Sunday, October 3, 2010

Jenn's Review: Spider Bones

Spider Bones: A Novel (Temperance Brennan Novels)Summary:  John Lowery was declared dead in 1968—the victim of a Huey crash in Vietnam, his body buried long ago in North Carolina. Four decades later, Temperance Brennan is called to the scene of a drowning in Hemmingford, Quebec. The victim appears to have died while in the midst of a bizarre sexual practice. The corpse is later identified as John Lowery. But how could Lowery have died twice, and how did an American soldier end up in Canada?

Tempe sets off for the answer, exhuming Lowery’s grave in North Carolina and taking the remains to Hawaii for reanalysis—to the headquarters of JPAC, the U.S. military’s Joint POW/ MIA Accounting Command, which strives to recover Americans who have died in past conflicts. In Hawaii, Tempe is joined by her colleague and ex-lover Detective Andrew Ryan (how “ex” is he?) and by her daughter, who is recovering from her own tragic loss. Soon another set of remains is located, with Lowery’s dog tags tangled among them. Three bodies—all identified as Lowery.

And then Tempe is contacted by Hadley Perry, Honolulu’s flamboyant medical examiner, who needs help identifying the remains of an adolescent boy found offshore. Was he the victim of a shark attack? Or something much more sinister?

Review:  How can one man be dead in three different places spanning four decades?  The investigation takes Tempe from Montreal to Hawaii to delve into the past surrounding the remains.  I really feel like Kathy Reichs has returned to her forensic roots with this one.  True, it's not as much of a thriller as some of her books, but I didn't mind at all.  I found her last novel, 206 Bones, almost a little too sensational (my review). 

There is lots of personal drama going on for both Tempe and Ryan, who are trying to help their respective daughters deal with their own sagas, while balancing work and avoiding the elephant in the room also known as their personal lives.  While the main case isn't pressing, I found it engrossing ~so much so that the secondary case seemed to encroach on and detract from the story a little.  It is, however, realistic that a visiting forensic anthropologist would be consulted and be working on more than one case at a time.  I think I was also feeling Tempe's frustration with the second intrusive case. 

Some of the criticism of this book deals with her topic, JPAC, and I don't think it's deserved. Yes, Reichs goes into detail and explains thoroughly.  It's one of the things I love about her writing.  But if you're at all familiar with Reichs' writing, you know that she tends to pick a subject and use it as a base for which to write her mysteries around.  Sometimes it's one I find fascinating, like Devil Bones, other times it's one that fails to capture me, like Bones to Ash, but what it really comes down to is personal taste.  One thing to be sure of is that Reichs never sacrifices the integrity of the investigation or the science.  So even when it's not a topic of my interest, I know that the story surrounding it will be concrete.

If you haven't read the rest of the series, some of the personal interactions may seem like filler, but it is an intricate advance in the overall story arch.  I must say I wish there had been a little more movement for Tempe along the romantic front, but again, that's me being invested in her as a character.

This is a solid addition to the Temperance Brennan series... and now I must go back to waiting hungrily for the next installment. 

Final Take:  4.0/5



Julie P October 3, 2010 at 12:49 AM  

Great review! I am going to have to add the first one in this series to my ever-growing wishlist....

Jenn October 3, 2010 at 8:46 AM  

The first one is a little hard to get through. Lots of technical jargon which Reichs eases up on... not saying skip it, but be prepared.

It's a great series. Julie and I love it!

Be forewarned, this is not the same Tempe as the character on Bones, though...

Kristen October 5, 2010 at 8:13 PM  

I think I should give this series another chance. I read the first one and I was surprised that it was really different than the TV show (which I LOVE), so I didn't read any more. But know that I know what to expect, maybe I should try again. Your review makes this book sound really good!

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