Reichs grounds new mystery in N.C.

A hallmark of Kathy Reichs’ Temperance Brennan novels is how she incorporates a solid knowledge of forensics in a way that a novice can understand the intricacies, yet still appeal to an expert in the field.

In “Speaking in Bones,” Reichs uses Temperance’s work as a forensic anthropologist in an involving, complex plot that combines science, missing persons, fanatical religion and amateur sleuths.

Hazel “Lucky” Strike belongs to a group of “web sleuths,” amateur detectives who troll the Internet looking for cold cases they can solve on their own. Lucky wants Temperance to listen to a taped recording she found of a woman being terrorized.

Lucky believes the recording was made by Cora Teague, an 18-year-old who disappeared more than three years before, and whose bones may be in the Mecklenburg County medical examiner’s lab. Temperance has little use for Lucky and her cohorts, but she’s intrigued by the idea of being able to close a cold case.

The case takes Temperance from Charlotte to rural North Carolina, where she teams up with local deputy Zeb Ramsey, who proves to be a formidable investigator. But the investigation stalls from the beginning. Cora’s deeply religious family never reported her as missing, believing she and a local boy had run away, even when more bones are found in the mountains.

While Temperance usually splits her time between North Carolina and Quebec, Canada, “Speaking in Bones” keeps her grounded in North Carolina, affording a breathtaking view of the state, from its mountain ranges to its rural towns.

Fans of the TV series “Bones,” based on Reichs’ series, are used to a different Temperance in the novels. While the author occasionally makes reference to the TV series, the Temperance of the printed pages is a bit older and less socially awkward – but both are insightful scientists.

“Speaking in Bones” keeps the suspense high and, for the most part, believable.


Speaking in Bones

Kathy Reichs

Bantam, 320 pages