Most readers and viewers of crime and thrillers would have come across Kathy Reichs at some point. For those who haven’t heard of her yet, now would be a good time to check her out. Shifting from novels to short stories, the Number One New York Times Bestseller has recently published a new book, The Bone Collection. This exciting book comprises four short stories featuring North Carolina forensic anthropologist, Temperance “Tempe” Brennan. Tempe is the well-known protagonist of the eighteen novels of the Temperance Brennan series, as well as in the hit television series, Bones.
In the first short story, “Bones in her pocket,” Tempe investigates the bones of a young woman, Edith Blankenship, found in the woods. In “Swamp Bones,” a case leads Tempe to the Everglades of Florida, where human remains are discovered in the stomach of an eighteen-foot Burmese python. In the third short story, “Bones on Ice,” Tempe examines the human bones of a young female climber, found on the top of Mt Everest. The final short story, “First Bones,” is the prequel to Reichs’s first novel, Déjà Dead, and concerns Tempe’s first encounter with her current profession. Instead of pursuing a career in academia, Tempe is pulled into the dark, grisly world of murder and deception after a well-loved physician, Keith Millikan, goes missing.
In reading these short stories, I was drawn to the values that bind Tempe to her work. Her determination to uphold justice through the laboratory is rooted in her belief that her John and Jane Does were once living and breathing, only to have their existence on earth abruptly terminated by people who considered their own lives more important than those of their innocent victims.
Reichs’s writing style boasts a balance between terseness and descriptiveness, reflective of her complex experiences in the field of forensic anthropology. Like Tempe, Reichs subdues the cold objectivity of each forensic case with warm, human empathy. Her concern for all animal and human life on the planet is evident in her notes to the reader, where she reflects on the inspiration of, and meticulous research preparation for, each of her short stories. In her notes, Reichs reveals that she undertook a great deal of research into international and regional law, and branches of zoology such as ornithology and herpetology. The learning process doesn’t stop there; Reichs provides additional links and interesting information to the reader.
For those partial to crime and thriller fiction from the likes of Richard Montanari and John Grisham, this gripping and educational read would make a great summer reading addition.
Reviewed by Azariah Alfante
The Bone Collection
By Kathy Reichs
Published by William Heinemann