Bare Bones, by Kathy Reichs

>> Monday, August 21, 2006

This one's for AngieW's TBR challenge. This month the challenge was to read a non-romance book, and I opted for a mystery.

Title: Bare Bones (excerpt)

Author: Kathy Reichs

Year published: 2003

Book blurb:

It's a summer of sizzling heat in Charlotte where Dr. Temperance Brennan, forensic anthropologist for the North Carolina medical examiner, looks forward to her first vacation in years. A romantic vacation. She's almost out the door when the bones start appearing.

A newborn's charred remains turn up in a woodstove. The mother, Tamela Banks, hardly more than a child herself, has disappeared. Did she kill her infant, or is an innocent teenager also about to become a victim?

A small plane crashes in a North Carolina cornfield on a sunny afternoon. Both pilot and passenger are burned beyond recognition. Was it pilot error? Something more sinister? And what is the mysterious black substance covering the bodies?

Most puzzling of all are the bones discovered at a remote farm outside Charlotte. What has Tempe's dog, Boyd, unearthed? The remains seem to be of animal origin, but Tempe is shocked when she gets them to her lab.

With help from a special detective friend, Tempe must investigate a poignant and terrifying case that comes at the worst possible moment. Daughter Katy has a new boyfriend who Tempe fears may have something to hide. And important personal decisions face Tempe. Is it time for emotional commitment? Will she have the chance to find out?

Everything must wait on the bones. What story do they tell? Why are the X rays and DNA so perplexing? Who is trying to keep Tempe from the answers? Someone is following her. Someone is following Katy. That someone must be stopped before it's too late.
Why did you get this book?: It was basically a "why not?" thing. I'd read a review of the previous book in the series, Grave Secrets, which interested me because it was set in Guatemala. I bought it and had it sent to my friend's house (the friend who then periodically forwards the books to me in an M-Bag). Anyway, said friend mentioned that she had two other Kathy Reichs books. Was I interested? Well, why not? And so I also got this one and Fatal Voyage.

Do you like the cover?: Not particularly. I appreciate the fact that it does reflect the plot, with those leaves and the red lines which I guess represent a bear's claw marks, but there's something about the colours or design (or maybe those red claw lines?) that repels me.

Did you enjoy the book?: Not particularly. I didn't find the mystery or the setting interesting, and this meant things that hadn't bothered me before in Reichs' books started irritating me.

The main thing was the writing. It felt clumsy, especially what I think might have been attempts at humour. With much of the dialogue, I felt like author was trying for funny but falling flat on her face.

Plus, I admit I might not have been paying much attention, because the mystery felt confusing. Or maybe it wasn't really my fault, because Reichs included several summing-ups throughout the book, so I guess she must have realized her reades might be the teeniest bit confused. Those helped, but felt awkward.

There's actually quite a bit of development in a romance here, which makes it pretty remarkable that I felt so cool about this story. If you've read Grave Secrets, you'll remember that it ends in a cliff-hanger in this area (Tempe is attracted to two different guys during the book, and in the end, she goes off with one, but Reichs doesn't tell us which one). Well, that guy spends some time staying with Tempe in Bare Bones, and their romance gets off to a good start. Still, for some reason, I couldn't care less.

But speaking of cliff-hangers, that's something else that bothered me. First, the cliff-hanger mentioned above about the identity of Tempe's love interest. This is prolonged in the early sections of the book ("he" was arriving to the airport, "he" should be here already, etc.), and the manipulativeness irritated me. And the cliff-hangers abounded in the last lines of the chapters... really unnatural-feeling cliff-hangers, which didn't make me intrigued, but pissed me off because they felt so amateurish.

Grade: I'm afraid I'm going to have to go with a C-.

Was the author new to you and would you read something by this author again?: She's not new to me, I've already read the two other books I mentioned above, and those were pretty good, especially Grave Secrets. Which means I'd probably read something else by her, maybe one of her early ones. Deja Dead and Death du Jour do sound pretty interesting.

Are you keeping it or passing it on?: Hmm, that's a tough one. I always hesitate to get rid of books that are part of a series, but really, I don't see myself ever rereading this, so I guess I won't keep it.

Anything else?: Nope, that's it from me!


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