Devil Bones

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Devil Bones By (author) Kathy ReichsWhen a workman accidentally breaks into the cellar of a house revealing pagan or possibly demonic symbols and a human skull, forensic anthropologist Tempe Brennan is called in to get to the bottom of what’s been happening. Throw in a second body mutilated with devilish symbols which is found soon after which might – or then again might not – be connected. Is this some kind of complex devil worship or something less sinister? Who was the young woman whose skull has been found and how did it get there? Is she connected to the young man whose body has been found? If anyone can get to the bottom of the mystery, then Tempe and her police colleagues are the ones to do the job.

This is Kathy Reichs’ 11th Tempe Brennan novel and I’ve read them all. Or rather it would be more accurate to say that I think I’ve read them all but it’s getting harder to tell because they’re all very similar. I remember when the first one came out – I bought it in hardback on a special launch offer in WH Smiths. At that time I was really into the whole forensic thriller genre and was pleased to find an alternative to Patricia Cornwell. The next few Kathy Reichs books were also very good but now, more than a decade later, books about female forensic scientists are ten a penny and if you surf your TV channels you can find an episode of NCIS on some or other channel at almost any time. There’s surely little left to be said about forensic anthropology that won’t just fall into the same old tired and weary pattern.

Here’s how it works. Give your ‘heroine’ a flaw – in Tempe’s case, she’s a recovering alcoholic. Give her a family with problems – in Tempe’s case both her much-married and multiply divorced sister or her daughter pop up when it suits and when a plot twist is needed. Give her a pet – Tempe has a cat called Birdie – and give her an on-again-off-again boyfriend, in this case she’s in an off-again period with Andrew Ryan, the delectable detective from Quebec. But we need a bit of love interest whilst he’s not around, so let’s resuscitate a teen sweetheart to add a bit of fizz and keep the reader guessing. Throw in a few policemen with their own problems to show how jolly clever Tempe is and to give you a ludicrously coded clue to ‘whodunnit’. Add an annoying local politician trying to stir up a witch- (or warlock) hunt and a boss who wants to suspend our worthy heroine. Stir it all up and you’ve laid the foundations of yet another 304 pages (in the hardback edition) of weekend time-wasting.

I hadn’t realised quite how awful the style of Reich’s prose has become. It often reads as if she’s writing a screenplay and is frequently filled with just too much unnecessary detail. You know the way that some men (forgive me gentlemen, bear with me ladies) get into long discussions with each other about which road they took and what junction they left at and which garage they passed and we women find ourselves tutting and thinking ‘For goodness sake, come to the point’ – well that’s how I feel when I’m reading Kathy Reichs. She has an annoying tendency to get a bit ‘preachy’ – sit down, shut up and read her preaching about the different types of pagan religion and rituals, most of which really won’t help you much to determine who killed whom or how.

I like to get to the end of a book of this type and get a real sense of ‘Aha!’ when the killer and their motive are revealed. In this case, the reveal was so silly and so hard to have predicted on the basis of what had gone before that I just felt cheated. I want to feel that if I’d paid attention and been smart, I could have worked it out but in this case, the mysterious notes in a the notebook of a dead colleague are just too bizarre for anyone to follow unless they already knew the answer.

Thankfully I only paid £3.99 for this hardback in a remaindered book store – it’s unlikely that I’d pay as much again. I think the light’s gone out for me on Tempe Brennan and Kathy Reichs. It’s time to bury the pair of them in a nice shallow grave, cover them in a big rock and move on – forensic anthropology is just ‘so last year’ or maybe that should be last decade that I don’t really think I can be bothered any more.

Devil Bones by Kathy Reichs
304pp (that’s about 250 too many!)


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Devil Bones
by Kathy Reichs

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Written by koshkha
koshkha

Koshkha has a busy international job that gives her lots of time sitting on planes and in hotel rooms reading books. Despite averaging about 3 books a week, she probably has enough on her ‘to be read’ shelves to keep her going for a good few years and that still doesn’t stop her scouring the second hand books shops and boot-fairs of the land for more. At weekends she lives with her very lovely husband and three cats, but during the week she lives alone like a mad spinster aunt. She will read just about anything about or set in India, despises chick-lit, doesn’t ‘get’ sci fi and vampire ‘stuff’ and has just ordered a Kindle despite swearing blind that she never would.

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