The latest installment in the Temperance Brennan series (the books that inspired the Fox TV series BONES), is pretty much exactly what we’ve come to expect from Kathy Reichs. Once again we find fascinating science, a crime that reveals a new and interesting slice of our world, and plenty of decomposing bodies.
For fans of BONES, the books are very different from the TV show – there’s no Booth, there’s a darker cast to the crimes, and the gory bits are far gorier than anything allowed on network television. It’s a grimmer world, without the quirkiness we’ve come to expect of the TV show.
Spider Bones centers around the world of JPAC, and the lengths the military will go to bring home the bodies of our fallen soldiers around the world, which is truly humbling. It makes for a fascinating backdrop to this puzzle.
I did enjoy Spider Bones more than Reichs’ last book, 206 Bones, but overall I’m getting frustrated with this series. I know there is something inherently formulaic in any crime thriller, but this formula seems to be wearing particularly thin. I can’t tell if it’s just a sign of its age (this is the 13th book, after all) or if I’ve become a more critical reader (after reading all 13), but Reichs seems to employ the same writing devices with fatiguing regularity – the overt foreshadowing, the subconscious clues that hint at something Brennan has forgotten, the belligerent co-worker, the eureka moment of obscure science, and the most egregious, the Tempi near-death experience that happens in every book like clockwork. Now I understand about high stakes and dramatic tension and all of that – certainly in Raymond Chandler’s books Marlowe took his licks in every story – but it seems beyond ridiculous that so many people would be gunning for a forensic anthropologist.
In terms of character work, things pretty much remain the same – Tempi is still a smart, strong woman, and Andrew Ryan is still lurking around the edges of the story as the eternal love interest. This story has both Ryan and Tempi’s daughters causing bitchy mayhem, which I found tiresome. Katie’s arc, both in how she dealt with a personal loss and how teenage whiny she became, despite the fact that she’s in her 20s, particularly grated on me. But the banter with and between the cops of this story was good fun.
Still, Reichs’ strong suit remains utterly unimpeachable – her knowledge of forensic science and real life criminal investigations, which imbues each story with an undeniably authentic feel. The investigations are the heart of these books and they remain fascinating. Once again the gory details are wrought in all their unpleasant glory, and the trail of evidence is well worth following. I just wish there was a little more depth to this series.
In the end, I was entertained by this book and read it easily in a day – and while I’m not entirely satisfied with it, I still am sure to pick up the next book in this series when it comes out.
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