Thursday, 6 September 2012

Book 61 of 2012: Devil Bones

Devil Bones is the eleventh book in Kathy Reichs’ Temperance Brennan series; this time Tempe is working in North Carolina where a selection of artefacts hinting at devil worship are found in a basement of house under renovation. In solving the investigation Temperance learns about voodoo, Santeria and devil worship and uses her formidable skills to identify the victims.

This book embodies pretty much what I’ve come to expect from the Temperance Brennan series of novels. The story was gripping, more gripping than others I have read purely because I’ve hit the section of the bookcase where I’m reading books that I’ve never read before. It had a good plot and some interesting cliffhangers and twists, which I always look forward to when I’m picking up one of these books.

However, as usual, it followed the standard formula. Tempe narrates the novel, there’s a healthy smattering of catching up on previous stories and events in Tempe’s life (she’s divorced, she’s got a daughter at university, she’s had an on-and-off relationship with Andrew Ryan, she worked in both North Carolina and Quebec), she conducts the investigation (and may or may not run into problems convincing other members of the team of her beliefs regarding the suspects), she finds herself in mortal peril somewhere in the last few chapters (inevitably being rescued by a police detective she has been working with, bonus points if it’s one that she’s been butting heads with previously, therefore sparking a realisation that she should change her opinion of him, which is usually forgotten by the next time said police detective crops up).

On the one hand, I did enjoy the little nods to previous books. It always makes me smile when I recognise a reference that other readers might not get. I can’t help but feel a little bit smug, plus it’s nice to be reminded of things that have come before. At the same time, it would be nice if each novel didn’t begin with a run-down of the books that have come before it. I realise that there will always be people (who are slightly less anal than I am) who are perfectly content to pick up a story eleven books into a series, but generally speaking I’m sure that people reading this book will have read at least one Tempe Brennan book before. If nothing else, include a prologue at the beginning or an appendix at the end along the lines of ‘Previously in Temperance Brennan’s life…’ so that those of us who are perfectly aware of what Tempe’s relationship with Andrew or Pete can skip those bits and just focus on the story.

Oh, and one other little thing that bugged me. One of the bodies in this story was blatantly frozen and that explained the strange decomposition pattern. If I, with my armchair forensics knowledge, can figure this out, then surely an acclaimed forensic anthropologist such as Tempe Brennan should have had no problems. I was practically yelling at the book as I was reading because it seemed so obvious to me; besides, Tempe has mentioned once or twice (or ten times) before that during winter in Quebec her job slows down because bodies aren’t discovered, but these surface in spring and that’s when she’s needed. So surely this wouldn’t have been her first experience with a body which has been frozen and then thawed out resulting in an abnormal decomposition pattern.

“Switchboard’s lighting up with calls from outraged citizens wanting to know why the cops ain’t rounding up witches and warlocks.”
“Yeah. They think He’d be all for it.”

Page 269

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