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(Note: While this review will not contain spoilers for Speaking in Bones by Kathy Reichs, it may inadvertently reveal plot surprises from earlier Tempe Brennan thrillers. As always, I recommend reading books in a series in order.)
Keeping cool under pressure comes with the territory for forensic anthropologist Tempe Brennan. No matter what kind of crazy she's dealing with in her personal life (with a daughter fighting in Afghanistan; a bi-polar mother ridden with cancer; and a marriage proposal from her on-again/off-again boyfriend Andrew Ryan, crazy might be an understatement), her professional focus never wavers. So, when Hazel "Lucky" Strike, an eccentric websleuth, comes to Tempe with a chilling recording that may be a clue in the disappearance of a teenage girl, she listens. While Tempe doesn't approve of amateur investigators nosing into police business, she also can't quite dismiss what Lucky's saying. Especially when the other woman's instincts appear to be right on track. Is Lucky correct in her theory that the bones of 18-year-old Cora Teague are sitting, unidentified, in Tempe's lab?
With the help of Zeb Ramsey, a local deputy, Tempe heads into the Blue Ridge Mountains to investigate Cora's disappearance three years ago. Her inquiries turn up more questions than answers. Especially from the teenager's parents, religious zealots who never bothered to report their daughter as missing. When Tempe makes more macabre finds in the mountains, she becomes even more determined to find out what happened to Cora. The closer she comes to the truth, the more dangerous her quest becomes. Even with her own life on the line, Tempe persists in her dogged pursuit, but can she keep herself alive long enough to determine Cora's fate? If she does, she's still got a confusing proposal to deal with. How will she answer Andrew Ryan, when he's got both her heart and her head in a very complicated tangle?
If you read this blog with any frequency, you're well aware of my obsession with the Tempe Brennan series by Kathy Reichs. The author, who is herself a forensic anthropologist, writes with authority about bone analysis, doing so in a way that is both intriguing and accessible to the average person. While the science is undeniably fascinating, it's not what makes these books stand out. They shine because of Tempe herself. Not only is our heroine smart and devoted, but she's also warm, funny, and self-deprecating. Which isn't to say she's perfect. She's realistically flawed, which only makes her more appealing. While I would read this series just to hang with Tempe, I also love that it's full of pulse-pounding action, can't-look-away suspense, entertaining characters, and plenty of interpersonal drama.
As with any series, some of the Tempe mysteries are better than others. Speaking in Bones, the newest, hovers right up there with my other favorites. The novel presents an intriguing mystery, some compelling new story people, and surprising plot twists, not to mention developments between Tempe and Ryan. What more can a Tempe fan ask for? Not much, really. Speaking in Bones satisfies in every way. My only disappointment comes from having to wait a whole year to see what Tempe does next. Boo hoo!
(Readalikes: Other books in the Tempe Brennan series [Deja Dead; Death du Jour; Deadly Decisions; Fatal Voyage; Grave Secrets; Bare Bones; Monday Mourning; Cross Bones; Break no Bones; Bones to Ashes; Devil Bones; 206 Bones; Spider Bones; Flash and Bones; Bones Are Forever; Bones in Her Pocket (novella); Bones of the Lost; Swamp Bones (novella); Bones On Ice (novella); Bones Never Lie)
If this were a movie, it would be rated:
for language (a few F-bombs, plus milder invectives), sexual innuendo and violence/gore
To the FTC, with love: I received an e-ARC of Speaking in Bones from the generous folks at Bantam (an imprint of Random House) via those at NetGalley. Thank you!