Narrator: Linda Emond
Series: Temperance Brennan
Published by Simon & Schuster Audio on 8/23/11
In a series that remains surprisingly fresh in its 14th outing, forensic anthropologist Dr. Temperance Brennan is back in North Carolina and investigating the remains of a body discovered in a landfill near the Charlotte Motor Speedway. The discovery of the remains, found packed in asphalt in a metal drum, restarts a long-dead investigation into the disappearance thirteen years earlier of a twenty-four year-old man and nineteen year-old woman who were last seen at the speedway. A plea from the missing girl’s brother and the confiscation of evidence by the FBI induces Dr. Brennan to initiate her own investigation in cooperation with Detective Slidell of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg PD. The two cross paths with Cotton Galimore, the former lead detective on the initial investigation and now head of security for the Charlotte Motor Speedway, and the investigation begins tracking a winding course through the world of NASCAR racing, bio-terrorism, extremist militia groups, and prejudice.
This book delivered what I have come to expect from this series – not in the “been-there-done-that” sense but in terms of a good story with a complex and involved mystery that requires careful listening. The characters – well-developed, often familiar, and certainly intriguing – weren’t what drove the story for me. The central force that carries the reader forward is the mystery and I enjoy being able to rely on Ms. Reichs to consistently deliver a new and utterly engrossing puzzle within the expected mystery conventions of death, investigation, and the unmasking of a killer. Yes, there were some problematic parts of the story for me. I asked myself at least once what a forensic anthropologist was doing becoming so involved in the police investigation portion of a murder. There were a few points in the book where I raised an eyebrow at the level of coincidence in how various characters had ties to each other in both the past and present. Tempe’s repeated internal commentary on how the parts of a case remained just shy of cohesion in her brain until her big “ah ha!” moment is an overly familiar device from previous books. After drifting through my mind, though, those niggling complaints disappeared and I was pulled under by the narrative.
I found the pacing to be ideal, the scene descriptions gave me a strong sense of place that helped build my mental story board, and while I am not going to pretend that reading this series qualifies me as a forensic anthropologist, I’m quite certain I could play one on TV after absorbing the detailed forensic descriptions that pepper this series. They are very well done; clear and neither too abstruse nor too simplified. I always come away from a book in this series feeling a little smarter and vastly entertained.
My listening tastes, in terms of a narrator’s delivery, tend more toward the subtle than the dramatic so for the most part Linda Emond’s narration worked very well for me. I found her voice to be quite pleasing and the various character voices easy to track. I expect that listeners who prefer a more robust performance might have some complaints since even I didn’t feel the level of urgency the plot suggested during the climactic scene. I haven’t experienced Ms. Emond’s narration outside of this series and I’ll be interested to seek out some of her other work. She has created a unique “voice” for Temperance Brennan not just in tone but in what I hear as a specific speech pattern. That distinct cadence (which, if I was transcribing from the audio would cause me to add half-again as many commas as the text indicates) and the inflections perfectly convey Brennan’s droll commentary and have come to be the voice of this character in my head, evicting the voice of my internal reader. It does, though, bleed over into the other character voices which in most audiobooks tends to diminish the level of character differentiation but worked for me in this first-person narrative that is sprinkled with mild Southern drawls.
A complex and engrossing mystery with narration that pulled me in – I would recommended this one for most listeners but only after sampling the narration.