I finished another novel by Kathy Reichs this week called Break No Bones. I am enjoying these books about Dr Temperance Brennan. They offer a glimpse into the work of real forensic anthropologists.
At the end of each book, Dr Reichs offers some insight into the challenges faced by her fictional characters. In 206 Bones, she discussed the importance of ethics in forensic science, especially how important board certification is. In Break No Bones, Dr Reichs gives a glimpse into history, not only her own, but also the history of forensic anthropology as a whole. She also tells her readers about the teams of people needed to solve each crime. In real life, forensics relies on a multiple scientists: Pathologists who work with soft tissue – Anthropologists who work with skeletons – Entomologists who analyze insects – Odontologists who compare teeth and dental records – Molecular Biologists who study DNA – Ballistics Experts who examine bullets and bullet casings.
Not only does solving crime take multiple people, it also takes time. I think that is one of the special areas of experience that Dr Reichs writes into her books. There are times when Dr Brennan has to step away from the bones and wait for results from other specialists. For example, in Break No Bones, there were a few chapters spent waiting for results from the dentist to verify identification and another was spent in the waiting room of a veterinarian.
So what was Break No Bones about besides forensic anthropology and bones?
During a student project dig that she was overseeing, Dr Brennan unearthed human remains that were not centuries old. Those remains would turn out to be the first of several dead bodies that would turn up on the outer shores of Charleston, SC. There seemed to be no connection between the bodies until Dr Brennan looks harder and finds one similarity. Coincidence? Suicide? Murder? Can Dr Brennan and her friend the coroner figure it out?
Then a tempest blows over Dr Brennan’s personal life while she stays in a friend’s beach house in Charleston. This friend had also invited Dr Brennan’s almost ex-husband to stay at the house as well while he was investigating the finances of a local charity. While she knows why they separated, Dr Brennan still feels an attraction toward Pete. However, she is currently in a relationship with Detective Andrew Ryan of Montreal. And Detective Ryan chooses the same week that Pete is at the beach house to pay a surprise visit to Dr Brennan. Though civil, each man verbally jabs at the other, winning reprimands and eye squints from Dr Brennan. (Don’t worry, it’s tasteful and there are no graphic scenes.)
Then tragedy strikes. Is Dr Brennan really in danger? Can she identify the bodies, bring closure to the families, and help law enforcement arrest the right person?
One last word: Dr Reichs is a remarkable storyteller. She brings her plots and plot twists together in a surprising way. She offers just enough information to keep the reader guessing until she is ready to reveal the next clue. I was only a few pages ahead of Dr Brennan’s findings, mostly because of literary devices and dialogue. If I was standing right next to Dr Brennan, we may have discovered the answer at the same time. And I think that’s what I liked about Break No Bones the most.