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This is the latest Kathy Reichs book I've read; I'm familiar with her style as I've read/reviewed a few before, so I knew roughly what to expect. This book fits into the crime/thriller genre and whilst it may not be everyone's cuppa tea, and I agree that some of the detailing can be quite confusing, it was an intelligent and enjoyable read nonetheless.
Break No Bones introduces us to Temperance (aka Tempe) Brennan, the protagonist in Reich's novels. She's a forensic anthropologist, working several sites and at the start of the novel she's leading an archaeological field school digging prehistoric graves on the Dewees Island, north of Charleston, South Carolina. All seems to be going well until one student discovers a skeleton that shouldn't be there, with soft-tissue retaining the vertebrae connections.
This newly found white male becomes the centre of attention on this small island, and it's not long before the news has its own field day. Although temporarily staying at a friend's house in Charleston, Tempe stays on to assist in the unfolding events. As investigators take over and Brennan offers her expertise, the question of what happened to this man becomes more complex. It seems that this event may be linked to other missing persons in Charleston, but then it goes further than that.
At the same time, Tempe's estranged husband, Pete, stays in Charleston with Tempe on business whilst sorting out the GMC company's mess. These two seemingly unlinked paths start to cross and things start to get more and more complicated and sinister.
Intro Ryan, Tempe's newer love interest. As awkward as the situation may be, he goes to Charleston to stay with Tempe to get to spend some time with her, but soon becomes entangled in the investigations as he offers his detective expertise.
So, we have three key characters working the case on the sidelines, along with various other characters and police. Without saying too much, the web of characters and events grows as theories and suspicions are tried and tested.
What I like so much about Reich's novels is her way of writing. She makes it easy to get absorbed into the novel, to identify with the characters and feel gripped to want to know more. This book was no different. Whilst many characters were introduced, we get their backgrounds and a sense of who they are, especially the three key people (Brennan, Ryan & Pete). The other side of the story to the detective work is the personal lives of these three; I liked reading about Tempe's everyday goings-on, her relationships, her daughter Katy, even the way she comes home to a dog & cat and 'zaps' a microwave dinner. These small details add up and give you a greater overall sense of the events and those involved, and this richness makes it enjoyable and engrossing to read.
I did, however, find that the depth of detail on the cases was quite confusing. Consistent with previous Reich's novels I've read, there's a lot of biological and forensic detail, often displayed as part of a conversation (ie. someone will ask 'what does that mean', at which point Tempe gives a detailed description using lots of long words!). I like this because it gives the plot credibility, but it also gets a little tiring at times. The only other thing was that the plot itself got fairly confusing. You definitely need to pay attention when reading to keep up with who's who and what's going on. There's a lot of names and a lot of things to keep in mind, although through Temp's thoughts & dialogue we're constantly reminded and hinted at them so we don't get too lost.
Praise for Reich's can be found on the back of the book, including : "It's becoming apparent that Reichs is not just 'as good as' Cornwell, she has become the finer writer' - Daily Express.
Overall, this is an intelligent, detailed and thought-provoking read. It's a book you need to focus on, but the plot is original and the characters are rich, so it was easy enough for me to want to read to the end and enjoy it.
RRP £7.99 (paperback)
The ninth installment in the highly popular and best-selling Tempe Brennan series of novels written by real-life forensic anthropologist, Kathy Reichs carries on in the tradition of it's predescessors with another gripping and ingenious mystery that begs to be solved.
Tempe is on a controversial archeological dig with students when she encounters a decomposed body too recent to be part of the excavation. Reporting the possible suspicious death to her best friend and local coroner, Emma Rousseau, Tempe discovers her friend is terminally ill and unable to investigate further as she struggles to hide the seriousness of her illness from her colleagues. As a favour, Tempe agrees to co-ordinate with the local authorities in a bid to unravel the identity of her mystery corpse and discover a possible cause of death; then other bodies begin to turn up that appear to be linked both to the original body from the excavation and a missing persons case currently being looked into by someone Tempe knows very very well.
Enter Tempe's estranged husband from whom she has long been seperated yet still maintains a very close (but platonic) relationship with much to the jealousy of her current on-off beau, Canadian Homicide Detective Ryan. When all three end up sharing time under the same roof, there is more than a little tension at first that slowly begins to unravel as the trio find themselves getting involved in far more than Tempe could ever have bargained for when she first began excavating her dig...
Break no bones is by no means the best of Reich's work to date but it is far from the worst and even on an off-day, she is still able to leave her closest competitors stranded in her wake with her amazingly authentic plots that seem to carry the story along constantly at a break-neck pace. Some people have commented that her books are sometimes bogged down by all the scientific mumbo-jumbo she uses in her novels but I always find this just reminds the reader that here is a novellist that knows what she is talking about and simply adds to the authenticity and realism of her books!! Of course just like the late lamented Jessica Fletcher and Dick Van Dyke in Diagnosis Murder, it seems as though Tempe cannot do anything in her life without stumbling across a crime scene (even her estranged ex-husband mentions as much in a sly nod to the reader during the course of the novel) but then a book which consisted simply of Tempe doing her chores and goingt shopping for food probably wouldn't sell as well I'm guessing -lol!!
One of the more interesting parts of this novel is the author's note at the end that explains from whence Reichs has got much of her inspiration for her preceeding books in the Tempe Brennan series and attempts to link the recent T.V show based on her novels into some kind of perspective with the books. A point to note is that her most recent novel (the next book after this) also comes complete at the moment with the first episode from season one of Bones (as her T.V series is affectionally known) but having watched a couple of episodes from the boxset I recieved last year as an xmas present I can honestly say that I'm not the shows biggest fan. Still maybe I just need to detach the books from the show a little more-something which untill now I have found difficult to do.
Certainly if you are a big fan of the novels so far, you will not be disappointed by this next installment and if you haven't read any of Reichs books before- never fear; I didn't really feel as though I needed to read the others before this to enjoy the book (though it does give the reader an advantage) as it is fairly easy to pick up whats going on vis-a-vis the whole ex-husband/ new boyfriend theme without any previous background information and there is very little aside from the main characters that links this to the other books in the series.
I'm hoping that we return to some of the diffrent scenario's seen in Reich's previous novels for her next work (previous plots included Tempe at the scene of a plane crash doing recovery work of the bodies and performing a dig on mass war graves in Guatamela) but as long as the standard stays as consistent as this, I'm sure I will remain faithful and loyal to my favourite female author of the moment....
I am a fan of American TV shows and have been known to rent or buy entire box sets and watch them in a couple of weeks. As a rule I like science fiction, but am also partial to some good quality crime drama like CSI. Therefore, when I spotted a new series that was made by Fox (the people behind The X Files) and starred David Boreanaz (who used to play Angel in Angel) I was very much intrigued. Bones followed the adventures of a Dr Temperance Brenann, an anthropologist who works for a museum, but is regularly asked to help the FBI investigate skeletons. It did not take me long to realise that the characters in the series were based on a set of popular books by Kathy Reichs (herself an anthropologist) so when I stumbled across one I thought that I would give it a read to see if it was as good as the show.
'Break No Bones' is the most recent title by Kathy Reichs and sees Dr Brennan supervising a dig with a group of students uncovering ancient remains. However, something is amiss when they stumble across one body that still has flesh attached and seems all together more modern. Brennan informs her friend the local Coroner of her findings but the Coroner is too ill to investigate, leaving Brennan the only local expert. Her investigations soon become far more dangerous when two more corpses are discovered each having a similar MO. Can Brennan untangle the different strands of the case to link the three corpses together before anyone else dies?
I had a number of issues with this book as to why it was not as good as the TV show. Comparing the formats of television and fiction is probably not the best thing to do as they are so different, but it is the mindset in which I read the book. Bones on TV is; 45 minutes of fast editing, a storyline filled with intrigue and more importantly, humour. I felt that Break No Bones the book was 500+ pages of drawn out mystery and po-faced science. All the sexiness of the show was removed in the book and goes to prove that not all adaptations are like their source material.
Putting aside my love of the TV serial I will explain some of the issues that I had with the book. Firstly, this is a long way into the series and the first that I have read and the characters were not immediately accessible to me as I definitely felt that I had missed a lot of development over the past 10 books or so. I would advise new readers to the series to try and start the books from the beginning so that they fully understand Brennans relationship with her ex-husband, new lover and Coroner friend.
I also felt that the characters themselves did not gel with me, probably because I am a 20 something male and the lead is a 40 something women. Dr Brennan is a middle aged women dealing with new lovers and old friends and I found it hard to relate. Reichs writes her well because she is close to the author but I could not help feeling she was a bit dull. I also had issue with the cancer storyline in the book that always seems to crop up when I read a book written about older women I found it all a bit depressing.
My misgivings also run to the actual mystery itself. There was nothing particularly wrong with it, but it all felt a bit average and cliché. The overall theme of the book has been written about in films, TV and literature 100s of times before and a lot better. In fact Bones itself tackles the issue in its first series in a far rounder and succinct way. I wonder if by this book Reichs was running out of ideas? Reichs also has the habit of over describing the most obvious and mundane of things meaning that some paragraphs are full of boring and unneeded text. This means that the book feels slightly too long and somewhat patronising at times.
Break No Bones is by no means a bad book. The characters are well written and the mystery holds the attention long enough. Perhaps it could have been a bit more exciting, a bit shorter and more like the show, but it still holds up as an average read. For fans of the series I am sure that the character development will be a joy as a lot happens to Brennan in the novel. This may add a star or two for them, but as someone new to the series I found the book a little dry, but passable entertainment. I would not be averse to reading another in the series, but there is little here to make me rush out and buy the lot.
Author: Kathy Reichs
Price: amazon uk - £4.31
play.com - £4.49
It's the second-to-last day of archaeological field school. Dr Temperance Brennan's students are working on a site of prehistoric graves on Dewees, a barrier island north of Charleston, South Carolina, when a decomposing body is uncovered in a shallow grave off a lonely beach... The skeleton is articulated, the bone fresh and the vertebrae still connected by soft-tissue; the remains are encased in rotted fabric and topped by wisps of pale, blond hair - a recent burial, and a case Tempe must take. Dental remains and skeletal gender and race indicators suggest that the deceased is a middle-aged white male - but who was he? Why was he buried in a clandestine grave? And what does the unusual vertical hairline fracture of the sixth cervical vertebrae signify? While Tempe is trying to piece together the evidence, her personal life is thrown into turmoil. When a bullet - intended, perhaps, for her - puts Tempe's estranged husband Pete in hospital, her unexpectedly emotional response complicates her on-off relationship with Detective Andrew Ryan... But before long, another body is discovered - and Tempe finds herself drawn deeper into a shocking and chilling investigation, set to challenge her entire view of humanity...