Kathy Reichs * Bones to ashes

Rating: 3 out of 5.

As a child, she was told to forget about the missing girl. But some memories don’t die….

The discovery of a skeleton in Acadia, Canada, reawakens a traumatic episode for forensic anthropologist Temperance Brennan: Could the young girl’s remains be those of Évangéline Landry, Tempe’s friend who disappeared when Tempe was twelve? Exotic, free-spirited, and slightly older, Évangéline enlivened Tempe’s summer beach visits…then vanished amid whispers that she was “dangerous.” Now, faced with bones scarred with inexplicable lesions, Tempe is consumed with solving a decades-old mystery — while her lover, detective Andrew Ryan, urgently needs her attention on a wave of teenage abductions and murders. With both Ryan and her ex-husband making surprising future plans, Tempe may soon find that her world has painfully and irrevocably changed once again.

This is the 10th book in the Tempe Brennan series.

Perhaps this is where I went wrong when picking this book from the charity pile at my local library. I have no idea who Tempe is. And little did I know the entire thing is so Canadian a magical Maple Syrup appeared in my cupboard after reading it.

The story begins in Montreal and the story just spirals from there into other Canadian Provences. It focuses mostly on the way in which people who contracted leprosy were dealt with in the 19th and early 20th century. The disappearance of young women, coupled with the finding of a female skeleton, and the added attraction of learning something from Brennan’s past was a huge draw for me.

Reichs filled in a very interesting piece of Brennan back story detailing a significant piece of her childhood in South Carolina and her heart-warming friendship with an Acadian girl, Évangéline Landry, who vanished in her early teens and mysteriously dropped out of Brennan’s life. Years later (in a coincidence that will stretch any reader’s credibility taut, if not to the breaking point), Brennan has cause to study fragments of a human skeleton that she comes to believe could be the remains of her long lost and lamented friend. On top of that, her erstwhile lover, detective Andrew Ryan, asks for her help in a cold case involving a number of missing and dead girls that he believes are the victims of a possible serial killer working around water. As the details of these two sub-plots unfold, readers will have that coincidence credibility meter pushed well into the red zone as the two stories begin to interweave to become a single investigation of murder, human trafficking and child pornography.

Good bits:

I found the non-fictional side-bar descriptions of the history of leprosy, the history of the Acadian language, people and culture in Canada and, in particular, the very detailed history of leprosy and its treatment in Acadia to be interesting and informative little known Canadiana. As a French speaker, I thoroughly enjoyed Reichs’ amusing examples of Québecois Joual and Acadian Chiac, local vernacular French dialects that have diverged markedly from their Parisian French origins over the years in Canada.

Bad bits:

Possibly because it’s the 10th in a series, the main character needs no introduction. She’s very agitated when speaking in the book and seems to draw conclusions quickly and without much thought from mostly coincidental circumstances.. The behaviour of some of the characters really got on my nerves. The novel is unnecessarily complex when it could have been a half-decent thriller on its own.

Sometimes I find it hard to keep track of who’s who in these books. I don’t know if it’s me letting my mind wander at times, or all the French names which I’m really still not used to seeing, not to mention all the French speak and terms, locations, etc, etc. Also when you have a high number of cases that Tempe’s working on, it gets to be a bit much. A great many players, it’s just a little funny (no, not funny ‘ha ha’) that most of them just so happen to be reduced to bone! =)

%d bloggers like this: