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Book Review: Devil Bones by Kathy Reichs

Updated on July 7, 2011


Dr Temperance Brennan is a forensic anthropologist who works with the Mecklenburg County Medical Examiner in Charlotte, North Carolina (when she’s not working for the University of North Carolina or the Bureau du Coroner in Quebec). When she is called to a sub-basement to investigate what appears to be a human skull, some non-human bones and a cauldron full of dirt and odd items, she fears that a teenager may have been a victim of human sacrifice. With no idea who the skull belongs to or how long the victim may have been dead there is little that she can really do. But before she has a chance to do any real investigating, a headless body is found by a Lake with Satanic symbols carved into it. Although she has decided that the cauldron and skull were not part of a Satanic worship, Brennan, and the detective on the case Slidell, can’t believe that the occurrence of these two cases is merely coincidence, but can’t seem to find any link between the two.

While following many different leads, interviewing many different people and trying to link the two dead bodies Brennan is also struggling with issues in her personal life. Trying to placate her daughter Katy, who always has one problem or another; coming to terms with her ex-husband’s new fiancé; dealing with her own love life, trying to figure out who/what it is she really wants; battling against an alcohol problem; trying to keep the press away from the case; and fighting against the growing prejudice towards the Satanic religions. When a detective is murdered everything steps up a notch and with his invaluable yet cryptic notes Brennan and Slidell finally manage to crack the case.


As I’ve mentioned before I am really interested in programmes like CSI where you have to work out what’s happened and whodunit. I watched the TV series ‘Bones’ which is based on Kathy Reichs series of Brennan books, they’re really good, although the characters in the TV show are a lot different to those in the book. Instead of being a divorcee, alcoholic, Brennan is an autistic workaholic, who is trying to understand emotions, sarcasm and various other character traits. I’ve not seen all the Bones episodes, mainly the most recent series, so as far as I’m aware I’ve not seen any of the episodes that have the same plot as any of the books, but they seem pretty different to me. Kathy Reichs works on the TV series, reads all the scripts, and she seems happy that Brennan has been changed, at least personality wise, so I can’t really complain.

But anyway, this is a review of the book, not the TV show. What I liked about Devil Bones is that it is really easy to read, it’s got some fairly technical language in it, but Reichs explains it all in a way that makes it simple to understand, rather than just assuming that you’ll know what she means. As a forensic anthropologist herself she knows exactly what she’s talking about, rather than having to research it all and then write about terms not entirely familiar. I liked that Devil Bones focused on a fairly controversial topic, and aimed to fight some of the myths surrounding devil worship, as well as separating those religions that appear to be Satanic but are not.

Unfortunately, I do have a few criticisms of the book though. I found it fairly unbelievable that Brennan, as a forensic anthropologist, would be out working in the field, interviewing suspects and visiting places of interest (other than the crime scene), as well as being present when interrogations took place. It is completely outside her area of expertise and I think it’s pretty unlikely that in real life a regular citizen would be allowed to do these things unless directly relevant to something she needed to know. Kathy Reichs admits in an interview at the end that she has never done this sort of thing and that the bulk of her work was restricted to the labs, and that she only visited a crime scene to recover a body.

My only other criticism is that I wasn’t a massive fan of her writing style. There was only one thing in particular that bothered me, and that was when writing from Brennan’s point of view she often used very short sentences and lots of questions. That might have been part of what made it easy to read, but I felt that it made it kind of stilted. I don’t know what it was exactly, but it bothered me.

Having said that, I would recommend this book to anyone interested in CSI type programmes and books. It was easy to get through, and not a chore to read, it was graphic but not to the point of being ... too gross (for want of a better word). I was surprised that I didn’t spend my time trying to work out who the culprit was, but there was new information and suspects coming in so often that I probably would have kept changing my opinion. There are ten other books in the Temperance Brennan series none of which I have (so far) read, so I can’t say how this one might compare to those, and while I think they do have an order and a vague on-going plot (in terms of Brennan’s personal life) I don’t think it matters if you read them out of turn.


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