New Tempe Brennan thriller keeps you turning the pages

Review: Vivien Horler

The Bone Code, by Kathy Reichs (Simon & Schuster/ Jonathan Ball)

When reading a brief bio of thriller writer Kathy Reichs, you wonder how she manages it all.

Not only has she now written 20 Temperance Brennan novels, as a forensic anthropologist she divided her time between working for the office of the Chief Medical Examiner in North Carolina, and for a similar organisation in the Canadian province of Quebec.

She co-produced the TV series Bones, based on her boks and her own life.

She’s also been a professor of anthropology at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, and served on the board of the American Academy of Forensic Sciences.

When I interviewed her some years ago, she told me she had been a member of the team who sifted through tons of debris created by the attack on the World Trade Center in New York, searching for human remains and trying to put names to them.

Her life certainly seems to be just as dramatic and interesting as that of Tempe Brennan, although hopefully it has never been as terrifyingly life-threatening as that facing Tempe at the end of The Bone Code.

Some months before this frightening episode, a bad tropical storm hits the coast of South Carolina, and in its aftermath a container washes up on the beach. Inside are stuffed the bodies of two young women. Both have been shot.

What gives Tempe the cold shivers are the similarities these murders have to a case in Quebec 15 years ago; then the body of an older woman and a child were found in a container washed up in the St Laurent River. Both had been shot and, what broke Tempe’s heart, the child had a cheap toy ring in her mouth, where she had obviously hidden her treasure in her last moments.

Despite the best efforts of Tempe and her on-again, off-again detective partner Ryan, the case was never solved and nor were the victims identified. The two bodies were buried in graves distinguished only by numbers.

But now Tempe wonders, given the similarities, whether the two cases could be linked, and if solving the new case could provide a lead to the cold case.

Meanwhile Tempe is, as usual, splitting her life between Montreal and the Carolinas, where the terse police detective she is working with has her hands full with the fall-out of a dreadful potentially fatal disease caused by a pathogen that can be passed on to humans by being licked or nipped by their pets.

As Tempe and Ryan delve deeper into the puzzles thrown up by the latest murders, they start to suspect that two scientists – one in Montreal and one in Charleston in South Carolina, could have put together a depraved plan to make themselves astonishingly rich.

But now that Tempe is on to them, her life is in danger.

You need to keep your wits about you reading this thriller, as it gets pretty technical in parts, involving lots of DNA-speak. But it keeps you gripped to the end.

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