Thursday, October 06, 2011

Start Your Engines: NASCAR Murder Mystery Quite the Ride

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

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

Temperance Brennan knows little about NASCAR, but she's lived in Charlotte, NC, long enough to know what Race Week will bring - traffic and lots of it. While 200,000 fans cram themselves into the stands at Charlotte Motor Speedway, she's planning to hide out in her apartment, sipping Diet Coke and petting her cat. But, alas, fate has different plans for the intrepid forensic anthropologist.

When a body is discovered in a landfill near the speedway, Tempe's called in to help identify the remains. With little to go on, she's considering several possibilities - the corpse could be that of a missing barhopper or a racing fan from Atlanta who hasn't been answering his phone or really, just about anyone. When a NASCAR crew member shows up in Tempe's office with a story about his missing sister, yet another possibility opens up. Could the body belong to 17-year-old Cindi Gamble, who disappeared with her 24-year-old boyfriend in 1998? If so, who killed her? And why is her brother so convinced the FBI covered up their findings about the case? Is Wayne Gamble completely delusional or is there something to his story?

The more Tempe investigates the teenager's disappearance, the more puzzling the mystery becomes. With remains vanishing, police records being confiscated, and plenty of strange to go around, the idea of a government cover-up doesn't seem so far-fetched. The only question is why would the Feds care about a missing young nobody from Kannapolis?

As pressure to solve the case builds, Tempe's personal life is heating up as well. Not only has she somehow become her ex-husband's brainless fiance's most trusted confidant, but a handsome new associate is threatening to push the absent Andrew Ryan right out of her mind. And heart. A deluge of problems to go with the damp weather - just what Tempe needs. So much for hanging with her cat.

I've loved the Temperance Brennan series by Kathy Reichs since the first book (Deja Dead). Although some of the novels have been more appealing to me than others, I've found them to be consistently well-written and entertaining. Much of it has to do with Tempe herself. Her voice, with its unique blend of smart, compassionate and snarky, gets me every time.

As for Flash and Bones, I enjoyed the NASCAR setting (You should have seen the gleam in my husband's eye every time I asked him something like, "Did you know stock car racing started because of bootlegging during Prohibition?" or "Wow, that Jacques Villeneuve is kind of a legend, huh?"), even if that's not exactly my thing. Reichs gives enough facts and background to make the sport interesting without going overboard - the same tactic she uses to keep the reader's interest while explaining all the pertinent details of forensic science. While I liked the setting and all the subplots in Flash and Bones, I was a little disappointed in the mystery. I solved the case (almost) as soon as I "met" the killer, then spent the rest of the story waiting for Tempe to catch up. Not that it wasn't an enjoyable wait, but I would have preferred a little more mystery in this mystery. Still and all, I raced (pun intended) through the book and pouted *a little* over the fact that I have to wait a whole year for the next installment. Despite its flaws, this is still one of my favorite series.

(Readalikes: Other books in the Temperance Brennan series by Kathy Reichs)

Grade: B-

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

To the FTC, with love: I bought Flash and Bones from Amazon with a portion of the millions I make from my lucrative career as a book blogger. Ha ha.

5 comments:

  1. I recently just started reading this series after watching the show forever! I didn't read your whole review because I've only read book one so far and don't want anything to be given away but wanted to let you know I absolutely agree with reading books in a series in order - my family makes fun of me because I really won't just pick up a series in the middle and if I do happen to, I always go back and start from the beginning!

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  2. Kristin - I'm glad I'm not the only one who's a little (ahem) obsessive about this issue. I just can't start tv shows in the middle either - I HAVE to start with the pilot episode. I guess I just like gradually getting to know the settings, characters, etc.

    I'm glad you're enjoying this series. It's really different from BONES - so different that I really didn't like the tv show at first. Now, I can enjoy it because I look at the books and the tv show as two COMPLETELY different things.

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  3. I love these books too, but I haven't read them all. I agree that the best part is Tempe's voice. She's just a great character, and with each book I love her even more. Great stuff!

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  4. I have to look into this series. It sounds like a good one.

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