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I've read and reviewed several Kathy Reichs novels now and I'd definitely consider myself a fan. Devil Bones brings us the same Reichs trademarks and characters, mixed with some devilish twists, though I didn't think it was quite up to the standard of some of her previous novels.
The front cover tells us that this is by 'The International Bestseller', and that Reichs was 'The author who inspired the hit TV series Bones'. That's quite a lot to live up to and so I expected this book to be gritty, dark and atmospheric.
Devil Bones opens with the discovery of something a bit darker and different to the usual body discoveries. We find an underground chamber with ritualistic displays, a skull in a cauldron, chickens and beads. A headless body turns up at a river, complete with Satanic symbols.
Enter Dr Temperance Brennan, forensic anthropologist, called in to investigate the discovery. During her analysis she looks into the symbolic significance and we learn about different forms of Satanism and ritualistic displays. At first, it seems the discovery is a Santeria display, but events take a different course as new information comes to light.
Heading the investigation are cops Rinaldi and Slidell, who I've read about in other Reichs novels. We also see Ryan, the lover who loved and left Temp, and the return of an old flame from highschool, Charlie. Then there's Katy, Temp's daughter. All in all, we see the cast of much loved characters that fans of Reichs will be familiar with.
I won't give any more away about the plot, but I found it intricate, intelligent and original, making it an interesting read. Whilst the technical aspects were quite complex and lengthy to read about, I quite enjoy the style of writing, which entertains but also teaches us about forensics and, in this case, Satanistic facts.
The characters, events and scenes were well described as always, so it was easy to get absorbed into the book and imagine yourself as part of the story. It doesn't matter if you haven't read a Reichs novel before either because character history and relationships were detailed enough so as not to require any previous knowledge. That said, knowing the characters beforehand made this more enjoyable for me to read and thus made me look forward to pick the book back up.
I can see that some may find the detail and factual information a little off-putting, and I would also say that this wasn't the best of her books that I've read. There were some events that I felt were slightly out of place and not fully developed, perhaps due to the emphasis on devils and suchlike, meaning Devil Bones didn't have the same well-rounded feel to it. Overall I think that the atmosphere, plot and characters were brought to live well enough to make this worth a read, but it wasn't quite up to the same standards as some of her other novels unfortunately.
370 pages over 39 chapters
RRP £7.99 but selling on Amazon for £4.07
When 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. Soon after, a second body is found, mutilated with devilish symbols 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, it seems that books about female forensic scientists are ten a penny and if you surf your TV channels you can find an episode of one of those CSI programmes 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 she has a much-married and multiply-divorced sister and a troubled daughter, either of which can 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. Perhaps it was always thus and I just wasn't paying enough attention. 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 also 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. If I wanted a text book on demonic and pagan ritual I'd go to the library.
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 with 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, Kathy Reichs
Available new on Amazon for £5.49 if I haven't succeeded in putting you off.
A first version of this review appeared on www.curiousbookfans.co.uk
I've read several of Kathy Reichs' books with Temperance Brennan as the lead but not in order. This one came to me from a friend who lent me a whole stack of books to see me through the New Year blues and it didn't disappoint.
Temperance (Temp) is a forensic anthropologist who studies bones and forensics so when a seemingly ritualistic scene is found in a dark cellar she is called in to find out how old the bones are and who they belong to. As she gets to work on this a headless corpse is also found with satanic symbols carved into it and Temp has to establish if the bodies are related somehow. With politicians and citizens blaming devil worshippers and vigilantes taking matters into their own hands Temp has to figure out just what is going on.
The storyline sounds simple but I can assure you it's not. At no point will you know what's going to happen or who's behind the bodies and the conclusion is not what you expect as it always is with these books.
Besides the plot we also have Temp's haphazard personal life to contend with, this is done in such a way that isn't melodramatic or mushy which is excellent as so many authors stray into soppy when they have a female lead. If you've read any of the other books in this series you will know about Temp's love life but this isn't gone over so much it makes those of us who already know bits groan with repetitive boredom. The subject is just briefly explained then the story moves on.
Temp is a thoroughly likeable character too with plenty of fire in her belly and dare I say it, she's sassy. This is also managed in such a way that she is someone you'd like to know and doesn't stray into aggression which is also another problem with female leads. She is described perfectly and definitely someone you find yourself rooting for.
Add to that the purely fascinating subject of forensics and bones and body parts and you've got yourself a winning combination. It becomes a total page turner that you can't possibly guess the ending to or even any of the conclusions along the way.
Kathy Reichs is in fact a forensic anthropologist so she knows her stuff and I assume Temp is based on herself so these books flow with the author really knowing her main character.
It's a strong storyline, the main character's very likeable and not at all contrived, twists and turns litter the pages of this book and it will have you desperate to read the next chapter. Kathy Reichs writes in a precise and punchy way that doesn't pad the pages out with excessive description but gives us enough information to ponder over. She also injects alot of humour into the book which can actually have you chuckling as you read!
The other characters in the book, some of whom feature in previous books, add perfectly to the storyline and we don't so much get to know them but they are very much like people everyone knows and can relate to.
I really like these books and love Reichs' style of writing. Anyone who likes a thriller with dead bodies and plenty of forensics will love these, especially if you don't like melodramatic female leads.
Devil Bones is available to buy from Amazon for £4.15 new and from Amazon Marketplace for 1p. If you like an interesting thriller I highly recommend this book, it's excellent.
The eleventh book in the Temperance Brennan series writen by Kathy Reichs, who is also jointly responsible for hit T.V series Bones loosely inspired by the characters in these novels, begins with a grisly discovery. In the abandoned sub-basement of a dilapitated building, a skull has been found along with two cauldrons filled with dirt that conceal their own hidden secrets. The whole thing looks like the site for some kind of Voodoo or Bruja ritual and it is up to Tempe to determine the age of both the bones found inside the cauldrons and the skull in order to decide whether foul play is involved. Shortly afterwards, the decapitated body of a young man wrapped in tarpaulin is also found on the banks of a river; strange satanic symbols carved into his chest. Homicide Detective Erskine Slidell thinks both cases are connected but Tempe has trouble fitting in how Voodoo or Bruja could be linked to Satanism. Still, she begins investigating a link between the two and this leads her into a journey deep into the heart of alternative religions such as Santeria and Wicca. Meanwhile, Tempe's progress is dogged by an enthusiastic journalist eager to dig up material for a true-crime novel and a story she thinks will make her career. And evangelical County Commissioner Lingo is keen to stir up public unrest with his sermons and speeches about the dangers of straying from the path of The Lord and following Satan into darkness. With her own personal demons to face and ambiguity still lingering over the status of her relationship with Canadian Detective Ryan, further complicated by the new appearance in her life of a former high-school flame, Tempe has more than enough to keep her hands full in what is one of the better of the recnt Reichs' novels. Once again Kathy Reichs proves why she is at the top of her game with yet another competent thriller that shows no signs of going stale!
If I had one complaint, it would be that I am not keen on her recent style of ending almost each chapter either on a cliff-hanger or on a veiled hint of what is next to come. Once or twice in a novel is acceptable, but Reichs has gotten into the habit of doing this with nearly every chapter thus almost over-doing it with the suspense. It almost makes reading her novels a bit like a roller-coaster ride with lots of ups and downs but this is only a personal issue and not one that would stop me from reading these books because Reichs is still better than most other female crime-writers, only Tess Geritsen and Karin Slaughter come close at the moment in my mind- P.J.Tracey is good but not in the same league, and when she concentrates more on the forensic anthropology and less on Tempe's stormy relationship problems, her books make for verey good reading indeed! In point of fact, the weaker of her novels are all those that focus more on Tempe's on-off status with ex-husband, Pete and new flame, Ryan. This latest, I am glad to say, is back to basics and more centred around a tightly-knit and complicated plot that, at times, seems chock-full of clues and red herrings aimed to mis-direct and manipulate the reader away from the genuine culprit.
Once again too, Reichs uses inspiration from her own experiences as a real-life forensic anthropologist and even dedicates the story to a whole host of Police Officers who have died doing their duty in Charlotte, North Carolina where the book is set. Unlike some authors who have given up their careers to follow their writing full-time, Reichs still splits her time between consulting for Bones, writing these thrillers and doing her original job as a consulting forensic expert. The front of this book almost reads as a resume as it details the main bullet points of Kathy's career and much of the opening and closing pages is full of glorious self-promotion. This is no doubt more down to the publishers than the writer herself, even the cover states "The author who inspired the hit T.V series Bones", and comes across as perhaps a little self-congratulory but don't let that put you off. Because if you like graphic, accurately-detailed forensic thrillers and you like your heroines gritty, tough and uncompromising then you are a fool for not picking up this series! This paticular novel can be easily read as a stand-alone with no previous experience of the character and that is another advantage. Too many thrillers these days rely on the fact that you have read the others in a series. Not here, this can be enjoyed as much by newcomers as it can by established Temperance fans. And if you like Bones, it wouldn't hurt to discover just where the ideas originated because these books knock spots off the T.V show....