Somehow, in spite of the fact that I’m a huge mystery reader, I’ve missed out until now on reading any books from the Temperance Brennan series by Kathy Reichs. This is probably because they’ve always looked kind of thriller-ish to me, and I’m just not usually all that thrilled with thrillers. However, I was recently given an advance review copy of the latest title in the series, The Bone Code, and while it did have some elements of a thriller (e.g. the “flesh-eating capno virus”), it also had nice solid investigative and forensic science underpinnings that I really enjoyed.
The main storyline starts off as Temperance is called in to examine a medical waste container that has washed ashore in South Carolina with two mutilated bodies in it. That would be bad enough, but in an odd coincidence, she and her significant other, Andrew Ryan, had worked on a similar case in Montreal years ago. That case, which had a big emotional impact on her, was never solved, and now Temperance hopes that with additional clues and investigation, both might get resolved. There’s also a second storyline, though – the growing number of cases of “capnocytophaga” in the southeast. It’s an infection originating in healthy dogs and cats that can on rare occasions cause really nasty symptoms and death in humans. But now it’s not so rare. What is causing the odd outbreak, and is it related to the bodies in the medical containers? And how are Montreal and South Carolina linked? Reichs weaves a compelling tale which kept me reading late into the night.
As mentioned above, I very much enjoyed the forensic elements of The Bode Code. It was fun to get a chance to learn about cutting edge genetic research, and what amazing stuff can – and can’t – be done with today’s techniques. In an odd sort of way, I also liked the fact that Temperance had, at times, to do a lot of waiting – for results of DNA analysis, for other characters to have time to do things, etc. Somehow this just felt realistic and believable, and since we, as readers, didn’t have to wait for days, it didn’t detract from the tale. I also liked the characters – not just Temperance herself; but her cat, Birdie (my second favorite character); aforementioned boyfriend, Andrew Ryan; Charleston detective, Tonia Vislosky; and others.
What I didn’t like was Reichs’ addiction to abrupt end-of-chapter “cliff-hangers” that felt very contrived to me. The story is strong enough that readers will keep reading without them, and by the end of the book they were really annoying. For me, they were a bit like that dripping faucet that doesn’t bother you until someone points it out to you – and then you can’t get your mind off of it. Since I haven’t read any previous titles in this series, I don’t know if this is a stylistic thing for Reichs or just something that happens in this book. I very much hope it’s the latter!
I tend to give very few five-star reviews, and four stars from me is a solid “read” review. My annoyance with the end-of-chapter stuff was actually severe enough that I almost bumped this down to three stars, which is a little more iffy, but in the end, the enjoyable plot and scientific foundations kept it at four. And my thanks to Simon & Schuster for the review copy!