Thursday, January 7, 2010

This week: Temperance Brennan and V.I. Warshawski are back (Kathy Reichs)

From The Globe and Mail (Toronto) --

This week: Temperance Brennan and V.I. Warshawski are back --

By Margaret Cannon --
Sep. 18, 2009 --

By Kathy Reichs, Simon & Schuster, 308 pages, $32

Kathy Reichs's 12th novel featuring forensic anthropologist Temperance Brennan is tight, taut and filled with the kind of solid science her fans love. Reichs has always been a writer who learns from her mistakes. Characters a bit thin? She adds depth. Plots weak? She works them out more thoroughly. Too much scientific hugger-mugger? She tones it down. 206 Bones has suspense to burn and a terrific plot, and all of Reichs's talents are on show.

The story begins with a truly horrifying setting. Tempe Brennan awakes to find herself hogtied in the dark. Not only is it dark, it's dank and cold and she quickly realizes that she's somewhere underground, buried alive.

It begins in Chicago, where Brennan and her ex-lover, Montreal Detective Lieutenant Andrew Ryan, have delivered a set of bones to the Chicago coroner, and where Brennan seems to be accused of some form of dereliction of duty. The dead woman has been identified as Rose Jurmain, a Chicago heiress who went missing three years earlier while on a Quebec holiday. The remains show no reason to think a crime was committed, and Brennan's work is sound, but it appears that someone is out to smear her, and that someone seems to be in the Montreal lab.

That story line lets Reichs jump to three more bodies in Quebec. All are older women killed ruthlessly and with no apparent reason. The work leaves Brennan little time to search for the person who put the Chicago coroner on her trail. It also makes her a bit oblivious to the fact that the Montreal lab staff is uneasy. Something is wrong, and the tension ratchets up.

Reichs keeps moving back and forth between Brennan's horrific present and her muddled past. As she tries to free herself, she's unravelling the mess of the past several months, including her unresolved feelings for Ryan.

206 Bones is Reichs at the top of her game. Unlike many of her crime author contemporaries, she has pared down her prose, not plumped it up, so this is a solidly edited 300-page novel that moves like lightning, which I read in a wonderful, day-long rush.

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