Temperance Brennan is stubborn. Determined. Flawed. Likable. And her family life teeters on chaos.
She’s never gotten around to divorcing her estranged husband, Pete, and they have an unusual relationship that centers around their college-age daughter, Katy, and a dog and a cat.
Then there’s her younger sister, Harry, who drops husbands as regularly as other people drop off dry cleaning.
Tempe works hard at a demanding job — make that two demanding jobs — that pull at her constantly. She’s a recovering alcoholic. And she’s involved with a sexy police detective in Montreal who keeps her off balance.
But that’s not what makes Tempe Brennan one of the most interesting heroines to lead a best-selling mystery series since Sue Grafton introduced Kinsey Millhone in “A Is for Alibi.”
It’s because of the bones.
And because Kathy Reichs, the best-selling author of the Tempe Brennan series, is all about the bones, too.
Like her fictional heroine, Reichs is an internationally known forensic anthropologist who splits her time between consulting, teaching in North Carolina, and the medical examiner’s office in Montreal. (Reichs also produces the Fox prime-time series, “Bones,” which focuses on Tempe’s earlier years, before she was introduced in 1997’s breakout novel, “Deja Dead.”)
In “Bones to Ashes,” the 10th Brennan novel, we glean more about Tempe’s childhood, and learn what in her background has driven her to study bones.
When a skeleton of a young Arcadian girl makes its way to Tempe’s crime lab in Montreal, it brings back memories of childhood summers Tempe spent at the beach in North Carolina where she met Evangeline, who lived the rest of the year in the remote French-speaking corner of Canada known as Arcadia.
The two become best summer friends, until one summer day, Evangeline, her sister Obeline, and mother Laurette, mysteriously disappear.
The unsolved mystery has haunted Tempe, and she wonders if these young girl’s bones could be those of her teenage friend.
But there are other bones to study as well. Detective Andrew Ryan’s latest case involves teenage girls — two unidentified corpses and three missing persons that go back several years — and Tempe is brought in to consult. This fuels her determination to find out what happened to Evangeline.
Reichs expertly weaves the fate of Evangeline with the stories of the missing girls. Ryan discovers a pornography ring using teenage girls. Tempe finds Obeline, who tells her Evangeline was murdered 30 years ago, and subsequently learns Obeline’s husband, an Arcadian gangster, has connections to a smut and prostitution ring. But what about Evangeline?
The fast-paced plot twists and turns of “Bones to Ashes” keep you guessing — and turning the pages to find out the who, what, when, where and why.
Reading about forensics may not be as eye-catching as the latest episode of “CSI,” but in “Bones to Ashes” it’s still extremely satisfying watching Tempe unravel the forensics puzzles of each case. But in the end, it’s the relationships between the characters, as well as Tempe’s internal struggles, that continue to make this series a must-read.
‘Bones to Ashes’
By Kathy Reichs, Scribner, 310 pages, $25.95.
• Kathy Reichs will sign copies of “Bones to Ashes” 7 p.m. Thursday at Poisoned Pen, 4014 N. Goldwater Blvd., Scottsdale.