Bare Bones

by Kathy Reichs
ISBN: 0743233468

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A Review of: Bare Bones
by Des McNally

This sixth novel in the Temperance Brennan series opens at a sprightly pace. In fact, so pacy are the early chapters, that when the author turns to introducing and developing her characters, the narrative slows considerably, like changing from fourth gear to first in one movement.
Set in North Carolina, this mystery includes many friends that Reich's readers are familiar with: Andrew Ryan our heroine's current flame, Katy her daughter, and of course her pet dog and cat, Boyd and Birdie, to whom Brennan often confides her most secret thoughts.
Not content with a single compelling mystery, Reichs involves us in drug smuggling, possible infanticide, the poaching of rare animals and the trafficking of their various body parts, a plane crash that causes the death of two people, a headless corpse and many disconnected human remains at a plethora of locations all seemingly without a common denominator. Assisted by an obnoxious detective, "Skinny" Slidell-whose use of folksy down south sayings and "witticisms" truly irritates at times-Brennan manages to pull all of these crimes and illegal activities together at great risk to her personal safety, and presents us with an interesting finale.
While this novel will make pleasant Sunday afternoon reading, some questions must be raised: For example, Brennan, after an encounter too brief, expresses grave concerns about her daughter's new boyfriend, Palmer Cousins, for no reason other than that he is very good looking. We're first subjected to these misgivings of a doting mother on page 27, but afterwards, we're forced to wait until page 166 to hear of him again. In addition, I have yet to understand why Ryan, born in Nova Scotia, employed as a Police detective in Montreal, constantly talks like Hopalong Cassidy in a "B" western movie. Frankly it's irritating! As is the use of too many abbreviations such as "mope", "perp", "vic" and "pax"-the latter apparently referring to "passenger" and I've thought for all these years that it meant "peace" in Latin! These things undermine Reich's writing.
Despite these criticisms, Reichs is undoubtedly superior to her contemporaries when she tackles the forensic aspects of her cases. At these times, her style changes for the better, and she seems much more at ease. Both at the crime scenes and in the morgue, her vivid descriptions and explanations are excellent.
Reichs has filled this latest novel with so many situations, characters and locales that the plot is at times confusing. The author herself seems to be aware of this, and twice recapitulates the myriad of conundrums she, and we, are confronted with. For this the reader is most grateful.
If you were disappointed by Reich's previous offering, Grave Secrets, you should be pleased with this latest improved effort.

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