Friday, August 17, 2012


FLASH AND BONES by Kathy Reichs 
(William Heineman, 2012)

Reviewed by Craig Sisterson

It can be very tough to keep a long-running series fresh, and avoid slipping into formula. Kathy Reichs has been writing about forensic anthropologist Temperance Brennan for fifteen years now, and seen her creation gather a legion of fans, and a popular television series.

Fortunately, Reichs shows there is still plenty of life in her Temperance Brennan tales, with this latest instalment which finds the forensic anthropologist up to her elbows in murder and intrigue in the lead up to the biggest NASCAR race week of the year.

A hand sticking out of a concrete-filled barrel in a landfill neighbouring the Charlotte Motor Speedway is the last thing NASCAR wants, and Brennan finds herself battling on multiple fronts to uncover the truth. A NASCAR crew member shares how twelve years earlier his sister, an aspiring race driver, and her boyfriend (who was tied up with a militant right-wing 'Patriots' group) disappeared. The FBI briefly investigated, then stopped. When the FBI confiscate and cremate the recently discovered body, Brennan wonders what everyone is hiding, and embarks on a twisting trail entangled with murder new and old, race cars, and right wing extremists.

Overall, I really enjoyed reading this book. There are a few differences in this, the fourteenth instalment, which may affect fans differently. It is a very North Carolina-focused tale, unlike the Quebec-based stories or others that bounced around North America earlier in the series. For me, having spent plenty of time in that state, I enjoyed the way Reichs evoked various aspects of life in the American South, including the passion for NASCAR. There is also far less of Temperance's on-again-off-again beau Detective Ryan, and more of a focus on other aspects of Brennan's personal and family life. I thought it worked here, for this book.

In FLASH & BONES, Reichs combines her trademark touch for forensic detail, characters and relationships, breezy pacing, and dashes of humour, with a well-evoked setting, giving readers a nice insight into NASCAR – the people, the pageantry, and the passion. It's an easy and enjoyable read, and a notch above last year's MORTAL REMAINS (aka SPIDER BONES).

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