Review: Bones of the Lost by Kathy Reichs

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BonesoftheLostBones of the Lost by Kathy Reichs (Scribner, 2013), Temperance Brennan series

Blurb: When Charlotte police discover the body of a teenage girl along a desolate stretch of two-lane highway, Temperance Brennan fears the worst. The girl’s body shows signs of foul play. Inside her purse police find the ID card of a prominent local businessman, John-Henry Story, who died in a horrific flea market fire months earlier. Was the girl an illegal immigrant turning tricks? Was she murdered?

The medical examiner has also asked Tempe to examine a bundle of Peruvian dog mummies confiscated by U.S. Customs. A Desert Storm veteran named Dominick Rockett stands accused of smuggling the objects into the country. Could there be some connection between the trafficking of antiquities and the trafficking of humans?

As the case deepens, Tempe must also grapple with personal turmoil. Her daughter Katy, grieving the death of her boyfriend in Afghanistan, impulsively enlists in the Army. Meanwhile, Katy’s father Pete is frustrated by Tempe’s reluctance to finalize their divorce. As pressure mounts from all corners, Tempe soon finds herself at the center of a conspiracy that extends all the way from South America, to Afghanistan, and right to the center of Charlotte.

 

Like Reichs’s last book, Bones of the Lost is an “issue” book, by which I mean Reichs is using her well-established series to educate readers about an issue she is passionate about, in this case human trafficking. That’s not necessarily a bad thing; properly done, such a book can encourage discussion and change people’s thinking. However, Reichs isn’t very good at it. Rather than present information in a way that is organic to the story, Reichs, without fail, does one of two things: either she has her main character, Tempe Brennan, give a wordy explanation to someone (often when that someone would already know the basics of what she’s explaining), or she has Brennan go online to look something up, then regurgitates a bunch of statistics and factual information (in other words, several pages of info dump). The problem with this style of presentation is that rather than read and absorb the information, many readers will simply skim over these pages to get back to the action.

While I admire Reichs’s commitment to the issues she brings up in her books, and I agree that human trafficking is a major international problem that needs to be addressed, I wish she’d spend some time studying and perfecting the craft of integrating research into her writing. It surprises me that she isn’t better at it; Reichs herself, like her central character, is a forensic anthropologist who is used to testifying in trials, meaning she is able to successfully present complex information in a manner that most people can understand. But with Bones of the Lost and her previous book, Bones Are Forever, the action comes to a screeching halt when it’s time for the lecture, taking away from what would otherwise be a pretty good mystery.

The story is, as always, driven by Brennan’s need to find justice for a victim who is unable to speak for herself. The Jane Doe at the center of the case has a special significance for Brennan, whose daughter Katy has just joined the military and been sent to fight in Afghanistan. She can’t help but see Jane Doe as kind of a surrogate. Brennan is at a bit of a crossroads: her daughter has become self-sufficient and very strong and independent; her almost-ex-husband Pete is getting remarried in a matter of weeks and is pushing Brennan to sign divorce papers; and her on-again off-again lover Ryan (are they finally off again for good?) won’t return any of her calls or emails.  It will be interesting to see how Brennan moves forward in the next book. Personally I’d like to see some new characters in her private life because Reichs does such a good job with secondary characters generally (Dew, the Customs agent she works the mummified dog case with in this book, is a hoot), and it seems like Brennan’s personal life has been stuck in a bit of a rut lately.

Fans of this series will likely enjoy this book, which I thought was stronger than the previous book, Bones Are Forever. Anyone who is new to the series should start at the beginning, with Déjà Dead, to get a feel for Tempe Brennan (who is completely different from her television counterpart on Bones). It’s a wonderful series.

 

This book was furnished by the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

 

My rating: 3 stars

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