I received an early copy of Conspiracy of Bones by Kathy Reichs. The Temperance Brennan series was one I once didn’t miss, though haven’t read many in recent years. My mother loved the TV series (Bones) and has read some of the books so I offered it to her first as I wanted to read it closer to its release date.
When she returned it she was a bit ‘meh’. I wondered if Reichs was starting to ‘phone it in’… I’ve talked about other long-running series and authors perhaps becoming too complacent or running out of ideas. However, instead I reminded how different my mother’s taste is to mine. Because I really loved it.
A Conspiracy of Bones
by Kathy Reichs
Series: Temperance Brennan #19
Published by Simon & Schuster AU
Source: Simon & Schuster
Genres: Crime Fiction
It’s sweltering in Charlotte, North Carolina, and Temperance Brennan, still recovering from neurosurgery following an aneurysm, is battling nightmares, migraines, and what she thinks might be hallucinations when she receives a series of mysterious text messages, each containing a new picture of a corpse that is missing its face and hands. Immediately, she’s anxious to know who the dead man is, and why the images were sent to her.
An identified corpse soon turns up, only partly answering her questions.
To win answers to the others, including the man’s identity, she must go rogue, working mostly outside the system. That’s because Tempe’s new boss holds a fierce grudge against her and is determined to keep her out of the case. Tempe bulls forward anyway, even as she begins questioning her instincts. But the clues she discovers are disturbing and confusing. Was the faceless man a spy? A trafficker? A target for assassination by the government? And why was he carrying the name of a child missing for almost a decade?
With help from a number of law enforcement associates including her Montreal beau Andrew Ryan and the always-ready-with-a-smart-quip, ex-homicide investigator Skinny Slidell, and utilizing new cutting-edge forensic methods, Tempe draws closer to the astonishing truth.
It wasn’t until I read Reichs’ note at the end of the novel I discovered that she—like Brennan—was diagnosed with an unruptured cerebral aneurysm so had a break from writing. Tempe’s already been diagnosed when this opens so I wasn’t sure if it’d happened in a previous book or if it was meant to be a revelation.
The book opens with her feeling kinda isolated and talking about pushing people away but I didn’t get a sense of that as the novel unfolded. The big change centres around her work. In previous books she’s worked at a university and consulted as well. And now, her old boss is dead (oops, sorry #spoileralert) and work with the coroner dried up because of an old disagreement with his replacement.
Given she’s outside the system here she works alongside a friend of her lover’s and Skinny is a crotchety type. He’s surprisingly by-the-book but his laconic style actually really complements Brennan’s impatience.
My memories of these books centre around Brennan discovering weird things in dead bodies and leaping forth into her own investigation alongside the police. It’s a little different here as the detail around the forensics is less about Brennan’s autopsies and more about new technology focussed on document examination, the dark net and something called steganography (hiding coded messages).
What starts with an unidentified body ends up taking readers from conspiracy theorists, to secret government experiments, to child pornography to ponzi schemes and the like – though some of these were only suppositions. I very much enjoyed most of this book – really enjoyed it – but felt it got a little overly complicated towards the end and there were a few too many coincidences (It seems to have been a theme with a couple of books I’ve read lately.)
What I liked most though is it felt like a new (and fresh) direction for Brennan.
I also enjoyed that Brennan’s fallibility was very much centred around her own health and wellness rather than evil-doers. I mean, she does find herself at risk, but is forced to question her actions and behaviour more than usual. So I’m intrigued to see where Reichs takes this series.
Conspiracy of Bones by Kathy Reichs was published in Australia by Simon & Schuster and is now available.
I received a draft / early copy of this book from the publisher for review purposes.