This is another of Kathy Reichs painstakingly plotted stories about Dr. Temperance Brennan, who like the author, manages to be a forensic anthropologist practicing in both Montreal and Charlotte, North Carolina. This time Brennan is in Charlotte, coping with a burnt newborn infant, an unusual plane crash, bones in the privy, and a whole host of other misadventures that spell trouble no matter how you arrange them. To make things more complicated, Brennan is spending time with Andrew Ryan, a detective with the Montreal police. And lest I forget, Katy, her daughter is in love, and Temperance isn't sure if it's her intuition or mother hen instincts, but she is not completely sure of the suitor.
Typical of Reichs, she gradually weaves these disparate threads together into a tightly linked whole, climaxing in an ending which isn't completely surprising, but which takes the reader through a bit of a rollercoaster rider on the way to the conclusion. Also typical of the writer, there are countless tiny forensic details to distract, baffle, and, eventually, illuminate the reader. Of course, people who read forensic mystery stories dote on details, and Temperance Brennan seems to have a library full of unusual information
This story has a bit more action in it than is the norm for Reichs. It is so complicated that Brennan is perpetually changing scenes and crimes. The effect is to make the story interesting, although just a mite too hard to follow. The advancing love interest gives the tale an interesting spin. Her feelings for Ryan have never been particularly secret, but they come pretty much out of the closet in this story. I can't say that I personally enjoy all of Tempe's admiration for her handsome lover, but the relationship never becomes the driving force behind the story, as it has with other authors..
Reichs has always been compared to Pat Cornwell, and, despite obvious differences, appeals equally to the same audiences. Cornwell's fault was that she fell into the trap of making her character into the plot to the exclusion of the real plot. So far, Reichs has managed to avoid that pitfall while still managing to make Temperance Brennan into a real person. Hopefully she will keep this up, and we won't have to cope with the litany of woes that followed Kay Scarpetta.