anthropologist Tempe Brennan gets very, very busy.

When Tempe's called to examine a body found bobbing in a Hemmingford, Quebec, pond, she's a little surprised - the man's sporting pink lingerie and a homemade breathing apparatus. Unfortunate fashion choice. Unfortunate, but accidental, death. Even though foul play seems unlikely, something strange (well, stranger) turns up: According to fingerprint analysis, the corpse belongs to John Charles Lowery of Lumberton, North Carolina. The same John Charles Lowery who died in a 1968 helicopter crash in the jungles of Vietnam. Was there an error in the lab's testing? Or did Lowery survive the war, letting his family mourn while he lived out the rest of his life in Canada?

The investigation takes Tempe to North Carolina, where John's father insists his son died a hero's death. Not about to disclose the unsavory details of the floater's death without absolute proof of his identity, Tempe keeps digging. Her research takes her back to her old stomping grounds - the Central Identification Laboratory (CIL), a facility in Hawaii where teams work to recover the bodies of American soldiers missing on foreign soil. While she teases information from the Quebec bones as well as those of another soldier who could be Lowery, Tempe's summoned by Honolulu's flamboyant M.E., who requests help with a shark-ravaged skeleton. As the cases all come together, Tempe makes some shocking discoveries, not the least of which is that a very dangerous someone wants to put a stop to her investigation. And, quite possibly, her life.

With bodies piling up around her, Tempe's not exactly feeling the aloha spirit. It doesn't help that she's brought along her grieving daughter, Katy, who can't seem to snap back after the death of a friend. The presence of sexy, smart aleck Detective Ryan doesn't help much either (especially with her hormones, which don't seem to understand the meaning of the words strictly professional). Ryan's daughter, Lily, who's trying to put her life back together after destroying it with drugs, is also in attendance. Tempe's idea to let the girls help each other mend while she and Ryan work on their case, isn't going quite as planned. So much for her working vacation. She'll be lucky to get out of Hawaii with her life, let alone her sanity.

I've loved Temperance Brennan from the moment I "met" her back in Deja Dead, but my enjoyment of this popular series by Kathy Reichs has been derailed a little bit by the last few books. Although Spider Bones isn't my favorite of the forensic anthropologist's adventures, I feel like it gets the series back on track with an intriguing plot, an exotic locale, plenty of action, and a heavy dose of the Brennan-Ryan banter I love so much. As in all her novels, Reichs, who is herself a forensic anthropologist, explains the science of her profession in language that is clear and never condescending. Her smart, snappy heroine is always appealing, as is Tempe's on-again-off-again love interest, Andrew Ryan. I enjoyed all of that, as well as Reichs' descriptions of the real-life Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command (JPAC) which performs incredibly important work (read more here). Naturally, I found a few things about the book irksome: I learned more about autoeroticism than I ever wanted to know (um, eeewwww); I'm getting tired of Brennan and Ryan dancing around each other (just get together already, you two!), and I wasn't wild about the inclusion of the partners' daughters in the story (Can you say selfish whiners?). All in all, though, Spider Bones reminds me of all the things I love about this series - it's fresh, fun, and fascinating. And, given this latest entry, it appears to finally be picking up some speed. I'm gladly fastening my seatbelt ...

(Readalikes: The rest of the books in the Temperance Brennan series by Kathy Reichs)

Grade: B-

If this were a movie, it would be rated: R for strong language, sexual content, violence and gore

To the FTC, with love: I bought Spider Bones from Amazon using some of the millions I make from my lucrative book blogging career. Ha ha.

1 comment:

  1. I'm glad to here this is "back on track"! I have this coming up in my tbr pile. While I always enjoy a Kathy Reichs book her latest haven't been quite the equal of her earlier. I also hate the way the Ryan thing has been going. Get on with it!

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