Monday, 5 September 2022

Cold Cold Bones

Eye Am Legend

Cold Cold Bones
by Kathy Reichs
Simon & Schuster
ISBN: 9781398510784

Warning: Very minor spoilers.

Okay, so regular readers may be surprised to find me reviewing the latest of Kathy Reichs’ Temperance Brennan novels (not to be confused with the character Temperence Brennan on the TV show Bones, who is based on Reichs herself) during the summer when it’s just been released, rather than at Christmas time as part of my Yuletide ritual. Truth is, the people who regularly buy me the new Reichs book for Christmas last year just couldn’t find a way to get hold of it and so I ended up sourcing it myself. So, to minimise the risk in future, I’ll be grabbing these ones when they come out instead of reading and reviewing them six months or so later. Thought that would make more sense.

This one, Cold Cold Bones, is set in January to March and the specified dates given in various chapters tally with it being set in 2022. So, yeah, despite the one lone reference in this to Covid, it’s clearly set in the year it’s been released and, as usual for this particular writer... it’s a rollercoaster. And I mean that in the nicest of possible ways.

This one is probably going to be even better for those of her readers out there who remember the details and specifics of the various Temperance Brennan novels going back over the last 25 years because, although it takes the lead character almost a third of the way into the book to figure out what’s going on, this one deals with a copycat killer who is mimicking specifics of various bodies scattered through Tempe’s various cases. Starting off with the delivery of a fresh, human eyeball in a box outside her front porch, with GPS coordinates etched into it. Nice.

Joining her in this one are the usual suspects of her fiance Andrew Ryan and, Erskine Skinny Slidell. I mentioned in my review of the last Tempe Brennan novel (which you can find here) that Slidell was pretty conspicuous in his absence from that adventure, to the point where I’d thought the character had maybe been bumped off and I’d just forgotten about it but, no, he’s back in action in this one, handling the English speaking parts of Canada for Ryan’s private detective venture, as a business partner. Also joining the narrative on this one, with a lot more presence than the brief guest appearances or mentions in previous novels, is Tempe’s daughter Kate, who has finally left the armed forces and has moved to a new place near where Brennan works as a forensic anthropologist. In fact, she gets a little too close to the story this time around, becoming a part of it herself... but I won’t go into spoilers here (and certainly not as much as they tease on the dust jacket).

And it’s naturally got all the regular Reichs signature traits. For instance, it’s full of foreshadowing and she does the usual 1930s pulp fiction thing (which I love, not knocking it), of leaving most chapters with a cliff hanger like sentence to keep the reader ticking over into the next one (which is why these tomes are always such a fast read). Some of these kinds of chapter ending statements this time around would be... “The next day would be a nightmare.”, “That night we learned just how high those stakes would go.” and “My alarm began wailing.”, for example.

And, of course, we have the usual mix of an absolutely un-putdownable, seductive cocktail which makes up three quarters leg work and deduction with one quarter action and, while it felt a bit more formulaic and ‘deus ex machina-like’ this time around (which it sometimes gets like in these books, it has to be said), it’s a pretty good mix and certainly is nothing less than entertaining and gripping throughout. Reichs has an excellent sense of pacing and, coupled with her foreshadowing fetish and other great writing tricks, it certainly makes an impression on the reader... especially if you’ve been on the long haul with the character for the last quarter of a century, as I have.

And also, a new phenomenon I’ve found in recent years in her stories, I’ve actually learned a few things again with this book. I don’t mean the bones pathology minutia... that stuff will never sink in with me which is, perhaps, part and parcel of why I love reading this writer’s works so much. For example, I now know what enucleation means, I know what a prepper is (part of the novel is set amongst the world of survival enthusiasts preparing their way of surviving the end of the world) and I also now what is. There’s also the odd disappointment...

For example, although I have the English edition of the book, I still find myself subjected to the wrong spelling of the word ‘centre’ as the truly despicable variant, ‘center’. Not a good thing for child readers in the UK to stumble upon and not be taught the difference, for sure. My other slight disappointment with this particular story is that I knew who the main culprit behind the copycat killings was as soon as that character was introduced on the page. Sometimes Reichs will surprise me with her story twists (which is hard to do with somebody my age and I always applaud when a writer can do that) but, this wasn’t one of those times. When the crimes appear to be solved towards the end of the novel, I wasn’t too worried because there was still around 40 pages left and, although Reichs does sometimes have an extended epilogue to tie up loose ends, I figured 40 pages was way too long and so I stuck to my guns on the main suspect and, I was right to do so. Oh well.

Luckily for me, this is not the only reason why I read the wonderful Temperence Brennan novels released by Kathy Reichs and, all I can say is, if you are a fan of this writer and her wonderful mystery novels, well, you should probably lap this one up too. Cold Cold Bones is another humdinger of a crime novel from Reichs and if you are a fan of Tempe and her world, you should probably get on it right now.

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