Devil Bones (Temperance Brennan)

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9780099492375: Devil Bones (Temperance Brennan)

An underground chamber is exposed in a seedy, dilapidated house. In the dark cellar, a ritualistic display is revealed: a human skull rests on a cauldron, surrounded by slain chickens and bizarre figurines. Called to the scene is forensic anthropologist Dr Temperance Brennan. She determines that the skull is that of a young, black female. But how and when did she die? Just as Tempe is closing in on answers, another body is discovered: a headless corpse carved with Satanic symbols. As local vigilantes begin a witch-hunt, Tempe struggles to contain her emotions. But the eventual truth proves more shocking than even she could have imagined.

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Review:


Amazon.com Exclusive: Jeffery Deaver on Devil Bones
Jeffery Deaver is the bestselling author of The Broken Window, The Sleeping Doll, The Cold Moon, The Blue Nowhere, The Bone Collector, The Empty Chair, The Devil's Teardrop, and fifteen other suspense novels. His book A Maiden's Grave was made into an HBO movie starring James Garner and Marlee Matlin, and his novel The Bone Collector was made into a feature release from Universal Pictures, starring Denzel Washington. He lives in North Carolina.

It's always a pleasure to see a new installment in the saga of Temperence Brennan, the forensic anthropologist who plies her trade in both Charlotte, North Carolina, and Montreal.

Devil Bones, set in the U S of A, opens with a grisly discovery that offers a very different take on This Old House. Tempe is pulled from staid academia to investigate the troubling and mystifying scene, which involves cauldrons, ceremonial religious artifacts and, most troubling, the severed head of a teenage girl.

Another torso is located nearby, and the story is off and running.

Tempe and Charlotte police department detective Erskine "Skinny" Slidell, follow leads that take them through the seamier and the chicer sides of North Carolina's largest city--the worlds of Santeria, voodoo, the Wiccan religion (any witches out there: I'm not lumping them together!), and male prostitution. Our heroine also locks horns with a crusading minister turned politician, and there's a reporter who manages to show up at all the wrong moments.

Reichs juggles the questions of who done it (and who's gonna get done next) until the very end with consummate skill. In series books, readers treat characters as friends and follow those storylines as ardently as the ones involving murder and mayhem. Not content to keep things simmering on low boil, Reichs dunks her protagonist into a pressure cooker, with plenty of turmoil stirred up by a former lover, a--possibly--current one and, most significantly for this reader, yet another ghost of life past, about which I'll say no more here. Trouble on campus also surfaces for Professor Brennan, with whom we experience one of the most harrowing moments in the book: a meeting of professors and department heads (university politics as weapon of mass destruction). Oh, and we can't forget some brief appearances by the ex, who is behaving just like, well, an ex.

It might have been my imagination but I believe too that I saw the bones, if you will, of a possible subplot involving Tempe's daughter, Katy, who's working in the public defender's office. I'm looking forward to seeing Reich confirm or deny this in the next installment.

In Devil Bones we get plenty of what we've come to expect in a Reichs novel: engrossing details on forensic anthropology and anatomical science. Her mastery, and love, of those subjects, which Reichs herself practices (in both Montreal and Charlotte, by the way), is evident in her writing. We're also treated to plenty of esoterica about non-mainstream religions and history (I mean, I live in North Carolina and didn't know Charlotte was named for a seventeen-year-old German duchess). The author deftly negotiates that fine line between using such information to enhance the experience of reading a novel and padding prose. She gives us what we need to know--to enrich plot, character or atmosphere--and then gets back to the story.

And speaking of which: As an author writing in the same genre, I was impressed with Reichs's ability to keep the roller coaster on track and speeding along, page after page. She's a true master of cliff hangers--a neglected skill in a field where far too many lazy authors end chapters with people leaving rooms, falling asleep or offering hand-tipping foreshadowings of what's to come. I call this the question-mark factor and when writing my thriller I actually tally up the number of scenes that end in a compelling, unresolved issue that drives the reader forward.

Reichs has question marks aplenty.

My one complaint: I read the novel in one sitting. But I'm hoping that while poor Tempe may want a break after everything that happens to her in Devil Bones, author Reichs isn't giving her any rest and is hard at work on number 12.

--Jeffery Deaver

About the Author:

Kathy Reichs is vice president of the American Academy of Forensic Scientists; a member of the RCMP National Police Services Advisory Council; forensic anthropologist to the province of Quebec; and a professor of forensic anthropology at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. Her first book, Deja Dead, catapulted her to fame when it became a New York Times bestseller and won the 1997 Ellis award for best first novel. She has written 15 bestselling Temperance Brennan novels, the most recent include Bones Are Forever, Flash and Bones and 206 bones.

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