Book Review: Speaking in Bones by Kathy Reichs

Posted August 26, 2015 by Kathy Davie in Book Reviews / 6 Comments

Book Review: Speaking in Bones by Kathy Reichs

I received this book for free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Speaking in Bones Series: Temperance Brennan #18
Genres: Mystery
Published by Bantam on July 21, 2015
Pages: 336
Format: eARC
Source: Netgalley

Buy on Amazon
Also in this series: MatchUp

For every case Temperance Brennan has solved, there remain innumerable unidentified bodies in her lab. Information on some of these is available online, where amateur sleuths sometimes take a stab at solving cases.

One day, Tempe gets a call from Hazel “Lucky” Strike, a web sleuth who believes she’s successfully connected a body in Tempe’s lab to a missing persons report on an eighteen-year-old named Cora Teague. Since the bones in her lab do seem to match Cora’s medical records, Tempe looks into the case, returning to the spot where the bones were originally found. What seems at first to be an isolated tragedy takes on a more sinister cast as Tempe uncovers two more sets of bones nearby.

When she then learns that the area is known as a viewing point for a famous unexplained light phenomenon with significance for a local cult, Tempe’s suspicious turn to murder by ritual sacrifice—a theory thrown into question when Hazel herself turns up dead.

Still reeling from her mother’s diagnosis and the shock of Andrew Ryan’s potentially life-change proposal, Tempe races to solve the murders before the body count climbs further.

Eighteenth in the Temperance Brennan forensic mystery series and revolving around Dr. Tempe Brennan, a forensic anthropologist who commutes between Charlotte, North Caroline, and Montreal.

This ARC was sent to me by NetGalley and Bantam for an honest review.

My Take

It’s a nasty cold case, oh, heck, aren’t they all? This one combines missing teens, excessively religious families, a defrocked priest, and medieval thinking. Full of twists, red herrings (for everyone!), Speaking in Bones is dissatisfying with the lack of support Tempe gets, with her stupid moves, with the lack of follow-up, and worse, that stringent, medieval idiocy. How can people actually believe this way? It really makes me wish we had a stupid bomb. You know, the kind that would take out stupid people.

The beginning of Speaking in Bones is at first confusing, and then, at the end of the first chapter, it’s terrifying. It starts off with first person point-of-view in the now. As in right now. I’m not wanting to believe what I’m hearing, but Reichs builds this and builds until she slays me with three little words: “Please. Kill me.”

In many ways, it’s an example of expectations. We believe the first thing that comes to mind, whatever is the current hot topic in the news. In this case, it’s child abuse for whatever reason and prejudices about religious fanaticism. Well, maybe prejudice isn’t the right word… Still, my imagination ran riot, and not in a good way. The way these children are treated…jesus. Religion has so much to answer for, and the brief discussion on past exorcisms will also make your heart sink.

“Nothing says God like a loaded Browning.”

Then there’s that marriage proposal Ryan popped in Bones Never Lie, 17. Reichs is driving me bats with Tempe’s up-down and all-around avoidance of her and Ryan’s relationship. And it only gets worse in Speaking in Bones!! I do understand Tempe’s fears, but all life involves risk, and she loves Ryan. The question is, is that enough?

We learn more of Tempe’s childhood with her nutso mother. I do like Daisy. She’s vibrant, fresh, and oddly, a fun sort of selfish.

I wish I could feel bad about Lucky, but all I think about her is that she shouldn’t have been such a hoarder. She behaves so nasty with Tempe, that I’d blow her off too. What I don’t understand is why Tempe kept letting her get away with that audio file. Why didn’t she get the cops to go seize it?

Ick, that description of the brain during an autopsy squicked me out.

In-ter-esting. Ryan and Slidell have been chatting back and forth. The reason for it will knock your socks off. I can’t wait to see how this works out!

I’m not understanding why Tempe has to die. It won’t stop the investigation. If anything it will intensify it. Of course, it was stupid to go by herself, especially when she already knew the guy was nutso.

Then there’s the wrap-up. Oh. Boy. There are so many directions to go on this emotionally. Part of me is appalled at past events, how horribly religious fanaticism distorts one’s perspective while another part is relieved that we finally learn the truth. And it’s so simple. Horrible. But simple.

The Story

It’s a challenge Lucky Strike presents to Tempe. An audio file so disturbing it fires Tempe into pushing a cold case, ME229-13, bones found by Mort, a hunter’s dog.

The Characters

Dr. Temperance Brennan is a forensic anthropologist who does a tour in the Mecklenburg County Medical Examiner’s office in North Carolina and switches off with the Bureau du Coroner in La Belle Province in Montreal, Quebec. Birdie is her cat. Katy is Tempe’s daughter doing her second tour of duty in Afghanistan. Pete is Tempe’s cheating ex-husband and Katy’s father. Boyd is his dog, a chow.

Her sister’s name is Harry, and she’s married to a Texan. Daisy, a.k.a., Katherine Daessee Lee Brennan, is Tempe’s crazy-as-a-sock-puppet mama who has been diagnosed with cancer and is currently living at Heatherhill Farm. Luna Finch is her doctor. She experiences manic-depression, and in an up phase, is absolutely amazing at mining the Web. She’s also in love. Cécile Gosselin, a.k.a., Goose, is Daisy’s caregiver.

Lieutenant-détective Andrew Ryan is a homicide cop with the Sûreté du Québec in Montreal. He catches a case of a good samaritan farmer, Jean-Guy Lessard.

Mecklenburg County Medical Examiner’s
Dr. Timothy Larabee is her boss and the chief medical examiner. Joe Hawkins is a death investigator and autopsy tech. Mrs. Flowers is the receptionist. Detective Erskine “Skinny” Slidell is a homicide cop, a legend in his own mind. He’s back to seeing Verlene Wryznyk. Bebe Denver is the concrete analyst. Burgess Chamblin was one of Tempe’s “clients”. Franco Saltieri found a body. Annette Wyant disappeared in 1979. Connolly Sanford was a short-lived director. Selma Barbeau was a widow.

Burke County Sheriff’s Department
Deputy Opal Ferris was the investigating officer in Cora Teague’s case.

Avery County Sheriff’s Department
I suspect Deputy Zeb Ramsey is about to become a romantic interest. Gunner is Ramsey’s dog. Sheriff Kermit Firth is a certified criminal investigator. Fenton Ogilvie was the coroner at the time of the Eli Teague and River Brice deaths. His major skill was being drunk.

Aunt Ruby is Zeb’s aunt, and she runs a B&B, the Cedar Creek Inn, up in the mountains.

Hazel “Lucky” Strike, a.k.a., luckyloo, is a websleuth and matches bodies to people gone missing. OMG is one of the CLUES members. Todd Matthews is a Doe Network supporter, cybersleuth, and was the administrator of NamUs. WendellC is Wendell Clyde, famous for his identification of Quilt Girl, and a plasterer by trade. He has an ongoing feud with Lucky.

Cora Teague is an 18-year-old white female with epilepsy who disappeared three-and-a-half years ago. John Teague is her very religious father who runs a convenience store-gas station-hardware-bait shop. Fatima, her mother, is a stay-at-home mom. Owen Lee, a dog trainer, is the surviving son and Eli is not while Marie and Veronica are the daughters (both married). The family belongs to the Church of Jesus Lord Holiness which is run by the defrocked Father Granger Hoke, a.k.a., Father G. Elizabeth Báthory is a dominant personality. Terence O’Toole was Cora’s doctor; Mae Foster is his nurse.

Cora used to work as a nanny for Joel (an artist who works with metal) and Katalin (a baker) Brice. Saffron is their daughter; River is the son they lost through SIDS. Dozer is their Cujo.

Mason Gulley was Cora’s boyfriend. His father was Francis Gulley, a.k.a., Frank Danger; his mother was Eileen Wall. They both split and left their son with Gulley’s parents, Martha Regan (she’s a member of Father G’s church) and Oscar Gulley. Susan Grace is another daughter of Eileen’s. Edward was Oscar’s brother who suffered from NSJ Syndrome. Oscar Mason was a photographer pioneering the field of medical photography and radiography in turn-of-the-century New York City.

Allan Fink is Tempe’s long-suffering accountant, nagging her for her tax receipts. Marlene Penny is an ABFA board-certified forensic anthropologist, but not brilliant. Father James Morris has been Daisy’s confessor on-and-off for years and pastor of St. Patrick’s in Charlotte. Dennis Aslanian is a blogger from Dubuque. Claire/Cher/Chantal is the realtor in Montreal.

A websleuth is an enthusiastic amateur who competes with others online to solve cold cases. is the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System, an official database for unidentified remains. is Citizens Looking Under Every Stone, a privately hosted database. MP is missing person; UID is unidentified. NCIC is the rarely used National Crime Information Center, another database containing information on all things criminal. AFIS is the Automated Fingerprint Identification System holding tens of millions of fingerprints. Edmond Locard, a French investigator, is the discoverer of Locard’s exchange principle.

The Cover and Title

The cover is bright and cheerful in its blues and yellows, at least it is until you get a close look at the grid and its contents. Creepy, all those profile shots and head-on views of a skull.

The title is how Tempe learns the truth, how she brings that truth to light when Speaking in Bones.

Please follow and like us:
Pin Share

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,


6 responses to “Book Review: Speaking in Bones by Kathy Reichs

    • I like both, Felicia, and I do know what you mean about the forensics. It’s so fascinating how much the bones can speak. It surprises me that anyone still tries to kill when there is so much out there to tell on ya!

  1. I was all over this series for years and then fell away from it. I just recently started collecting the newer books and plan to pick it back up. Wonderful review!

    • Hey, Laura. I also fell away until I got a reminder. I suspect part of that “reminder” was being annoyed with Patricia Cornwell’s Scarpetta series and how it was going downhill. I do enjoy the forensic mysteries. And I have enjoyed Tempe’s interactions with Ryan. And thank you for the compliment!

  2. I used to read all of these but stopped about 4 books back-it just wasn’t as good anymore-to me at least. I also quit the Scarpetta books too, after reading them for years and years-they were a favorite of mine, but you are right they went downhill and I gave them up.

Leave a Reply