If you think CSI started the forensics craze, here’s the most enjoyable way to correct that misunderstanding. The original forensic super-sleuth, Temperance “Tempe” Brennan, is back in Kathy Reich’s latest bone chilling brain teaser Flash and Bones.
The story kicks off with a body discovered in a barrel of asphalt in a landfill. A stock car driver reads about the discovery in the news and contacts Tempe, fearing that the body is his sister who disappeared years earlier at age seventeen.Of course, since it’s Kathy Reichs, there are multiple storylines all spinning around the Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Kathy Reichs is a real-life scientific investigator the police turn to for help with the tough cases. But even though her novels all center on the forensic sciences, no two are ever alike.
So, what distinguishes this case from Tempe’s last 13 adventures? Well, in Ms. Reich’s own words:
“NASCAR. Militias. Bioterrorism. Missing teens. A body in a barrel. A monster landfill. A mongo sink hole,” she says. “What’s not to love?”
And why NASCAR? Well, the location played a part. Stock car racing did begin during Prohibition with bootlegging in the Carolina mountains.
“I live in Charlotte, NC, ground zero for NASCAR,” Reichs says. “Many drivers, crew members, owners, and fans live in and around the city. Annually, hundreds of thousands pour into town for Raceweek. Millions follow the sport via the media. Tempe also lives in Charlotte. It seemed a natural to take her into this world.”
One of the elements that separates Tempe Brennan from the stars of other mystery series is that she isn’t JUST a scientist or a Sherlock Holmes clue gatherer. She’s also an action hero.Reichs says this fact allows her to add realism to her books.
“Body recovery can involve difficult conditions. Heat, cold, maggots, biting insects, mud, septic sludge. I occasionally have to endure these unpleasantries, so I like to send Tempe into uncomfortable situations.”
When you read the opening scene of Flash and Bones, in which Tempe is forced to slip-slide across a muddy, smelly landfill in pounding rain, you’ll get the idea.But there’s a lot more to Tempe’s appeal than her toughness.She is popular because she is such a well developed, rounded character whom readers feel they know well.
“Tempe is tough but sensitive,” Reichs says. “She cares deeply about the victims she sees passing through her lab, especially those who have died as a result of violence. She is smart but can identify with and speak to others in ways they understand. She has a sense of humor, especially about herself. She is flawed but is working through her personal issues. Her strengths and weaknesses make her someone with whom readers can identify. She is kind, witty, and approachable.”
Tempe shares center stage in these books with the science itself. On television it’s relatively easy to make forensics look sexy with quick cuts, multi-screen shots and intense music. On the page, Reichs does it by sharing her experience and enriching her readers.
“I try to include in my fiction the things I see and smell and hear as a forensic scientist,” Reichs says. “I try to do so honestly, without including gory detail strictly for grisly sensationalism. I think my readers like to learn something when they read, and I work to keep my science honest. I try to keep up with my specialty, and with those of colleagues. In each novel the solution to the mystery is driven by a different type of science.”
So if you read all 14 Brennan novels you’ll learn about cut-marks in bone, maggots, blood spatter patterns, mitochondrial DNA, volatile fatty acids, strontium isotopes, bite marks, pollen, diatoms, and much more.
Almost as dizzying as Reich’s plots is the reality this writer lives in. She is a forensic anthropologist writing about a female forensic anthropologist who has been spun into a television character who, in her spare time, writes about a forensic anthropologist named Kathy Reichs! However, none of them is quite a carbon copy of Reichs, nor are the fictional ladies all the same.
“I think of “TV” Tempe as a prequel, a younger, less polished version of “Book” Tempe,” Reichs says. “Bones catches Tempe at an earlier point in her life, when she was in her thirties, early in her career.”
Reichs promises that we’ll see that character continue to mature and grow in interesting ways in Bones this year. In the meantime, every mystery fan can enjoy our familiar Tempe Brennan in Flash and Bones.
Kathy Reichs, like her character Temperance Brennan, is a forensic anthropologist, formerly for the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner in North Carolina and currently for the Laboratoire de sciences judiciaires et de mÉdecine lÉgale for the province of Quebec. A professor in the department of anthropology at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, she is one of only seventy-nine forensic anthropologists ever certified by the American Board of Forensic Anthropology, is past Vice President of the American Academy of Forensic Sciences, and serves on the National Police Services Advisory Board in Canada. Reichs’s first book, DÉja Dead, catapulted her to fame when it became a New York Times bestseller and won the 1997 Ellis Award for Best First Novel. Her novel, Devil Bones, was a #1 New York Times bestseller.
To learn more about Kathy, please visit her website.