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I have now read and reviewed several Reichs novels, and always look forward to reading them, even if it's hard to remember which you've read because the titles are so similar! Whilst this one wasn't quite as easy to read, and not Reichs' best, it was still enjoyable.
The front cover tempts us in by telling us this is 'The new Tempe Brennan Bestseller'. Setting this book apart from others is its sense of factualness, as shown by the introductory pages giving us the facts about Masada, the setting for a 1st Century revolt of the Jewish against the Romans, and the following excavations done of the remains by Yadin.
So, what do the background facts have to do with the novel? To begin, a man is murdered and although the scene is set to suggest a suicide, things may be more complex. Enter Tempe Brennan, forensic anthropologist, who looks at bones and decomposed/burned bodies for the authorities, amongst other things she does (she's a very busy woman!). Enter Ryan, a cop and also Tempe's love interest, who's been put on the case. Around the dead man is a shroud of religiousness and tension, with the Jewish families involved not being all too happy about post-mortem dealings. When a mystery man at the hospital hands Tempe a photo of bones and disappears, the case suddenly starts to take a different direction.
It's very complicated to explain, so I won't go into much detail and give the whole plot away. Basically put, Jake, an archaeologist friend of Tempe's enters the scene with great interest in the photo she was given. The three investigate and dig deeper, until they're on a mission far more important, far more complex than they could have imagined. Going to the burial sites for themselves, looking in the loci in which bones have been buried whilst the authorities despise their presence, a question arises: Could the bones they're calling Masada Max be the bones of Jesus Christ?
Okay, so it's a little 'out-there'. However, Reichs has a way of making scenes and characters vivid, of bringing them to live and making them 3D and realistic. I found myself believing in what was happening and identifying with the characters, thanks to her persuasive and richly detailed style of writing. Nonetheless, it's the latter that also comes with a potential downside. The detail is quite complex, this time not just in terms of biology, archaeology and anthropology, but also in terms of history and religion. I found this harder to digest at times, which made it slightly less easy to read and instead took away a smidge of enjoyment.
Having said that, I still loved the characters. If you've read a Reichs novel before you'll be familiar with both Tempe and Ryan, and their relationship, though not having this background knowledge isn't a drawback when reading because Reichs fills us in on all the detail we need to know anyway. It's just an added bonus really, and I always enjoy reading about them; there's something about these two characters that make them identifiable, that enable you to imagine them clearly. I also like the edge of sarcasm and humour Reichs injects, which adds to the overall tone of sharp wit and intelligence throughout the novel.
As a reader of previous novels, however, there was a lack of interest in other characters, such as LaManche, because a great deal of this book takes us to a different location, ie. Jerusalem, and so a lot of the recognisable names/areas/faces get less attention. It's not necessarily a 'bad' thing, but I found the settings and content at times a little convoluted and overly complex, which, as I've already said, dampened the enjoyment and ability to really get lost in this book.
Further praise for Reichs can be found on the back, including : 'The science is fascinating, and every minute in the morgue with Tempe is golden' - The NYT Book Review, and 'It's becoming apparent that Reichs is not just "as good as" Cornwell, she has become the finer writer' - Daily Express.
All in all, this is still an intelligent, original read, though I wouldn't say it's one of Reichs' best.
348 pages over 41 chapters
Fans of Kathy Reichs will need no introduction to both her books and her life. For the sake of any reader who has not yet come across this author, let me give you a brief introduction.
Dr Reichs is a practising forensic anthropologist who divides her time between the state of North Carolina and Montreal in Quebec. Drawing on case histories and using her knowledge of police procedures she has written eight crime novels to date. Each book has become a best seller and her latest achievement has been to bring a new series called simply Bones to the Sky network.
The job of a forensic anthropologist differs from that of a pathologist, both work on crime scenes but anthropology is more the science of working on remains that need to be classified as human or animal. In addition, putrefied remains cannot always determine the age; sex or culture of a skeleton or bones and this is where the art of forensics comes into play.
In Cross Bones Reichs has written a different kind of book to her previous seven. Her character, Temperance Brennan, is usually to be found working on old crime scenes where the study of human remains is usually linked to recent crimes. In this book Reichs has drawn on her first career as an archaeologist to bring a stunning new book to life.
Avram Ferris is an orthodox Jew and a moderately successful businessman. So when his remains are found in a closet on his business premises, a week after he went missing, it looks like a clear case of suicide. But Tempe is brought in anyway due to putrefaction of the corpse and the familys instance that he wasnt suicidal. The combination of Tempes own enquiring nature and a photograph given to her at the autopsy by a stranger sets up a trail of enquiries which will have far-reaching effects.
With the aid of Jake Drum, a biblical archaeologist and Tempes lover, Detective Andrew Ryan, the action shifts to an archaeological dig near Jerusalem. While Jake, (Tempes friend from her University days,) investigates a site of potential religious artefacts, another site called Masada could hold the key to finding out just what Ferris and his associates were involved in.
Whatever they find in the Holy Land could have lasting repercussions on the whole of Christianity and various groups of zealots seem determined that whatever is uncovered will never see the light of day. Both Tempe and Ryan have faced danger before, but in the war-torn land nothing they have faced before can compare to the present danger.
In Reichs usual summary of mixing fact with fiction, this time she actually links her book directly to true life. Normally she only hints at certain cases but the actual facts in this book can be related to archaeological digs and a book presently due to be released by a colleague of hers, Dr James Tabor. His non-fiction book The Jesus dynasty suggests that Jesus actually had a full family, brothers, sisters and even cousins.
Dr Tabor discovered a looted tomb in the year 2000, particles of bones and smashed ossuaries were carbon dated and revealed there had been a family tomb at this location dating back to the 1st century ad. In October 2002 an antiquarys collector announces the existence of a first century ossuary inscribed James, son of Joseph, brother of Jesus. The Israeli government covers it up even denying its existence, but Tabor had reason to believe it had come from the same-looted tomb he had discovered earlier.
This wasnt the first time a dig had been covered up; the Masada site was home to Jewish revolts and was excavated in 1963 to 1965. The remains of up to twenty-five people were found in a nearby cave, but no testing was done and they were reburied in an unmarked communal grave. One photograph did survive and this is what fired both Tabors and Reichs imagination. Clearly there was evidence behind the rumours and it was this that prompted Kathy Reichs to write Cross Bones.
For research purposes she spent a year reading everything pertinent to the case. She also flew to Israel, visiting sites, museums, talking to experts in the field and came away with a sense of wonder. Using a Jewish dealer in antiquities she took the story from her lab in Montreal to Israel. This gives the book a sense of authenticity, although she couldnt actually finish it with any conclusions. Still, it makes for interesting reading and for me I was spellbound all the way through.
The book has received mixed reviews, some love it, and others think it doesnt belong in Reichs normal books. The normal wit is still there; Tempe and Ryan still pursue their on/off relationship, but as the pace picks up the dialogue and the sense of danger becomes darker and more sinister than her previous books. The character of Jake is obviously based on Tabor and the discussions between them become more difficult to follow to the average reader. Detective Ryan also shows a good grasp of the subject matter, leading his character away from the usual banter to show a different, more intellectual side to his character. Its this point that many readers find hard to accept, forgetting perhaps that the character of Tempe wouldnt be attracted to just a good-looking man.
Ryan is a mixture of an Irish background and the French-Canadian, so its not hard to believe he would know a lot about the bible and Christianity in general. Tempe comes from a Catholic family and although her religion is lapsed its fair to say that early indoctrination never really becomes forgotten. Still, its a fair point made by readers that this book is not what one expects from Reichs. The initial murder of Ferris is linked to the story and, as usual reaches a satisfactory conclusion.
The dialogue and action scenes more than made up what the prose lacked in the description of modern-day Israel. There are some lovely deceptive passages in the tomb scenes and also in the final chapter, but to say more would be to spoil the plot. I certainly felt the heat of the country, the early morning calls to payers, the feeling of many types of groups united in one goal, that if proof could be made of Jesus actually having a family, then the knowledge could be twisted in many ways. To introduce descriptions of war-torn areas would have muddied the plot and led the book in wrong directions.
It was enough for me to feel the antagonism of the authorities and the constant brick walls that were set up.
For once Tempe and Ryan share a common goal and their relationship grows up in this book. Finally they are both talking the same language and interacting, as lovers should.
Contrary to other reviews, (many of them from the Internet and Amazon in particular), I found this a pacy thriller, with plenty of danger and near-fatal accidents. The subject matter I found to so unusual I intend to read the book by James Tabor. I found the archaeology a refreshing change for the character of Tempe and at last Andrew Ryan becomes more than a sketchy character.
Would I recommend it? Absolutely, its time Tempe gets a change of pace and emerges as more than the usual wisecracking tough woman.
True believers in the rigid form of the bible may find this sacrilegious, but then what would a die-hard Christian be doing reading of murder and mayhem?
Kathy Reichs has finally given her character something to really sink her teeth into, and not before time.
If, like me, you find the subject enthralling then visit the site at www.Kathy Reichs.com and for information on James Tabors book, www.jesusdynasty.com.
I havent added any footnotes to technical terms; it has already been covered in a previous review.
Its worth shopping around for this book, at £11.99 in the hardback version; Amazon offers it at just £7.71.
Thanks as always for reading.
Temperance Brennan is back, a barely recognisable body has turned up and her forensic expertise is required. As she discovers more about the victim, a man gives her a photograph, telling her it will provide the answer to the victims death.....
Dective Andrew Ryan is back in Tempe's life not only on the case , that gets stranger and more complex as you go deeper into the book, but also in her private life to. They end up following a trail to Israel, and with help of an old friend of Tempes' they get involved in a mystery as old as Jesus - one that could rewrite 2000 years of religous history. This is a very complex story and if you are new to Kathy Reichs then this is not the place to start, you have to go back to the beginning - 'Deja Dead' this will give you the full background you need to fully apreciate these books, and you will love them. If you like Patricia Cornwell then start Kathy Reichs, she is far and away the superior writer and the best part is she actually does the job that Temperance Brennan does. Kathy Reichs is Forensic anthropologist for the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, State of North Carolina and for the Laboratoire de Sciences Judiciares et de Medecine Legale for the province of Qubec. She is one of nly 56 forensic anthropologists certified by the American Board of Forensic Anthropology. She recently offered her services to the London police to help indentify victims of the London bombings.
A loyal Kathy Reichs reader, I broke my usual habit of waiting for the paperback edition of this book because the synopsis sounded exciting.
If you have never read a KR novel, they all feature Dr Temperance Brennan, a world-class forensic anthropologist.
For the newcomer to KR novels Forensic Anthropology is, basically: Are the remain human? When did the individual die? Who is the individual? What was the manner of death? What happened to the individual after death?
Also, I think I should point out here that Kathy Reichs, in real life, is actually Dr Kathy Reichs, a Forensic Anthropologist for the office of the Chief Medical Examiner, State of North Carolina and the Laboratoire des Sciences Judiciaries et de Medécine Legale for The Province of Quebec. She is a frequent expert witness in criminal trials.
So, Dr Reichs knows her stuff.
This, her eighth novel, was described as explosive and gripping.
When an Orthodox Jewish man is found dead in Montreal, with what appears at first to be self-inflicted gunshot wounds, doubts are raised during Tempes examination of the body. An unknown man slips her a photograph of a skeleton, telling her it holds the answer to the victims death. What is the significance of this photo? Was the dead man in the morgue involved in the black market trade in religious artifacts and antiquities? With the help of Jacob Drum, a biblical
archaeologist and Tempes lover, Detective Andrew Ryan, the trio follow a trail of clues all the way to Israel. In the Holy Land, she learns of a strange ossuary ¹ at Massada², a shroud, and a tomb that may have held the remains of Jesuss family. Could this lead to the rewriting of two thousand years of religious history? Itd make interesting reading, wouldnt it?
This was going to be one thrilling book, full of adventure and controversy. The more Tempe learns, the greater the danger. Weaving fact and fiction together, It promised to raise radical questions about Christs death.
Quote: With its lightning pace, intricately plotted story, riveting and state-of-the-art forensic detail, this is Kathy Reichs most compelling and dramatic novel yet.
What did I think of it?
I tried, I really did. The first chapter was promising. I read on. And on. But truthfully? Apart from the idea being exciting, I found the pacing slow and tiresome. I know what I expected from the story was a great deal of breathtaking excitement but what I actually got was something of a complicated lesson on biblical history. And bones. Lots of bones. The turgid explanation of the placement of dem bones might be of great interest to those with a real interest and understanding of forensic anthropology, but for the ordinary reader like me? It added nothing to the plot and I glazed over.
So intricate was the plot, concerning the possibility that these 2000 year-old bones might just be those of Jesus or at least a member of his family, that on more than one occasion, Reichs used the novelists reminder tool of having Tempe and Andrew listing what weve learned so far. Tempe puts a theory to Andy, using language only another expert in forensic anthropology would understand (remember, hes just a Detective) but clever Andy jumps right in and not only shows he immediately grasps what the hell shes talking about but will put forward yet more detailed theories earlier discovered but completely forgotten by us, leaving the average reader feeling somewhat stupid that they just dont understand.
It was dull. Complex biblical and archaeological histories are, frankly, out of place in a fictional novel. Elsewhere, and with appendix notes to refer to, they would make for fascinating reading but dropping in a potted history without knowing any of the background leaves the reader confused and non the wiser.
It was a bold attempt. It just failed for me.
Scattered within the story are tongue in cheek references to Dan Brown's Da Vinci Code Also, at the end of the book, Reichs refers us to James Turbors book The Jesus Dynasty (which I understand was the inspiration for her book) and directs us to his website: jesusdynesty.com Do pop over there if youre at all interested.
The only relief in the book was the dialogue, which was its usual sparkling self, though here again Tempe would come away with a sparkling one-liner either to herself or someone else which sort of diluted potentially menacing or exciting moments. If she wasnt going to take it seriously, why should we?
My opinion in a nutshell?
1. You probably wont consider reading this book: If you have pure blind faith in the Bibles stories, in particular the death and resurrection of Jesus.
2. But then again, you might read it: If you have an open and enquiring mind and looking for some nuggets to ponder.
3. Youll probably enjoy it: If you dont mind taking your time over a story, maybe set it aside for a while, have a think, go back and even re-read parts.
4. You probably wont enjoy it: If, like me, you have to re-read parts firstly to try and make sense of the highly complicated biblical history and also to try and pronounce the names of some of the characters.
The difficulty in pronunciation of the characters names was a major stumbling block for me. Not the authors fault, she had to be authentic, but it is a fact that odd dialect and foreign names do alienate the main reader. You lose the flow and, more importantly, you probably have no idea who these people are, no matter how many times theyre mentioned.
That said, I think an American audience would find some of the names easier to understand, just as I can read and understand a Scottish Gaelic name (eg Rhuaridh = Rory).
One other thing which Reichs failed to deliver was the sense of place. She travelled to Israel. I have never been to Israel and apart from stories from war torn areas of this far away place, I dont know much about it. She failed to give me an image of an Israel in Christs time, nor of an Israel in the here and now. Nothing about the real Israeli; no smells, no sounds no colourful imagery. She could have been anywhere.
The fact and fiction was doubtlessly cleverly woven, and the casual reader wouldnt see the joins which, I think, is where fiction becomes fact and people end up with egg on their face when trying to impress! I was interested in the history in this book and will make it my business to find out about the story of Massada because it intrigues me.
So, sorry Kathy, this book was a huge disappointment to me. If this had been the first of Kathy Reichs books I had read, I would never have read another one.
¹ Ossuary: Receptical of bones of the dead (usually in a cave from ancient times)
² Massada: Located in the Dead Sea Region of Israel. (Hebrew for fortress) is a boat-shaped, craggy mountain. Upon it one of the greatest epics in the history of mankind was played out - the defeat of the Jews (and the Kingdom of Israel) by the hands of the Romans. For further information you can go to:
For further information, fans of Kathy Reichs (and those of you who might like to find out more about her work) could visit KRs website: www.Kathyreichs.com and there is a link there, under Forensic Science, which will take you to Dr Michael Burdens website where you can watch a real-life autopsy. Not at all gruesome and extremely interesting and educational.
I have given the book 3 stars for 'average' because although I didn't enjoy the book, I can't mark it as 'bad' because it was well written and other fans might enjoy it. Who am I to say what you should read and shouldn't?!
And the ISNB: 0434010405 (If you want to pop right on over to Amazon and buy a copy!)