Bare Bones is the first book by Kathy Reichs that I have read. I must admit that it was both what I expected and not what I expected. Reichs included a lot more o the technical terms used in forensic anthropology than I had expected, however I did not expect that her character, Tempe Brennan, would be as actively involved in the investigation as she was.
Bare Bones begins with the discovery of buried bones on a farm where Tempe and her daughter are attending a barbecue. They are not sure if these are human bones or not, and it turns out that there are mixed human and animal bones. These are not the only bones that are found though, soon Brennan and her counterparts are swimming in unidentified bones.
Things get more complex when they are called to the scene of a plane crash. The passengers were dead but so badly injured that it was hard to identify them. This crash becomes important later because it leads them to the farm where they found the first bones and this connects them to a man who has been known to have drug connections in South America.
Over the course of time everything fits together and Dr. Brennan becomes more active in the investigation. When she goes off on her own to consult or confront one of the unknown accomplices she gets knocked out and kidnapped. Things come to an end when she is able to outsmart her captor and accidentally kill him by knocking a shelf onto his head.
What I liked about the book:
I suppose I haven’t read a lot of mass market books lately because I was surprised at how quickly I finished this book. Time wise it did take me about a month but I was only reading about a chapter a day or so. The story was interesting and had the potential to be a stomach turner because of the fact that they were dealing with dead people and decomposing flesh, but for the most part I think that it was a fairly light read. I could see reading this book while sunbathing or something like that.
I like the fact that Reichs didn’t dumb down the technical aspects of forensic anthropology a lot. I am sure there had to be some aspects that she did write more for the lay person than her colleagues, which had to be done. However, I like that we got to read some of the actual technical terms as well. It shows that she has faith that those reading her novels aren’t complete dunderheads.
I liked the way she weaved the story together at the end. In the beginning it almost seemed like all these things that were happening were unrelated. I was trying to determine the relationship between everything that was happening (because there has to be one) and I admit I failed terribly though I admit I didn’t spend too much time on analysis.
I cannot compare this novel to other of her works as it is the only one I have read, but I must admit that I like certain aspects of her writing style. In some ways it seemed very punchy and direct, but we get a good idea of what Brennan is like as well as other key characters like Slidell and Ryan.
What I didn’t like about the book:
There are certain style things that also bothered me. It seemed like every chapter ended with a cliffhanger. Sometimes it was interesting, but frankly it got annoying after the same thing happened a dozen times. It was almost like an arbitrary break to force tension. Of course this is just my opinion, but I wish she’d made her chapters a bit longer too, then it might not have seemed such an annoyance to have the chapter breaks where they were.
I didn’t like the climax at all. We spend all this time reading about the investigation and then in one chapter everything is over. It almost felt like a let down. I do like the denouement and how that cleared everything up though, so I will forgive the climax just a little. I just wish there had been a little more interaction between Brennan and the mortician.
Another style point that just came to me, and perhaps this is because I am so enthralled with J.K. Rowling’s writing style, but I wish we’d had more clues early on in the book about what was to come. In some aspects like this one the book seemed rather dry, as though we were reading a forensic report.