Book Review: Kathy Reichs’ Speaking in Bones

Posted August 26, 2015 by Kathy Davie in Book Reviews

This book came from NetGalley, and I will never give you less than an honest review, no matter its source. I do provide informational and purchase links to make it more convenient for you to access the book. I also receive a percentage of the sale if you use one of my links to buy it. And that's not enough money to be less than truthful *grin*.

Book Review: Kathy Reichs’ Speaking in Bones

Speaking in Bones

by Kathy Reichs

three-half-stars

Series: Temperance Brennan #18

Other books by this author that I've reviewed include Bones are Forever, Bones Never Lie, Bones of the Lost.

Genres: Mystery, Police Procedural

This eARC has 336 pages and was published by Bantam on July 21, 2015. Discover more about it at Goodreads. You can also buy it at Amazon

Eighteenth in the Temperance Brennan forensic mystery series and revolving around Dr. Tempe Brennan, a forensic anthropologist who commutes between Charlotte, North Caroline, and Montreal.

This ARC was sent to me by NetGalley and Bantam for an honest review.

My Take

It’s a nasty cold case, oh, heck, aren’t they all? This one combines missing teens, excessively religious families, a defrocked priest, and medieval thinking. Full of twists, red herrings (for everyone!), Speaking in Bones is dissatisfying with the lack of support Tempe gets, with her stupid moves, with the lack of follow-up, and worse, that stringent, medieval idiocy. How can people actually believe this way? It really makes me wish we had a stupid bomb. You know, the kind that would take out stupid people.

The beginning of Speaking in Bones is at first confusing, and then, at the end of the first chapter, it’s terrifying. It starts off with first person point-of-view in the now. As in right now. I’m not wanting to believe what I’m hearing, but Reichs builds this and builds until she slays me with three little words: “Please. Kill me.”

In many ways, it’s an example of expectations. We believe the first thing that comes to mind, whatever is the current hot topic in the news. In this case, it’s child abuse for whatever reason and prejudices about religious fanaticism. Well, maybe prejudice isn’t the right word… Still, my imagination ran riot, and not in a good way. The way these children are treated…jesus. Religion has so much to answer for, and the brief discussion on past exorcisms will also make your heart sink.

“Nothing says God like a loaded Browning.”

Then there’s that marriage proposal Ryan popped in Bones Never Lie, 17. Reichs is driving me bats with Tempe’s up-down and all-around avoidance of her and Ryan’s relationship. And it only gets worse in Speaking in Bones!! I do understand Tempe’s fears, but all life involves risk, and she loves Ryan. The question is, is that enough?

We learn more of Tempe’s childhood with her nutso mother. I do like Daisy. She’s vibrant, fresh, and oddly, a fun sort of selfish.

I wish I could feel bad about Lucky, but all I think about her is that she shouldn’t have been such a hoarder. She behaves so nasty with Tempe, that I’d blow her off too. What I don’t understand is why Tempe kept letting her get away with that audio file. Why didn’t she get the cops to go seize it?

Ick, that description of the brain during an autopsy squicked me out.

In-ter-esting. Ryan and Slidell have been chatting back and forth. The reason for it will knock your socks off. I can’t wait to see how this works out!

I’m not understanding why Tempe has to die. It won’t stop the investigation. If anything it will intensify it. Of course, it was stupid to go by herself, especially when she already knew the guy was nutso.

Then there’s the wrap-up. Oh. Boy. There are so many directions to go on this emotionally. Part of me is appalled at past events, how horribly religious fanaticism distorts one’s perspective while another part is relieved that we finally learn the truth. And it’s so simple. Horrible. But simple.

The Story

It’s a challenge Lucky Strike presents to Tempe. An audio file so disturbing it fires Tempe into pushing a cold case, ME229-13, bones found by Mort, a hunter’s dog.

The Characters

Dr. Temperance Brennan is a forensic anthropologist who does a tour in the Mecklenburg County Medical Examiner’s office in North Carolina and switches off with the Bureau du Coroner in La Belle Province in Montreal, Quebec. Birdie is her cat. Katy is Tempe’s daughter doing her second tour of duty in Afghanistan. Pete is Tempe’s cheating ex-husband and Katy’s father. Boyd is his dog, a chow.

Her sister’s name is Harry, and she’s married to a Texan. Daisy, a.k.a., Katherine Daessee Lee Brennan, is Tempe’s crazy-as-a-sock-puppet mama who has been diagnosed with cancer and is currently living at Heatherhill Farm. Luna Finch is her doctor. She experiences manic-depression, and in an up phase, is absolutely amazing at mining the Web. She’s also in love. Cécile Gosselin, a.k.a., Goose, is Daisy’s caregiver.

Lieutenant-détective Andrew Ryan is a homicide cop with the Sûreté du Québec in Montreal. He catches a case of a good samaritan farmer, Jean-Guy Lessard.

Mecklenburg County Medical Examiner’s
Dr. Timothy Larabee is her boss and the chief medical examiner. Joe Hawkins is a death investigator and autopsy tech. Mrs. Flowers is the receptionist. Detective Erskine “Skinny” Slidell is a homicide cop, a legend in his own mind. He’s back to seeing Verlene Wryznyk. Bebe Denver is the concrete analyst. Burgess Chamblin was one of Tempe’s “clients”. Franco Saltieri found a body. Annette Wyant disappeared in 1979. Connolly Sanford was a short-lived director. Selma Barbeau was a widow.

Burke County Sheriff’s Department
Deputy Opal Ferris was the investigating officer in Cora Teague’s case.

Avery County Sheriff’s Department
I suspect Deputy Zeb Ramsey is about to become a romantic interest. Gunner is Ramsey’s dog. Sheriff Kermit Firth is a certified criminal investigator. Fenton Ogilvie was the coroner at the time of the Eli Teague and River Brice deaths. His major skill was being drunk.

Aunt Ruby is Zeb’s aunt, and she runs a B&B, the Cedar Creek Inn, up in the mountains.

Hazel “Lucky” Strike, a.k.a., luckyloo, is a websleuth and matches bodies to people gone missing. OMG is one of the CLUES members. Todd Matthews is a Doe Network supporter, cybersleuth, and was the administrator of NamUs. WendellC is Wendell Clyde, famous for his identification of Quilt Girl, and a plasterer by trade. He has an ongoing feud with Lucky.

Cora Teague is an 18-year-old white female with epilepsy who disappeared three-and-a-half years ago. John Teague is her very religious father who runs a convenience store-gas station-hardware-bait shop. Fatima, her mother, is a stay-at-home mom. Owen Lee, a dog trainer, is the surviving son and Eli is not while Marie and Veronica are the daughters (both married). The family belongs to the Church of Jesus Lord Holiness which is run by the defrocked Father Granger Hoke, a.k.a., Father G. Elizabeth Báthory is a dominant personality. Terence O’Toole was Cora’s doctor; Mae Foster is his nurse.

Cora used to work as a nanny for Joel (an artist who works with metal) and Katalin (a baker) Brice. Saffron is their daughter; River is the son they lost through SIDS. Dozer is their Cujo.

Mason Gulley was Cora’s boyfriend. His father was Francis Gulley, a.k.a., Frank Danger; his mother was Eileen Wall. They both split and left their son with Gulley’s parents, Martha Regan (she’s a member of Father G’s church) and Oscar Gulley. Susan Grace is another daughter of Eileen’s. Edward was Oscar’s brother who suffered from NSJ Syndrome. Oscar Mason was a photographer pioneering the field of medical photography and radiography in turn-of-the-century New York City.

Allan Fink is Tempe’s long-suffering accountant, nagging her for her tax receipts. Marlene Penny is an ABFA board-certified forensic anthropologist, but not brilliant. Father James Morris has been Daisy’s confessor on-and-off for years and pastor of St. Patrick’s in Charlotte. Dennis Aslanian is a blogger from Dubuque. Claire/Cher/Chantal is the realtor in Montreal.

A websleuth is an enthusiastic amateur who competes with others online to solve cold cases. NamUs.gov is the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System, an official database for unidentified remains. CLUES.net is Citizens Looking Under Every Stone, a privately hosted database. MP is missing person; UID is unidentified. NCIC is the rarely used National Crime Information Center, another database containing information on all things criminal. AFIS is the Automated Fingerprint Identification System holding tens of millions of fingerprints. Edmond Locard, a French investigator, is the discoverer of Locard’s exchange principle.

The Cover and Title

The cover is bright and cheerful in its blues and yellows, at least it is until you get a close look at the grid and its contents. Creepy, all those profile shots and head-on views of a skull.

The title is how Tempe learns the truth, how she brings that truth to light when Speaking in Bones.


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