Kathy Reichs, Bones of the Lost (2012)

A long time ago, I said here that I would try harder and not fall back on comfort reads, especially crime and thrillers for which I have little illusions on quality even before I start one.

If I were to look for an excuse, I’d say that I didn’t buy this book, it was left for free on the shelves at my workplace where people are supposed to drop books off for recycling. And I needed something easy because the baby hasn’t been sleeping so well for a few days (apparently so excited he is from learning to walk).

Back in 2012, I had a disastrous experience with a Patricia Cornwell – Kay Scarpetta forensic mystery, and it was enough to make me stop this series altogether. But apparently I wasn’t tired of forensic-cum-formulaic mysteries once and for all.

Checking on my own blog archives, I see that I haven’t read a Kathy Reich – Tempe Brennan forensic anthropology mystery since 2010. I had foggy memories of the heroine hesitating between two men and between two workplaces, one in Canada and one in North Carolina. I didn’t seem to have missed much character development because I find her at the same place again.

It’s lucky that it read very fast because it was so formulaic that it sometimes felt written by a machine. Not to mention the cardboard characters, the series operate with so many plot constraints that any new episode can’t stray too far away from the earlier ones, because there’s no way in real life that a forensic anthropologist would be involved in direct police investigation.

To justify Tempe as an active heroine, we get contrived circumstances where the police doesn’t pay as much attention to a crime as they should, and Tempe feels personally involved / deeply moved by a case, and so she decides to act on her own. There’s the part that really makes my eyebrows rise in disbelief where she finds a decisive clue or makes a breakthrough of some sort, so she calls the police… who is temporarily on voicemail, so she goes alone on the tracks of the bad guys… without her own phone… in the middle of the night.

At that point, Reichs had lost me. I put myself on voicemail permanently.

There’s a section of the book set in Afghanistan where Brennan needs to testify in military trial. Apparently Reichs went on a trip to American bases there to get first-hand materials for her books (or the other way round, I don’t know). The way this plot somehow manages to find its way back to the original Jane Doe case in United States is another example of too much stretching of my patience and my voluntary suspension of disbelief.

Usually these stories really redeem themselves on the science and forensics, but this one was weak on that part too. So I can safely say I’m off Tempe Brennan for good. Within 48 hours the book returned to its recycling shelf.

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2 thoughts on “Kathy Reichs, Bones of the Lost (2012)

  1. I’ve never been much of a forensics in crime fiction fan, so you won’t find me disagreeing with you (although, surprisingly, I liked the original CSI series – the one with Grissom). But you’ve put your finger on a recurring problem: I find with a lot of the long-running series that they run out of steam at some point and it feels like they’ve been ‘phoned in’ by the authors, because they are still under contract to deliver a book a year.

  2. I love me a bit of good formulaic crime fiction – it can be splendidly relaxing when done well. And it can be frustrating and disappointing and often ludicrous when done wrong. And I agree with Marina – most series go on long past their best before date. So far Harlan Coben has proved pretty reliable for me, and Ann Cleves’ series featuring her policewoman Vera (I prefer the later ones to the earlier ones). Oh and Sara Paretsky has made a recent return to V. I. Warshawski that has been quite satisfying. You need cheap and cheerful fiction when babies keep you up at night!

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