There’s never a beach around when you need one. Which means I’m not sure how I feel about A Conspiracy Of Bones, the new novel from Kathy Reichs, published today.
I spend two weeks each summer on vacation in Maine, sitting on the beach all day and devouring mysteries and thrillers from the local library. Vacation is a time to de-stress. Beach reading has to entertain me, but not challenge me to think too much.
When I was offered the chance to review this novel, I jumped at it. Though I am a fan of the genre, I had never read anything by Kathy Reichs. I knew the name, had heard of her heroine, forensic anthropologist Temperance Brennan, and knew of the television series, Bones, which features the Brennan character and was produced by Reichs. I have never watched the show, though my wife and daughter are fans.
Sitting under my umbrella on the beach I would have enjoyed this book. Reading it in a Canadian winter was a different experience, perhaps not quite as pleasurable. My mind kept asking questions as to plausibility that it wouldn’t have asked in August.
The plot revolves around an unidentified body that Brennan wants to find a name for and determine a cause of death. Due to the circumstances, the man has no face – and no identification. She seems fixated on the task, despite having no official standing and some serious health issues.
The search for truth leads to the darkest corners of the internet, where conspiracy theories abound, and children are exploited for sick pleasure and financial gain. Could there by a connection to the body? Was he part of some international conspiracy? Brennan will find out. Or will she?
The plot unfolds too quickly for my comfort, with the bulk novel taking place over the span of a few days. I know that makes for gripping reading and fast-paced action, but my understanding is police work, especially of this variety, takes time. Sometimes the bad guys, or those we think are the bad guys, do some really stupid things.
Not knowing Brennan’s backstory, I have no idea why an anthropologist with no standing in the case, would be allowed to be in an observation room to watch police question witnesses and suspects. I don’t think that sort of access is allowed in Canada, but maybe procedure is looser in North Carolina, where A Conspiracy Of Bones is set.
On the beach I probably wouldn’t take issue with any of this, I would accept the story as presented and enjoy it uncritically. And my concerns/critiques didn’t stop me from enjoying the story.
Reichs, in her non-writing life, is indeed a forensic anthropologist. That means there is a feeling of truth when the details of the case are being described, the damage to the body or the condition of some bones Brennan finds. No need to hire someone to do research, the lady knows what she is writing about. Which gives the writing a believability that offsets my niggling criticisms.
If you are a fan of the Temperance Brennan novels, you are going to enjoy this one. Or even if you just like mysteries.
I have a sneaking suspicion that this summer at the beach I’m going to pick up Kathy Reichs’ first novel, Deja Dread, and meet Temperance Brennan for the first time so to speak. I think it will make great beach reading.