Review

206 Bones

by Kathy Reichs

Like her lead character, Dr. Temperance Brennan, bestselling
author Kathy Reichs is a well-known forensic anthropologist. Those
not familiar with this ongoing mystery/thriller series may know of
the successful FOX television show, “Bones,” which
enters its fifth season this year and also stars Dr. Brennan. It is
here where the comparison ends.

Unlike the program, the Dr. Temperance Brennan of Kathy
Reichs’s successful series of novels works primarily in
Montreal while retaining dual residence in North Carolina. There is
no Agent Booth (the David Boreanaz character on
“Bones”) in these books. Instead, we have to contend
with Montreal Lt. Detective Andrew Ryan, who shares a similar
friend/love interest relationship with his professional work
partner. While the characters on the TV show all seem to work well
together, with minor quirks, those working with Tempe in the novels
are not all warm and fuzzy, and she pretty much leads a solitary
existence keeping the workplace relationships mostly professional
at all times.

The book’s title takes its name from the total number of
bones found in the typical human body. Believe me, both Reichs and
her fictional character know each and every one of these bones by
heart. If you think the TV series tends to get technical in the
forensic descriptions, you better brace yourselves for the
well-written novels, which go into forensic and anthropological
detail that is unmatched by any other author writing in this genre
today. 206 BONES opens with a strange, almost dreamlike sequence in
which Tempe finds herself trapped in a dark and enclosed space with
no idea how or why she got there.

The novel continues to flashback (or, in this case, flash
forward) to these images of premature burial throughout. At its
onset, Tempe and Ryan find themselves in Chicago where they are
personally accompanying a set of human remains discovered in
Montreal. The remains are that of a deceased older woman named Rose
Jurmain, who was from a storied Chicago family with deep
connections and litigious tendencies. Tempe and Ryan find
themselves under the scrutiny of both the Jurmain family and
Chicago law enforcement. Tempe is accused, by an anonymous tipster,
of botching Jurmain’s autopsy and even intentionally covering
up a murder.

Upon their return to Montreal, Tempe finds the mood within her
lab quite cool, and no one, with the exception of Ryan, is coming
to her defense. Ryan and other members of his investigation unit
have been working a series of cases where senior-aged women have
been murdered around Canada, and they start seeing a pattern. As
they begin their normal working relationship with Tempe’s
forensics lab, a number of glitches occur whereby bones are lost
following autopsies and dental remains are mislabeled. All of this
land again in Tempe’s lap, and her acting supervisor Hubert
feels she is guilty of negligence and puts her on warning. This
coupled with the anonymous tip sent to Chicago now jeopardizes her
career, and she begins to doubt herself and her usually keen
abilities.

Additionally, a new member of the team, Marie-Andrea Briel, has
taken the opportunity to make a name for herself by working late
hours and apparently cleaning up Tempe’s mistakes. Tempe and
Ryan find out that Briel and her husband, Sebastian Raines, have
started a for-profit forensic organization, and the chance for
positive publicity in the wake of Tempe’s mishaps may be just
what they need to make a name for themselves. Could Briel and her
husband be sabotaging Tempe, or is a more intricate deception
involved? Tempe finds it difficult to forget her own career
troubles as she continues to aid Ryan and his team in their efforts
to connect the series of murders and link them to one serial
killer. Little do Tempe and Ryan know that these killings may have
a more direct connection to both the Chicago Jurmain family and the
conspiracy taking place within the Montreal Forensic Laboratory.
Their continued pursuit of the truth may have dire consequences for
Tempe far beyond the smearing of her professional reputation.

In the afterword to 206 BONES, Reichs poses the question ---
“How many guilty have gone free and how many innocent have
been convicted?” --- stated in connection with botched
diagnoses made from faulty or insufficient forensic evidence. Tempe
speaks of the Innocence Project, a national litigation and public
policy organization dedicated to finding justice for those
wrongfully imprisoned. Reichs does a masterful job of connecting
these real-world legal issues involving forensic science to this
novel by suggesting that some individuals in this field may be
guilty of stepping outside the bounds of their own specialties and
muddying the waters by extending themselves into areas they are not
certified in. 206 BONES not only tells a compelling
mystery/thriller tale, but also speaks directly to actual incidents
that challenge the field of forensic science world-wide.

Reviewed by Ray Palen on December 22, 2010

206 Bones
by Kathy Reichs

  • Publication Date: August 25, 2009
  • Genres: Fiction, Thriller
  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Scribner
  • ISBN-10: 0743294394
  • ISBN-13: 9780743294393