The Bone Hacker by Kathy Reichs: a classy, clever, edge-of-the-seat thriller – book review –

The heat is on for forensic anthropologist Temperance Brennan as she heads to the tropical Turks and Caicos Islands where young men have been mysteriously disappearing for seven years.
The Bone Hacker by Kathy ReichsThe Bone Hacker by Kathy Reichs
The Bone Hacker by Kathy Reichs

But what the tenacious ‘bone’ doctor finds in this sun-baked archipelago of coral islands – a tourist haven nestling in the Atlantic Ocean – is far more chilling than she had anticipated, and could potentially wreak havoc across the world.

The Bone Hacker – a classy, clever, edge-of-the-seat thriller – is the new high-stakes murder mystery 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.

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Since then Reichs – herself a forensic anthropologist – has used 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) in Montreal, where she is currently based, and find her answering a call to examine what is left of a body, thought to have been struck by lightning during a recent violent storm and then mangled by a boat’s motor.

But Tempe, who has spent her career at death scenes and in autopsy rooms, soon establishes that the corpse is male, that he was shot and killed before entering the water, and had an unusual tattoo on his body.

Tempe traces the tattoo to the islands of Turks and Caicos and when Detective Tiersa Musgrove, from the islands’ police force, arrives in Montreal to speak to Tempe, the forensic expert is soon embroiled in a much larger and more sinister case.

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Young men – tourists – have been disappearing there in bizarre circumstances for years. The first victim was found with both hands cut off and the other missing visitors vanished without a trace. But recently, tantalising leads have emerged and only Tempe’s expertise can unravel them.

Maddeningly for Tempe and the police, when more victims turn up, they seem to have nothing in common – other than the unusual locations where their bodies are eventually found, and the fact that the young men all seem to be the least likely to be involved in foul play.

Tempe isn’t convinced that these attacks have something to do with the islands’ seething culture of gang violence which has been covered up because of its detrimental effect on the vital tourist industry.

But then she turns up disturbing clues that what’s at stake may actually have global significance. It isn’t long before the sound of a ticking clock grows menacingly loud, the case becomes deadlier by the day, and Tempe herself becomes a target.

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Reichs is at the top of her game in this heart-stopping and action-packed tale of murder and intrigue as Tempe tackles a complex and dangerous case which will involve putting her own life and safety on the line in an intriguing new venue.

As always, the fascinating and macabre world of forensic anthropology plays a leading role in this addictive and all-round entertaining drama which takes us into the murky depths of autopsies and those whose job it is to examine the victims of ‘popping flames and acrid smoke,’ crumpled steel and shattered glass, bullets, nooses, poisons, and venomous bites.

And at the forefront of all the action stands the commanding figure of Tempe… dependable, super-intelligent, acutely observant, wonderfully witty, and as determined (excuse the pun) as a dog with a bone.

Written with Reichs’ famously incisive prose, eye-watering forensic detail, and a richly portrayed cast of characters, including some favourites that have become as familiar to readers as they are to Tempe, The Bone Hacker will hook you in from the dramatic opener to an ending which packs a surprise twist in its tail.

(Simon & Schuster, hardback, £20)

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