Spider Bones was neither Kathy Reichs' best Tempe Brennan novel nor her worst. It was, instead, a good solid entry into the Tempe series. By the thirteenth novel in a series, I am primarily looking for a) more information about the main character b) some pivotal character growth and development c) a good, solid plot. Reichs delivered on all fronts, although perhaps not entirely to my satisfaction. However, Reichs also did one better in her change of setting. While beginning in Tempe's second home of Canada and also visiting in North Carolina, Tempe and friends then move their location for Spider Bones to the sunny islands of Hawaii.
When a body washes up on a lake shore in Canada, the circumstances are slightly unusual. As a result, Tempe is called in to investigate. No crime is uncovered, but a glitch in the identification of the body sends Tempe back to North Carolina. The man identified is both from Tempe's city -- a coincidence that has a way of popping up in Reichs' books a little too often -- and also already dead. In Vietnam. More than thirty years ago. Suffice it to say, Tempe has her work cut out for her. She contacts the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command (JPAC) offices in Hawaii for further analysis and to gather information on the body found all those years ago. Tempe travels to Hawaii in order to fulfill her responsibilities to the man identified in Canada and gets the opportunity to work with former colleagues at JPAC.
I was pleased with the location change Reichs offered in this Tempe novel. Hawaii was a nice change of scenery after many books set in Canada and North Carolina (although I enjoy those settings equally). I also always enjoy returning to a character who I like as much as I like Tempe. There are several series that I follow without fail, and Tempe ranks right up there with Patricia Cornwell's Kay Scarpetta, Sue Grafton's Kinsey Milhone, and Sara Paretsky's V.I. Warshawski.
Reichs offers readers a glimpse into part of Tempe's life rarely seen before, her relationship with her daughter. She also brings Ryan back into the picture as he travels to Hawaii with his own daughter. However, the romance between the two is still as frustrating as ever. Reichs seems determined to drag that aspect of Tempe's life out with little conclusion thus far. (Which is not to say she doesn't give readers a little of what they would like to see... But no spoilers here! You'll have to read for yourself!) All in all, I was happy with Spider Bones and another slice of life for forensic anthropologist Tempe Brennan.
Reichs, on her real-life connection with JPAC, and the story she tells in Spider Bones:
Kathy Reichs also recently released a new YA novel titled Virals, which was named one of Amazon's Best Books of the Month in November 2010. It follows a storyline similar to the Tempe books, and actually works as a kind of spin-off. It stars Tempe's niece Tory and is set off the coast of South Carolina. I haven't read it yet, but I plan to (especially as I seem to be reading more and more YA lately). Visit Reichs' website for up-to-date information on the Tempe Brennan series novels, her new YA series, and the Fox television show Bones.