Bones are Forever by Kathy Reichs

Bones are Forever by Kathy ReichsBones are Forever by Kathy Reichs
Narrator: Linda Emond
Series: Temperance Brennan #15
Published by Simon & Schuster Audio on 8/28/12
Genres: Mystery
three-half-stars

Story: B-
Narration: B+

Quick Review:

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.

The Plot:

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.

My Thoughts:

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.

The Narration:

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.

 

Book Source:

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.

three-half-stars

Flash and Bones by Kathy Reichs

Flash and Bones by Kathy ReichsFlash and Bones by Kathy Reichs
Narrator: Linda Emond
Series: Temperance Brennan
Published by Simon & Schuster Audio on 8/23/11
Genres: Mystery

Book: B
Narration: B+

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.