“Cold, Cold Bones” is the 21st Temperance Brennan novel by Kathy Reichs. It’s easy to see why the long running series has so many fans; this is a well put together crime novel which will please existing readers and be accessible to new ones.
Temperance Brennan, forensic anthropologist, is as busy as always. She’s got multiple deaths to look into; her daughter has just moved back to town; and her romantic relationship is a bit complicated due to her partner working across countries. She’s particularly focused on her daughter; newly returned to civilian life after years in the military, Katy is showing signs of PTSD.
Then one day a case that nags at her subconscious lands in her mortuary. When Brennan realises that her subconscious is noting similarities to an earlier case she investigated, a worse realisation pops up. It’s not the only one. Soon it becomes obvious; someone is copy catting deaths that Brennan has investigated in the past.
Now Brennan not only has to help resolve the most recent deaths, she has to work out how and why someone is doing this. Before long it begins to seem that Brennan herself may be in danger.
You don’t need to have read the previous twenty books to enjoy this. I’ve dipped into the Brennan series over the years, and have read around a quarter of them. I still found this easy to follow and enjoy. Those who’ve read all the novels will probably get more out of the parts of the novel that focus on exploring Brennan’s personal life than I did, but it’s not a problem to understand if you’re coming in without much background. There are enough “explainer” asides.
This very much follows the template of the earlier novels: a focus on several deaths, foul play, and a dollop of Brennan’s personal life. It’s a mix that works well. Reichs also uses a good balance of technical jargon and straightforward language while Brennan is at work; you believe she’s an expert, but you can follow what’s going on and your eyes don’t glaze over.
Narrated in the first person, from Brennan’s point of view, this has a distinctive tone. It’s almost flippant in places (although fortunately never when discussing someone’s unpleasant end). This contributes to a feeling that it’s at the lighter end of the crime spectrum; despite some really ugly deaths, the novel isn’t dark in tone.
For all that the main character is someone who cuts up dead people, this novel feels almost gentle. Brennan talks about the technical side of her work very clinically. There isn’t a lot of gore, and the violence is mild compared to some crime novels.
I did find the “who dunnit” reveal a little obvious. Partly this was as a result of reading a lot of crime novels; partly it’s because Reichs is very generous with her hints and clues. I don’t think most readers will be greatly bothered by this. It’s believable that Brennan doesn’t work it out earlier. And even if you see it coming, it’s still a solid reading experience.
The other aspect that may bother some readers is that Reichs leaves a couple of significant loose ends hanging. Some readers will feel that’s just true to life; you don’t always get answers to everything. Some may find it frustrating, expecting a crime novel to explain almost everything at the end.
This is a well written and enjoyable crime novel, not very dark, and in an easy to read style. Existing readers will enjoy the small developments in Brennan’s personal life. New readers will have no problem following. The actual solution is perhaps a bit obvious, but the path to get there is believable and enjoyable.
ISBN: 9781761 103926
Copy courtesy of Simon and Schuster (2022)
A selection of our Beauty and Lace Club Members are reading Cold Cold Bones by Kathy Reichs. You can read their comments below, or add your own review.
I’ve loved books for as long as I can remember, and I love sharing that joy.
I’ve been an avid reader for as long as I can remember, across all genres. There’s not much I won’t at least try. I’ve been an enthusiastic book reviewer for years. I particularly enjoy discovering writers new to me, and sharing good writing with others.
My career has included time spent writing and editing technical documents, but it’s fiction that really moves me. I’ve reviewed for a number of different outlets over the years, and have been a judge in literary competitions.
I’m now raising little bookworms of my own, which brings a whole new kind of joy to sharing books.
More of my reviews can be found on my review blog www.otherdreamsotherlives.home.blog .