Break No Bones by Kathy Reichs (Mystery novel, 2006).
Over the years I enjoyed many episodes of the TV series Bones, featuring forensic anthropologist Temperance Brennan. The show’s based on a series of novels by Kathy Reichs (who works in this fascinating field in real life). I finally decided to read one of the books and…let’s get this out first-thing: Break No Bones is all I could’ve hoped for.
Her Tempe Brennan is a bit different in certain biographical details than the TV version, yet recognizable and a winning lead character. This time, she is leading a field study of an ancient Native American burial ground near Charleston, South Carolina when her team of college students uncover what is a set of remains that are no more than five years old. This abruptly transforms the site from a historical study into a possible murder investigation (or at the least, a drive to identify the John Doe they uncover).
Tempe contacts the local coroner (an old friend with a health-related secret that complicates things and forces Brennan into leading the inquiry). A sardonic yet determined County Sheriff, an annoying reporter who isn’t quite as dumb as he seems, a perhaps shady religious leader and the two most important men in Tempe’s life (her estranged husband and the Canadian detective she’s been involved with since splitting with the husband) are just some of key characters who enter the picture as the number of suspicious corpses turn up–whether buried on land, out to sea or hanging grotesquely from a tree.
The science employed as the investigation twists and turns is expertly detailed in a way that novices (such as myself) can both understand and appreciate. The personal emotional interactions and turmoil are also handled believably. The moments of action are very capably delivered as well. Tragedy and eventual success, resolving issues of both legal and very personal human concerns, are found here.
It’s quite a good book, and the brief (3 page) essay “From the Forensic Files of Dr. Kathy Reichs” (in which she puts her dual careers as scientist and novelist in context) is a welcome bonus.