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I'm a big fan of Kathy Reichs now after reading several of her books, though I know some will find her style not so easy to digest. Bare Bones follows suit with her other crime/thriller novels in that she takes a scientific stance on the murder cases, and the plot is both complex and original so I enjoyed reading it. I'm also a sucker for lines on the front that read : 'The no1 International Bestseller'!
Bare Bones introduces us to the much-loved Dr Temperance Brennan, who you'll most likely know if you've read a Reich's book before. If not, this is a stand alone book so it doesn't matter if you're unfamiliar. The story is loosely based on a finding at a shindig Temp goes to with her daughter after their dog, Boyd, tracks something in the woods. The mysterious remains, be they human or animal, appears to be a separate storyline to what happens next.
Temp, although desperately looking forward to jetting off on holiday with her love interest, Ryan, is needed on another case; the disappearance of a woman and a partner after her baby is found dead. Was it a natural death? And then there's the finding of a small plane with an unexplained substance all over it.
What seems to be random instances come together and interweave as Temp uses her skills in forensic science, and detective's nose, to piece together the pieces. At the same time, we see relationships bloom and falter throughout, including that between Temp and Ryan. I found such sidelines to work really well, helping us to identify with the characters and look forward to opening the book again.
There's some faster-paced action as well as the nitty gritty forensic science and crime puzzle piecing-togetherness. The ending is a good example, though this was also the part I had a slight qualm with. Prior to this, the plot was thick and scenes were believable, though I found to ending to be too quick and perhaps too 'lucky'. For that, I'm knocking a star off, because I felt it let down the otherwise enjoyable storyline.
Other praise for the book is found on its cover, including : 'Reich has proved that she is now up there with the best' - The Times and 'The forensic detail is harrowing, the pace relentless, and the prose assured...' - Irish Independent (on the back).
I would recommend this despite its ending; whilst I don't think it's her best work, it's an enjoyable read for Reich fans and a book to get stuck into for those who haven't read her novels before but who enjoy the intrigue of murder, forensics and mystery, with some sideline appeals to keep it fresh.
432 pages. RRP £7.99 but selling on Amazon for £5.27.
Imagine that you are a forensic anthropologist. Your job is to investigate bones and discover what they are - are they human, is it a man or a woman? Essentially your job begins in the field looking at bones and ends in the lab looking at the same bones. Therefore, what would you do if someone sent you a threatening email telling you to back off one of your cases? You tell the police and stop investigating! You are only a civil servant and not a copper! If I was a Bin Man and someone threatened to kill me if I did a certain round - I would stop doing the bloomin' round! However, if everyone in fiction was a cowardly as me (or sensible) then books would be pretty dull. Thankfully then Dr Temperance Brennan, well paid civvie, decides to go were she is not exactly needed - rather her than me.
Dr Brennan returns once more in 'Bare Bones'. This time she is about to go on holiday; that is until three new cases come across her desk. One is to identify the two bodies found in a crashed plane, another is investigating a bag of bones found buried and the final case is that of a small child found burned. With all this workload Temp has no time to herself and her love life. If that was not bad enough it seems that one of her cases has ruffled a few feathers and she is getting threatening emails, can Dr Brennan solve all the cases?
As hinted in my opening paragraph the major issue I had with this book was the very fact that Brennan continues to investigate a case that threatens her family. If you can get over the fact that most rational people would say stuff this, the actual book is quite good. Firstly, Reichs has created in Brennan a character that is intelligent, but also vulnerable. The Brennan here is very different from the one on TV 'Bones' has she is older and has a grown child and an estranged husband. These elements in her personal life help to flesh out her character and unlike some author Reichs is able to balance the personal with the crime elements well.
It's this sense of balance that Reichs is able to continue in the structure of the three part story. I often read crime fiction with two strands that work, but any more and the book often suffers from being overly complicated. It is testament to Reichs' skills that the three stories remain separate and intertwine so well. It is important that this happens as it allows the reader to second guess which of the cases is bringing the threats. The sense of tension, especially towards the end, is good and I was unable to easily work out the criminal.
There is one more issue that I had with Reichs' writing style and it is one that clashes quite badly with her otherwise emotionally intelligent style; the use of cliff hanger sentences at the end of many chapters. This technique is used in fiction as a way of enhancing the drama and trying to get the reader to finish just one more chapter. However, it is a very pulpy thing to do and it was did not work in this book.
Despite its flaws 'Bare Bones' is a good read. I am willing to forgive the basic premise of a Doctor endangering her life, and the poor cliff hanger moments, because you can not deny that Brennan is an interesting character. Being able to read a book and not guess the culprit till the end is a surprisingly rare thing, so I was impressed that Reichs was able to do just this. With the ability to make her characters personal life as interesting as her cases it is clear to see why Reichs is as successful as she is. I just hope that in future novels that Brennan becomes involved in solving a crime in a more realistic way.
Author: Kathy Reichs
Price: amazon uk - £5.49
play.com - £5.49
When tidying up my drawers at work (the Internet must have been down!) I became aware that there weren't many books left in my 'to-read' pile, so I trawled through the charity booklist where books can be purchased for 25p. Money raised goes to a local breast cancer unit, and over £5k has been raised so far. When my colleagues and I finish with our books we either keep them, or return them for someone else to buy.
When choosing books I generally consult Amazon for a quick idea of what the book is bout and whether I might like it - of course being only 25p a book it doesn't really matter too much - occasionally I'll buy a book, read a chapter or two and return it before going further.
I had already read 2 of Reichs' books, and found them very readable (not excellent in my opinion, but readable enough for the train to and from work), so I saw "Bare Bones" and thought I'd give it a go.
Although I'm not about to give a biography of Kathy Reichs (even I don't waffle about such things) it is important to say that she is a forensic anthropologist. Since her books are based on a character (Dr. Temperance Brennan) who is also a forensic anthropologist working in the same locations, it's probably a safe bet that a lot of what she writes is based on personal experience, and therefore I would imagine that it is reasonably scientifically accurate. More about Reichs can be found on her website - http://www.kathyreichs.com/
Reichs' books are all based around the character (Tempe for short) mentioned already. "Bare Bones" is the sixth in the series and was published in 2003. There are now 10 books in the series, the first being "Deja Dead", and the most recent being "Bones to Ashes". Having only read two others in the series I can say that each book works as a stand alone novel and it doesn't really matter what order they're read in. As with all book series though, regular readers might become a bit annoyed with repeated parts about the main characters and references to past events.
Tempe is a middle-aged recovering alcoholic, divorcee with a young adult daughter (Katy), a cat (Birdie) and a dog (Boyd) shared with her ex-husband (Pete). Like Reichs, Brennan divides her time between working as a forensic anthropologist in Charlotte and Montreal.
The book is written in the first person, but I have to say that I don't find myself thinking that I actually am Brennan (or relate to in any meaningful way), which is a bit of a relief as I find her character quite irritating at times.
Basically, some bones of a newborn baby are found in a wood stove and the mother is nowhere to be found. There's a plane crash, some more bones are found (some from bears), some dodgy e-mails, some dubious police officers, some deaths, some more disappearances, and some romantic relationships. Tempe's job is to try and work out the links (if there are any) between all these occurrences, and to solve the mystery, whilst at the same time developing a love interest with a bloke called Ryan. I suppose that the readers' task is to try and solve the mystery first! To say any more would be to spoil the plot!
*Did I enjoy it?*
Well, the 420 pages took from last Friday until this Wednesday whilst reading on the train. It wasn't the sort of book I wanted to read at the weekend as well. So, it wasn't a book that I felt I needed to read in one go, but it also wasn't a book that took me months and that I read other books in between!
I have to admit that I don't really like Reichs' writing style (that is my personal preference). I get irritated in Stephen King novels where a book doesn't go by without someone wetting themselves or having a period - the crudeness really riles me at times. In the same way I have a tendency to get annoyed by characters in Reichs' books. In "Bare Bones" there is a police officer called "Skinny Slidell" - Slidell is a homophobic sexist tw*t (to put it nicely). I wonder if Reichs included him solely with the intention of annoying me, or to illustrate prevalent discriminatory attitudes in the culture in which she live and works? Either way I felt it detracted from the story, and to be honest there are times I find it a bit childish (to say the least).
There are times that the language used is just plain tacky. To illustrate I opened the book on a random page and came across this:
"His hands rose, eased the straps from my shoulders. I lowered my arms.
Black linen pooled at my feet.
All the sadness and frustration and unfulfilled desire of the past few days evaporated in that instance. The kitchen receded. The earth. The cosmos." (page 110)
Personally I want a sick bucket at this stage, but then I'm not really a 'chick lit' fan.
*Who will enjoy it?*
Obviously fans of Reichs will enjoy it. Reichs has been likened to Patricia Cornwall, but having not read Cornwall, I wouldn't know how true this is.
Without wanting to generalise or stereotype, I wouldn't really recommend the book (or the series) to men, but rather to women who like the crime/mystery genre. Personally though I prefer Minette Walters.
However, since it cost me 25p (although it won't be staying on my bookshelf) and was inspired by moose bones, it certainly deserves 3 stars and a respectable 7 out of 10. It currently sells for £5.49 on Amazon.
Also published on Ciao as marymoose99
For the first time since starting to read this author, I actually almost feel let down- this latest novel seems just below par this time round though Kathy is still way ahead of any other writer of this genre.
For those of you who are new to Reichs, her novels feature a forensic anthropologist named Tempe Brennan whose job is to identify decomposed remains, assess whether they are in fact human or animal and assist the police in their bid to see justice done. She has a daughter and a love interest in dashing Detective Ryan with whom she has a very hot and cold relationship at times. She also has plenty of strings to her bow- sharing her forensic role with that of a part-time lecturer, as a member of a sudden disaster committee often dealing with downed aircraft and the recovery of bodies whilst trying to juggle her social life with that of a caring mum concerned constantly with her daughters well being.
This time around, Tempe is left hunting for clues as she attempts to discover how the burnt body of a baby in a wood stove is connected to the crash of a small Cessna plane and the discovery of a dismembered skeleton found in an outside privvy. This time, it all seems a bit contrived and routine (in previous novels, Tempe has been involved in a major plane crash investigation and spent time in Guatamala ) and when the plot threads are tied together, I kinda thought so what-is that it?
Maybe I have read too many of these back to back but her clever, imaginative style of writing is a constantly pleasant form of addiction and, till now, I haven't been able to go wrong. Not that this is a bad novel, I am by no means saying that, it is just that I have come to expect a little more...
Comedy relief is provided in the form of Police Detective "Skinny" Slidell who comes over a little like Ed McBain's Fat Ollie Weeks but in a lite version and overall the book is another entertaining read. By the law of averages, there had to be at least one book that didn't quite cut the grade and this unfortunately is it!! Don't go into this expecting too much and you'll no doubt enjoy this but there is not enough excuse in this novel to share Kathy's extensive knowledge of forensic science to really keep me satisfied. One of the treats of this series is the amount of first-hand knowledge Miss Reichs has to hand and you always get the feeling that this is more than just background research you are reading but actual anecdotes from someone all too aware of what she is trying to describe and convey to you.
All in all, this still sets a very hard standard for thriller writers and the only other person I have read this year who even comes close is Simon Beckett for THE CHEMISTRY OF DEATH which follows in a similar vein but is set in a fictional English, Norfolk village. If you like strong female characterisation and a firm twenty-first century role model, you could do worse than look towards Temperance Brennan!!
Ive been a fan of the works of Kathy Reichs for about five years now. She writes thrillers although chillers would be a more apt description. For newcomers to her best selling novels I think a bit of author background is necessary so if you are already a fan you can skip this part.
Kathy Reichs is a forensic anthropologist with a practise in North Carolina and Montreal in the USA. Her academic achievements alone would take up a large part of my review so all you really need to know is that she is an expert in her field and is a frequent expert at criminal trials. Her first novel, Deja Dead went straight to the top of the Sunday Times best-seller list and won the 1997 Ellis Award for the best first novel.
Since then her novels have been highly acclaimed surpassing the works of such famous authors as Patricia Cornwall. Bare Bones is her sixth novel and features her alto ego Temperance Brennan also a forensic anthropologist and a character that features in all her novels.
Most of her books can be read without any background knowledge of the main character as with each story Reichs manages to introduce Temperance without resorting to previous books. This is a skill that few authors can pull off but Reichs manages it with such style.
Chapter one takes the reader into the world of Temperance Brennan, a forensic anthropologist currently working in a town called Charlotte. An informants tip leads her to a shack where a newborn baby has been burnt in a woodstove. The evidence points to a young girl called Talema Banks the daughter of a janitor who used to work in the same building as Temperance herself. In her memories of that past occasion we learn enough about her character to show that she is a feisty but slightly flawed character with a lot of past history that will intrigue a new reader and endear her to constant readers.
A series of events that initially seem unconnected keeps Temperance from her much-needed vacation with Ryan a fellow officer with the police force in Montreal and her would-be lover.
In a remote part of the town called Charlotte a grave of bones are uncovered initially these appear to be the bones of several black bears but sifting through the remains human bones are found as well.
In a separate incidence a plane has crashed into a mountain leaving the remains of two badly burnt cadavers. Temperances workload soon becomes too much for her vacation.
Meanwhile Tamela Banks and her entire family has disappeared, is this the work of Darryl Tyree a small-time drug dealer and the father of Tamelas baby?
A search of the house and the land where the bears bones were found uncovers yet more human remains this time a partial skeleton that could be either male or female.
Temperance has to sift through the bones without knowing what she is looking for. In the course of her investigations a clue points towards two missing agents from an agency called CITES who were investigating the illegal activities of hunters targeting endangered species.
Just what the connection is with these seemingly unrelated events is the puzzle that Temperance has to work out for herself. The presence of Ryan in the background adds a touch of romance to the plot but even their budding relationship is under threat when she receives an envelope with pictures of her and Ryan together. Obviously someone is warning her off the investigation but who and why?
As she gets closer to the truth so the threats become increasingly more sinister and the body count is still rising. Can she hope to keep her own daughter out of the threats? What happens when the pieces start falling together and will she survive when all the odds are against her?
This dear reader is for you to find out but expect a roller coaster ride and a startling denouement.
Its rare to find an author that can keep writing about a main character and still make her work fresh and appealing to the reader. The character of Temperance is multi-layered so each new novel builds on this strength. A woman working alone in what is normally a mens own environment cannot fail to appeal to women everywhere but she has her own male following as well. Estranged from her husband, an alcoholic who is still dry, a woman that knows her work well but still is sometimes insecure makes for a real life character. I could add more but it would spoil the enjoyment of a new reader.
Temperance has to work with the local police a richness of characters that keeps the witty repartee constant. In dealing with gruesome remains a sense of humour is essential and you get the feeling that Reichs is writing from experience.
There are no flat characters in this book each one makes their own presence shown. There are people from previous books but new ones as well and each is endowed with that personal factor that makes every one stand out with their own strengths and weaknesses.
The only flaw I can find is that sometimes the American humour is a bit difficult to understand from a British point of view.
This has to be my own personal favourite its rich, complex and contains all the right ingredients to keep me turning the pages. There are a few red herrings which threw me off the track I cant stand a book when I know whodunit after a few chapters.
I soak up knowledge like a sponge so the forensic side of the book, although gruesome to many, is nectar to me. Reichs certainly knows her stuff and it fascinates me as long as I can keep personal horror out of the equation. I treat it as a puzzle that Im trying to solve.
The humour is outstanding, practically every conversation is peppered with witty one-lines but when the heat is on Riechs knows when to turn it off which works for me.
There is an underlying message in this book, one which is dear to me but I dont want to spoil the surprise, let me just say that the pun on the title is very apt.
In a closing chapter Reichs lets us into a few of her experiences that contributed to the plot. As a forensic expert she had to make this a broad statement, individual cases cannot be discussed. It surprised and saddened me but its also good to know that even novels can dramatically put a point of view across that will benefit mankind.
Try to put your distaste of such books aside you will find it rewarding.
I borrowed my copy from the library, I already have two of her books so will be looking out for this one in the sales. The hardback copy retails at £16.99 but you buy it new at Amazon for £12.99. Paperback copies are available from around £5. There is one audio version on Amazon for £4.89. E-bay are selling used copies from around 50p but post and packaging come to £2.99.
Total pages in the hardback version are 305 but beware, you will find it hard to put this one down.
Thanks for reading
Bare Bones is one of those books I just wasn't able to put down. I bought it one day, started reading the next day and had finished it the day after which was pretty impressive considering my reading rate and this book is over 400 pages long. I hadn't read any of Kathy's books before but I am very impressed by what I have read so far and it is no surprise it was a Bestseller! As soon as I finished it (Mum even had to bring my tea through from the Kitchen because it was going cold!), I told her to read it. She had read the blurb and can't wait to start it!
A mistake I have made in the past was by reading the blurb as it gave away the story and I knew what was going to come up - even when I was more than half way through I was still waiting for it - but this book was different. From reading the blurb, everything mentioned happens within the first half of the book so you have no idea what to expect in the final half! - Or at least, you are left wondering... you already know what the story is up till that point.
On to the plot. Quite simply Tempe Brennan is a Doctor - a forensic anthropologist in North Carolina. She has spent a long time working so she deserves a long awaited holiday. Unfortunatly things are bound to go wrong and she is kept waiting weeks after finding babies bones in a wood stove, a plane flies into a rock face killing the passengers covering them in a very suspicious substance and bone remains - some animal, some human - are found so Tempe has the job of finding out who all these people are - mostly with only few things to go on. When she thinks the work is done, something else comes up. Could the cases be related? Tempe has a serious job to do and gets very involved in catching the person/people responsible. She is divorced, a recovering alcoholic, has a daugher and spends a lot of time looking after her ex-husband's dog in this novel. The dog being the one that keeps her from her holiday after discovering and digging up some bone remains. While her daughter Katy is off having fun with her boyfriend, Tempe spends a lot of time with hers although will her daughter be keen on this new man in her life?
The novel is based on work Kathy Reichs has actually done herself as she is a forensic anthropologist in North Carolina too. This is not a biography though but she does add notes in the back of the novel to the places she got the inspiration for in Bare Bones. Real life cases though are what she isn't allowed to discuss but she does say she has found a lot of the things she mentions. Because Kathy has this first hand experience, she is able to give clear descriptions which mean you are able to get a very vivid picture in your head - not always good!
The novel is completly in the first person - i.e. 'I' rather than 'she'. This gives the view of only Tempe herself but she does describe the thoughts and feelings of the characters around her although she is sometimes not sure what they are feeling. All the characters can be very believeable but I do feel that her relationship with Andrew Ryan was a little suspicious. I know I kept wondering what his point in the novel was, but I could never really figure it out. The novel is certainly not a steamy romance novel although there are some parts when it feels it is going to go that way - luckily she starts a new chapter and the story continues.
The book contains some humor which breaks up the story from a continuous serious nature. I did find myself laughing at some of the phrases she uses or things some of the characters say which was a bit embarassing when I was on a pretty full bus! Andrew Ryan is mostly the cause of this humour e.g when Tempe and Ryan talk about chromosomes:
"XX gets you the pink booties, XY gets you the blue'.
The title of the book itself is a pun. When bones are found they turn out to be mainly BEAR bones. Several jokes are made through the book as when Tempe is given the job to look at the bones, they almost never have any flesh on them therefore they are 'bare bones'.
It is a very update book which makes references to 9/11 and even to Camilla being invited to the Queen's Jubilee!
One of the things I loved about the book was the way she makes the dog seem human and feeling everything and giving people looks that only humans can do. The dog is called 'Boyd' or 'Hootch' to Ryan, and features more prominently than her neglected cat 'Birdie' who would probably never be suspected of murder if looks could kill going by some of the descriptions given!
A bit I am quite confused with is Tempe's job description. For someone that looks through bone fragments determining who a person was, she seems to spent a LOT of time doing police work! At times she risks her life when I would think it isn't even her job to be there.
Another part I found a little hard to deal with was all the meanings of the words. I am certainly not an expert in forensic anthropology but Kathy uses a lot of medical terms (as well as speaking in French). Most terms are abbreviated to:
"The NTSB investigators liaising with the cops... run our descriptors through NCIC" ...... The who through the what?!?!
I really enjoyed this novel and just saving up to buy another one! I have read that some of the stories can be quite similar and they have the same romance theme running through them with Tempe and Ryan but I am sure they will still be an enjoyable read!
The RRP on this book is 6.99GBP but I got mine for 70p + 2.75GBP P&P which means I still got a big saving on the cost of the book itself from Amazon Marketplace - it was used but is in extreamly good condition!
In Bare Bones Kathy Reichs leads her heroine, Temperance Brennan, into one of her scariest, most gruesome adventures yet.