* Prices may differ from that shown
I have read and reviewed several Reichs novels now and consider myself a fan, so I was quite excited when I came across this in the library as it's rare I'll find one anymore in there that I haven't already read! I enjoyed this as I thought I would for the characters, the intelligent detail and engaging writing style, though I have to knock a star off for the level of confusion generated by the plot becoming a little too clever and puzzling.
I've actually just discovered that this is also called 'Spider Bones' - a little confusing when I searched for 'Mortal Remains' on Amazon for a price and couldn't find it! On the cover it reads 'Death by misadventure? Or brutal murder? De Tempe Brennan Investigates', as a tag line to draw us in.
We're introduced to the much loved Reichs character Dr Temperence Brennan, aka Tempe, forensic anthropologist and consult in various regions. She's called to Hemmingford, Quebec, to investigate the scene of a drowning. After rescuing the corpse and taking a closer look, it seems like the man died during a strange sexual outing in the river. Medical evidence suggests the body was that of John Lowery. Except there's a problem. Lowery was declared dead 4 decades ago back in 1968 as a victim of a Huey crash in Vietnam, his body now buried in North Carolina. How is that possible...?
Tempe takes a look at Lowery's grave but meets friction with his father, who is unwilling to provide DNA in an attempt to sort out the truth. He wants his son to remain having died a hero years ago, so Tempe sends the remains to JPAC, where they run operations to recover American's who have lost their lives or gone missing in conflict. The centre is in Hawaii and whilst there she contacts her daughter, Katy, who isn't doing so well. She also contacts her ex, Detective Andrew Ryan, who is also struggling with his own daughter. Thinking it could be a good vacation for them, she invites Ryan and their daughters down to see the sights of Hawaii whilst she works, and so she can also get some detective input from Ryan. But it's not long until things get even more complicated; other bodies turn up, one with John Lowery's dog tags included. In the meantime, Tempe gets called to investigate a shark death that could close off a popular beach, until she thinks the circumstances there aren't so cut and dry as an accident and unfortunate shark attack. She has a lot on her plate, and things just get more and more complicated...
I won't say any more on the premise but this is roughly what's given in the blurb, which seems like quite a lot to me. However, there's no way of piecing together what happened or guessing any endings with this one, because, like I said, things get complicated. I liked the premise in the sense that the web of characters grows and the investigation gains depth with each layer of mystery. It also enables Reichs to give us some lessons, such as on the US military's Joint POW/MIA Accounting command (JPAC) that tries to bring home lost soliders. There's a lot of detail and I found it quite engaging and engrossing.
The characters were fantastic as always, and having read numerous novels in the past I was familiar with several of them so I enjoyed their presence. Reichs has a brilliant way of 'bringing them to life' so to speak and giving each their own distinct personality, with the quips and humour between Ryan and Tempe being great to read. Tempe herself is a character is one that I love to read about, and can always make the novel worthwhile reading.
What I wasn't so keen on was the confusion I started to feel. Closer towards the end, I found myself struggling to keep up with the names and dates and who's who. All of a sudden I lost some interest because I couldn't work out quite what was going on or how they got to the assumptions they did. It got resolved in the end because Reichs can update the reader throughout and help clarify things, but it did make some parts a little more challenging to feel engaged with because of the confusion. I think she may have tried to be a little too complicated with some parts of this towards the end. Having said that, the premise and ending were still well thought through and cleverly developed, so it definitely made for an intelligent read.
It's her writing style, and characters, that made this book one of those you don't want to put down. Even when I was losing some enjoyment from confusion, I still wanted to read it. It's fluid, gripping, entertaining and intelligent all in one go. She can paint a picture of the scene well and this book, the 13th in the series, was no different.
On the back is further praise for Reichs in general, including 'Reichs has reasserted her supremacy in the field' - The Independent, and 'Reading Reichs is always an education one way or another. There is plenty of action...but it is the detail that actually makes it gripping' - Evening Standard. I'd definitely agree with the latter in the sense that Reichs does give lessons on various things, from the history of the area where she is, to details of forensic technology; I always come away feeling more knowledgeable and I find it adds to the interest, even if I don't remember it all afterwards!
All in all, this is one I would recommend, but probably only if you can give it your attention, especially after the half way point; if you miss out on any details or start to confuse names then you may end up a little lost like I was! It's top crime thriller writing, however, and blends intelligence, entertainment and mystery well.
39 chapters over 302 pages (hardback)
Selling for £5.99 on Amazon (paperback, under 'Spider Bones')
"Mortal Remains" is the UK version of Kathy Reich's more appropriately entitled book "Spider Bones" and is the latest instalment of the Temperance Brennan series. Now an avid fan of Reich, once I had read one book I bought the rest and quickly updated myself on the lives of Brennan and Andrew Ryan (her FBI sidekick), these days I await the next instalment.
"Mortal Remains" was therefore hot on my to buy list and is the 13th book in the series. It is currently only out in hardback and is available in all good bookstores for an average price of £11.99. You can imagine I was thrilled to find a copy in my local charity shop for just £2 and in excellent condition.
In this instalment, Brennan's expertise as a Forensic Anthropologist takes her to Hawaii where she is requested by JPAC (Joint - Prisoner of war, missing in action - Accounting Command) to assist with an investigation. Brennan who has already started an investigation in Montreal, been linked with an investigation in North Carolina and had her emotional daughter turn up on her doorstep for support jets off to Hawaii where the cases all combine and Ryan turns up too!
Is this a case of miss-identity? Was a man who was buried in 1968 after a Huey crash in Vietnam really alive until just recently? Has Tempe just walked into something she cannot handle?
Kathy Reich novels are usually easy to read, informative on a practical level and the relationships of her key characters are carried throughout the series. However you always get a brief overview of any on-going relationships, which means picking up any book shouldn't be an issue.
Reich always explains the professional jargon and acronyms used throughout her books and is keen to ensure her readers understand the technicalities of a forensic investigation, without boring them in the process. She completes her research before she writes and she explains this in an acknowledgement at the beginning of each book. I have never found her books confusing nor complicated.
However, this book really didn't do Reich justice for me. I found the story okay, the acronyms persistently challenging in that I kept forgetting what they meant. I struggled a bit with the toing and froing between cases and whilst I understand the case itself would be complicated I felt the link between them could have been made easier for the reader.
Overall I felt the storyline dragged, the plot whilst elaborate was weak in places with other odd pieces thrown in to bulk it out.
In all Brennan novels she is the victim of some sort of attack or life threatening pursuit. This one was no different, but it was a very minor part of the book and overlooked quite quickly.
This book as with most is quite fast paced in the way it is written for the characters and it is clear to see them developing, but I felt that this book overall did not live up to my expectations at all.
That said I persisted with it and read it over just a few days. I feel that perhaps Reich has got to a point where she may be focusing on her news series which is due out on May of this year rather than concentrating on providing another excellent instalment of the Brennan series.
My other issue with this book is that the acknowledgement at the beginning and the Forensic Files information at the end all refer to the novel as "Spider Bones". I find this oversight a little odd when changing the name of the novel for the UK audience. Why change the name but refer to it by its USA title in the write up. For anybody who didn't know that this novel was indeed originally called "Spider Bones", this would make for very confusing reading.
Kathy Reichs is one of only seventy seven board certified forensic anthropologists so who better to write a book about it? Reichs doesn't just try to fill you with facts about anthropology but looks to write an enjoyable book about something she obviously enjoys doing.
~ Background ~
Mortal Remains is the 13th book in the series that follows Dr Tempe Brennan around the world of anthropology. There are other regular characters that have developed throughout the series and include her on/off detective lover Andrew Ryan and her daughter Katy. Although this is the 13th book in the series, it would never be essential to read the previous books as although there are some connections to previous storylines, each runs on its own.
~ The Plot ~
In 1968, a man by the name of John Lowery was declared dead. A victim of a Huey crash in Vietnam who was returned home to his family and had been long since buried. When Tempe Brennan is called to the scene of a suspicious drowning it's the start of a big web in which Tempe must unravel. How can John Lowery have died in the present times when he's already buried?
Lowerys' father insists Tempe handle the case and unravels the truth herself so she must travel to Hawaii with her daughter Katy in tow to re-examine the remains at the Military base. Katy is going through her own pain and it's not long before detective Andrew Ryan turns up with her daughter - an ex heroin addict that keeps getting herself into trouble.
It's not long before another set of bones appear and Tempe is called into another case entirely. Which case will endanger Tempe and those she loves and who will come out of it alive?
~ My Opinion ~
This may be the 13th book in the series but Kathy Reichs still manages to grip the reader with a new situation each time. The book is given a renewed freshness with the change of location to somewhere she hasn't discussed before, even if the characters do largely remain the same.
Tempes' failed romance with detective Andrew Ryan is still hanging over her head and in my opinion affects her whilst she's at her work though not to the extent she would make mistakes. Her mind tends to drift to thoughts of what he's doing and the jealousy when he's speaking to someone else is very clear for all to see. This clearly shows a weakness in her character and in my opinion makes her more human.
This book was slightly different to others though in that there weren't really any flashbacks like the reader is used to seeing and if I'm perfectly honest the danger in her life was nothing like previous books. The detail and the forensic facts were still there but on some occasions the storyline seemed very weak. In previous novels, peoplee were kidnapped, attacked or stalked but this book seems to focus more on the bones than other incidents. It's not a bad thing but it did involve more jargon than usual and it did take more effort to read and understand.
The actual ideas surrounding the numerous sets of bones was a good one but I don't think she's managed to pull it off this time to the same extent as others. It could just be that war books and those connected to wars have never interested me rather than the book was a failure. It still took me less than 2 days to read from start to finish but I was disappointed at the end when I realised there wasn't the same level of suspense.
Her daughter, Katy, was introduced a little bit more in this novel and I do wonder if this is for future novels or if this was perhaps a lack of inspiration for new characters. Maybe this was Reichs' way of taking some of the heat off of Tempe for a change as surely there are only so many times one person can be kidnapped or end up with a gun to the head?
The chapters were quite short as is her usual style so it's very easy to say I'll just read one more chapter and still be reading 2 hours later. Try and put the book down after you've begun, I dare you!
~ Overall Verdict ~
Kathy Reichs has once again written a novel that you don't want to put down but it wasn't as enjoyable as others in the past. She clearly knows what she's talking about and has extensive knowledge about bones and the agencies that are involved in the processing and identification of remains. There was one point in the book where if you're paying close attention you'll see a slip where she mentioned someone was staying somewhere but 5 minutes later were somewhere completely different and had been all along. This was perhaps an oversight and did make me wonder if this book had been a rush completion in time for Christmas sales.
Overall though, I'd still recommend Mortal Remains and all of the other 12 books in the series. Will I buy another book in the series if she writes one? Yes! They're easy to read and teach you things you're never likely to find out in your lifetime.