A Conspiracy of Bones by Kathy Reichs

Don’t read this Temperance Brennan novel if you are a lover of Fox News and/or think that Trump really won the 2020 election! Even though political issues take up only about 3% of this forensic mystery, you’ll still be too irritated to focus on the remaining 97%.

For the rest of us, forensic anthropologist Dr. Kathy Reichs has written an absorbing and suspenseful account that’s more-or-less fictional but based more heavily than usual on the “write what you know” dictum. The usual, as you probably know, is that Temperance Brennan is a forensic anthropologist modeled on her creator, including working out of an odd combination of cities, namely Montreal and Charlotte; I am told that there was (or still is?) a TV show featuring her, which is why she might sound familiar even if you haven’t read the previous books in the series. What’s less usual is that other matters in A Conspiracy of Bones, such as Brennan’s medical condition, are also based on Reichs’s real-life situation.

Anyway, for the most part this is a pretty standard forensic mystery. Primary and secondary characters are well drawn, the plot keeps the reader interested, and the setting is effective. So it’s well worth reading—and definitely don’t skip the author’s note at end, where you get some unconventional revelations about the construction of this novel.

And now I must rant: I listened to the audiobook version, skillfully narrated by Linda Emond. But Emond does have one annoying quirk, which I’ve noticed in other narrations that she has done: for some reason she consistently pronounced “provenance” as “provenience”! Why would a professional actress with an MFA from the Professional Actor Training at UW commit such a solecism? And why hasn’t anyone caught it before? This has to be at least the third audiobook in which this error occurs. OK, rant over. Right now, before going to press with this post, I decided to look up “provenience”—and lo and behold it turns out to be the word Reichs actually used! More to the point, it turns out to be a legitimate term from anthropology (“provenance” being apparently consigned to the art and antiques world)! Well, live and learn. Never be afraid to admit your mistakes, no matter how self-confident you are.

Categories: Books