Sunday, June 27, 2010

206 Bones Finds Tempe Doubting Herself & Plunged into Darkness

206 Bones is the latest book in the Tempe Brennan mystery series by Kathy Reichs. In the novel, Tempe revisits her old stomping grounds of Chicago, with Canadian detective Andrew Ryan in tow. Ostensibly in town to deliver a local body found in Montreal and to discuss the case with the Chicago coroner's office, the two also end up making a holiday visit to Tempe's ex-husband's family. Tempe is actually invited, as she is every year, but Ryan somehow makes his way into the fold and into the family's hearts -- much to Tempe's chagrin. Then the two are pulled back to Montreal with a new twist in the case.

I have to admit when I read that they were returning to Montreal rather than continuing their sojourn in Chicago, I was disappointed. Reichs had done well with setting the scene in Chicago, from explanations of the El to the multi-layered streets lining the Chicago River. I felt that the movement back to the oft-visited setting of Montreal was a way of returning to the safety of the known, rather than forging through a new experience. But I soon forgot about my disappointment, as the plot pulled me forward.

For the first time in many books, Reichs didn't focus on one specific topic (biker wars, DMORT's body recovery process, etc.), but rather just told a story involving Tempe. And Tempe was truly the star of this novel -- not her relationships (although, of course, there is continuance of the ongoing Ryan romance), not her family members (even though in-laws are present for some) -- just Tempe. Interspersed with the forward action was also a new element to the series: scenes of a missing Tempe. As she struggles to free herself from wrist and ankle constraints, and then to figure out where she is, Reichs throws readers bits and pieces of a captive Tempe. These are mixed into the regular action of the novel, so that in reading the background occurrences, suspense builds for the reader.

In 206 Bones, Tempe works on the Chicago case, examines other elderly missing women, seeks answers for a family missing since the 1960s, and deals with divisiveness within the pathology department. Meanwhile, readers attempt to figure out beforehand who has captured Tempe and is holding her within a black, unidentified space.

My only gripe with the book is in its final pages. Reichs attempts at that point to bring in a lesson, alluded to in very small ways throughout the book. Tempe and Ryan are discussing recent events, and Tempe goes into a stilted speech about credentials and licensing for forensic anthropologists. A valid point, but one perhaps better left to government hearings or professional conferences. Rather than talking like Tempe, the protagonist's words seemed lifted from a speech script Reichs might have written for herself in a professional setting. Still, two pages of awkward conversation a good book do not ruin. 206 Bones is yet another excellent entry in the Tempe Brennan series. Now I have no books to go until the new novel is released in August!

A CNN interview with Kathy Reichs, speaking about this novel:

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