It’s been nearly 25 years since forensic anthropologist Kathy Reichs published her first mystery thriller Deja Dead, which introduced her protagonist Temperance Brennan to mystery readers around the world. The book became an international, award-winning best seller and set Ms. Brennan on a trail of solving cold cases where she used her impressive knowledge and skills in forensic pathology, regardless of all the obstacles that were thrown at her.
With her new book The Bone Code, Reichs thrusts Temperance Brennan into her 20th case that involves another set of long lost human bones, as well as a long hidden dark secret in the pharmaceutical industry, which has her shuttling between South Carolina and Montreal, her second place of residence.
This time, Ms. Brennan is summoned by the coroner’s office in Charleston, South Carolina following a devastating hurricane in the area. It seems that the storm’s strength somehow unearthed a plastic medical waste container that contains two decomposed bodies that were wrapped in plastic sheeting and bound by electrical wiring. With the help of her boyfriend Andrew Ryan – who served as a homicide detective for the Surete du Quebec (SQ) and is currently working as a private investigator – they discover that the two decomposing bodies were that of a young woman and her daughter. As well, she discovers that these two tragic murder victims have ties to a cold case that she was working on in Quebec 15 years earlier.
And the same time as she works to identify the victims, and how and why they were murdered in cold blood, the state of South Carolina is experiencing a contagion that causes anyone who is affected to undergo a painful flesh eating condition, and health authorities in the state want to work on a vaccine that will curb that deadly contagion. Teaming up with Detective Vislosky from the Charleston PD, who is stone cold in character but is dripping with endless sarcasm, they dig through the layers of files, questioning of witnesses, and the simple concept of putting two and two together, they not only find out the identities of the murder victims, but thanks to the young woman’s recently discovered personal journal, that she knew some of the dark, greedy secrets of the pharmaceutical firm that she worked for, InovoVax, that led her to endless harassment and eventual violent death. It was a secret that the people at InovoVax wanted to keep underground. In fact, they were determined to keep it a deep secret when they try to kill Ms. Brennan (but end up seriously injuring Andrew).
The Bone Code, an entertaining, gripping book just like Reich’s other thrillers, is probably the most technical of all her books. Readers get a thorough, yet comprehensive, lesson not only in the world of pharmaceuticals, but also using DNA to solve murder cold cases and establish a victim’s long lost identity that’s caused by the elements of nature over an extended period of time.
Kathy Reichs and Temperance Brennan, like their contemporaries such as fellow coroner/thriller writers Patricia Cornwell and Morton Shulman, as well as fictional coroners Kay Scarpetta, Quincy and Wojek, proves that the individual whose duty is to use all aspects of forensic science to solve all sorts of crime, whether the cases are hot or cold, are truly the unsung heroes of law enforcement and crime solving. And The Bone Code is another vivid example towards that argument.