Narrator: Linda Emond
Series: Temperance Brennan #15
Published by Simon & Schuster Audio on 8/28/12
The fifteenth entry in the Temperance Brennan series is an enjoyable listen that focuses on a moderately complex mystery that takes an unexpected turn. Somewhat more action/motion-driven as opposed to a strong focus on further character development and lighter than normal on the depth of forensic medical detail, the story is still engaging, educational, and well-delivered by a narrator who, from her first line, immersed me back into the character of Tempe and the world she inhabits.
Forensic anthropologist Dr. Temperance Brennan is assigned to an investigation at the house of a Montreal woman, Amy Roberts, who presented herself at the emergency room showing signs she had recently delivered a child but who then vanished. After discovering multiple infant remains, Tempe and Lieutenant-détective Andrew Ryan follow the woman’s trail to Edmonton, Alberta where they join forces with RCMP Sergeant Oliver Hasty. It’s in Edmonton that Amy Roberts morphs into Alma Rogers as well as Alva Rodriguez before becoming Annaliese Ruben. A tangled trail of prostitution, disappearances among the disenfranchised and at-risk population, and turf wars over drug distribution sends the trio to Yellowknife in the Northwest Territories where the disappearance of Annaliese Ruben and the mystery of the dead infants turns into something altogether unexpected, placing Tempe and her search for justice directly in the line of fire.
This audiobook started out with an intriguing (if gruesome) case for Dr. Brennan: a trio of infant remains to be examined and their presumed mother, who may or may not be a prostitute, nowhere to be found. I enjoy a complexity of plot (I loved Spider Bones) and while I liked this book, as the investigation moved from city to city the introduction of supporting players and the fracturing of case leads began to dilute my initial interest in what started the story. It took a long time before Annaliese Ruben’s story was known and as the one constant in the investigation, I would have liked to understand more about her earlier on.
Rather than mysterious forensic anomalies, this book leveraged interpersonal tension to a high degree, above and beyond the expected police/suspect interaction. Tempe and Ryan were in conflict, primarily due to anger on Ryan’s side that was unexplained until near the end. Ryan and Oliver held pissing contests every time one of them opened their mouth. Events in Edmonton were based on antagonism between prostitutes, drug dealers, and law enforcement and as the story moved to Yellowknife, with its high density of Aboriginal people of the First Nations, minor Anglo/Aboriginal conflict as well as local/outsider and more law enforcement/marginalized population tensions were added.
Tempe spent a lot of time pursuing answers and justice and was universally distrusted by those she sought those answers from. I appreciate that a veneer of legitimacy for Tempe’s presence throughout the entire investigation was in place although I found her to be more impulsive than in previous books and I think this novel held the most I’ve seen of Brennan’s character making questionable decisions. Two events near the end – one that required revisiting Brennan’s history of alcoholism and the other being the sudden disappearance of Ryan’s anger after Tempe’s final life-threatening escapade – strained my credulity a bit but the book reached a satisfying conclusion to an involving mystery.
I always enjoy the well-described forensic detail in these books and this one was no exception. Added to that was detail on the geology of the Northwest Territories in the second half of the book that was right up my alley. Tempe had a stronger emotional investment in this case than most and that was a nice addition. The diverse cast of characters were well-drawn and took on vibrant life in my head, as did the locales. The interactions between Tempe and Ryan were snappy and fast-paced and her reaction to Oliver’s come-ons (they had a fling in the distant past) were amusing.
Overall this was a good audiobook that won’t disappoint those who follow the series and, despite the history of the characters that has been built through books one to fourteen, can be read as a standalone without newcomers to Temperance Brennan’s world feeling lost.
Given a good narrator, I always prefer the audiobook version but that is particularly true when French accents or a large smattering of French words are in play since that happens to be the one language both I and my internal reader are guaranteed to mangle beyond recognition. Linda Emond does an excellent job on my behalf, giving distinct voice to both the Quebecois version of a French accent and to classical French inflections. While I am sometimes struck by her distinctive cadence containing modulations that sometimes seem out of place, she so effectively speaks from each character’s point of view that those similar speech patterns across the dialogue were far less of an issue (maybe even a non-issue) for me than it might have been. Her portrayal of Tempe’s internal monologue – more factual than dramatic and with an educator’s intonation – has always struck me as spot-on for a highly intelligent woman (speaking of Tempe, here, although for all I know it applies to Ms. Emond as well) who views the world through a more scientific or objective lens as opposed to an emotional or dramatic perspective. Easily recognizable characters, the sense of discovery present as the story progresses, realistic back-and-forth in dialogue, and the fact that from the first line my immediate thought was . o O(Ahh, back to Dr. Brennan and interesting forensic tidbits) will always make my choice for this series the audio version as long as Ms. Emond is narrating.
I requested this audiobook from Simon & Schuster Audio via the Solid Gold Reviewer program at www.audiobookjukebox.com and they were kind enough to send it to me free of charge.