I usually read Temperance Brennan novels in the gym. Dad likes to say that there are two ways to measure time: Stairmaster Time, which is the slowest time of all, and Snooze Button Time, the quickest. Everything else falls somewhere in the middle. So, when something is interesting enough to get you through an hour of Stairmaster Time fairly painlessly, you hang on to a good thing. When I first discovered this series, I read them all rapid-fire since they were helping me through some onerous gymming. Now I’m all caught up and I have to wait not-so-patiently for Kathy Reichs to write each subsequent installment before I can count on Tempe to help me slog through the necessary evil of exercising once again. Yes, they are formulaic – Tempe will use her forensic anthropology skills to solve a murder, probably picking up on something that the cops missed. She’ll get in over her head and she’ll almost die at the end, but she’ll make it out alive, usually due to her own ingenuity, but sometimes because the cavalry hears her yelling at whoever is trying to kill her. Tempe is not going down without a fight. I think that what I like most about this series is that Tempe is an intelligent protagonist, but she’s not dull or socially inept because of it. We often hear actresses lament the lack of interesting female roles in movies, and I think that the same applies to books. It’s refreshing to read about an educated woman who holds her own among her peers without coming across as butch or bitchy or plain or any of the other common stereotypes. Tempe also has a sharp, dry wit, which I thoroughly enjoy. Needless to say, I was delighted to get my email from the library telling me that they were holding the latest for me.
For those unfamiliar with the series (or who only watch the TV show) here’s a little overview. Tempe is a forensic anthropologist who splits her time between Charlotte and Montreal. She works with the local police to solve crimes in those cities, and she is also called upon to provide her expertise in far-flung and exotic locales like Guatemala, Israel, and Hawaii. She’s a recovering alcoholic, and her daughter Katy is just out of college. She’ll soon be divorced from Pete, who has had to end their long separation due to his recent engagement to the quintessential ditz Summer. She has an on-again, off-again thing with Detective Andrew Ryan in Quebec. Recently they’ve been off-again, and handsome local attorney and high school fling Charlie Hunt has come back into the picture.
Flash and Bones (Simon & Schuster 2011) is a NASCAR murder mystery. Since one of Tempe’s homes is Charlotte, it was only a matter of time before a NASCAR themed book came along. Now, I am not a NASCAR girl – I just don’t see what is interesting about watching cars drive round in circles – but my PawPaw was an avid fan, so I am familiar. Tempe is in the same spot. She has a general idea, but until a body from a landfill behind the Speedway surfaces, she has not paid much attention to the whole hullabaloo. She gets a crash course (seewhatididthere) in racing as she tries to solve this case and an older cold case that turns out to be related. In the end, of course Tempe almost dies but also solves the case. Sadly, her thing with Andrew Ryan is off for this installment, and he barely makes an appearance. I love it when he comes down from Canada for some reason and Tempe has to teach him about things like hush puppies while they solve a mystery on a secret monkey island off the coast of South Carolina (this was my favorite one yet. I hope for a return to the monkey island every time I see that an upcoming book is not set in Canada). Not that Ryan could do very much here since this case is very far outside of his jurisdiction, so I suppose it was better for him to sit this one out. His absence means that Tempe is reunited with Erskine “Skinny” Slidell as her law enforcement partner for this case. I actually love it when Slidell gets to make an appearance. Malodorous and indecorous though he may be, Skinny is still a damn good cop, and he adds a little extra flavor to the books that he is in. I think I’d get tired of him if he showed up all the time, but an occasional appearance is a nice contrast with the likes of clean-cut charmer Ryan and impeccably-dressed Claudel, who assist when crimes are committed in La Belle Province.
All in all another satisfactory mystery from Kathy Reichs. Nothing spectacular, but interesting and fun. As fun as a book about several murdered people can be, at least. And I have just realized that the newest book in the YA spinoff series (y’all seriously need to check this out. It is about kids who become part wolf but AREN’T werewolves. Cracked out fun. And it’s set on a monkey island!) is going to be published tomorrow. I foresee it getting me through some gym time in the near future.