Cold, Cold Bones by Kathy Reichs: Will hook you in from the shocking opener – book review –
It might be winter in South Carolina but forensic anthropologist Temperance Brennan is hot on the trail of a cold-blooded killer.
And even more chilling for the tenacious ‘bone’ doctor is the knowledge that this gruesome murder inquiry has terrifying personal implications because in a profession like hers, you’re bound to make enemies somewhere along the way.
Cold, Cold Bones – a classy, clever, edge-of-the-seat thriller – is the twenty-first novel in US author Kathy Reichs’ brilliantly authentic and addictive Temperance Brennan series which began with Déjà Dead in 1997 and, straight out of the blocks, won the Ellis Award for Best First Novel and became an international bestseller.
Since then Reichs – herself a forensic anthropologist – uses her own experiences to bring her viscerally real thrillers to life and was a producer of Fox Television’s long-running, hit TV series, Bones, which is based on her work and her novels.
And her mastery of this superb medical science series retains its powerful appeal as we join Temperance (Tempe) enjoying some down time due to the drop in crime cases over the winter. Freed from her heavy work schedule, Tempe is content to dote on her daughter, Katy, who has finally returned to civilian life from the army but is showing signs of post-traumatic stress disorder after two frontline tours in Afghanistan.
But when mother and daughter meet at Tempe’s place in Charlotte one night, they find a mysterious box on the back porch. Inside is a very fresh human eyeball ‘impaled like a bug on a pin.’ Etched into the eyeball are GPS co-ordinates which lead Tempe to an old outdoor privy at a Benedictine monastery where an equally macabre discovery awaits... a decapitated head in a carrier bag.
Soon after, Tempe is called to a mummified corpse in a state park, and her anxiety deepens. There seems to be no pattern to the subsequent killings that are uncovered, except that each death mimics in some way a homicide that a younger Tempe had been called in to analyse.
Helping Tempe search for answers is sassy new Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Detective Donna Henry and Erskine ‘Skinny’ Slidell, a retired detective with ‘the personality of a canker sore’ who is still volunteering with the police cold case unit… and still displaying his gallows humour.
Also drawn into the mystery is Andrew Ryan, Tempe’s long-term partner, who is working as a private detective in Montreal. Could these elaborately staged murders be the prelude to a twist that is even more shocking?
Tempe is at a loss to establish the motive for what is going on… and then daughter Katy disappears. Someone is playing a dangerous game with Tempe and they won’t stop until they have taken everything from her.
Reichs is at the top of her game in this electrifying, heart-stopping and action-packed tale of murder and revenge as Tempe tackles a baffling, deeply personal and dangerous case which will involve visiting the past to solve a deadly conundrum in the present.
As always, the fascinating and macabre world of forensic anthropology plays a leading role in this tense, addictive and all-round entertaining drama which takes us into the murky depths of autopsies and those whose job it is to examine ‘the decomposed, dismembered, burned, mutilated, mummified, and skeletal.’
And at the forefront of all the fast-paced action stands the commanding figure of Tempe… dependable, super-intelligent, acutely observant, witty, and as tenacious (excuse the pun) as a dog with a bone.
Written with Reichs’ famously incisive prose, a richly portrayed cast of characters, and eye-watering forensic detail, Cold, Cold Bones will hook you in from the shocking opener to the utterly satisfying unveiling of what could be 2022’s most memorable serial killer.
(Simon & Schuster, hardback, £20)