BOOK: Flash and Bones by Kathy Reichs (2011)

As much as I used to love Kathy Reichs’s series about forensic anthropologist Temperance Brennan (the mystery series that inspired (loosely) the Fox series Bones), I think it’s time to declare me and it officially through.  I’ve been pretty disappointed in the last four or five installments, and her overuse of cliffhangers is something I’m finding increasingly insufferable and amateurish.  If you have to end every single chapter with a cliffhanger in order to manipulate your readers into turning pages, then you aren’t writing a good book.  And Ms. Reichs?  You aren’t writing good books anymore.

Writing aside, the plots, too, have been getting less intriguing (they used to feature a lot more science and now it’s almost as if Reichs thinks her fans are just lazy TV watchers, not real science or book lovers, and she feels she needs to dumb everything to appeal to the least common denominator or risk losing her audience), as have the relationships between the characters, which have become, for me, truly stale.

Of course, it didn’t help that the frame for the story in this installment was  NASCAR racing, quite possibly my least favorite subject.  It begins with Tempe being called in to try to determine the identity of a corpse found encased in a barrel of cement at the NASCAR race track in Charlotte — a dead body she soon discovers is connected to an old cold case involving a missing young couple with ties to a local militia group.  She quickly teams up with one of the detectives who had worked the original case — super-stereotype Det. Slidell (uncouth, arrogant ball-scratcher) — to try to figure out how the cases fit together and what happened to each of the three victims.

As with Robert B. Parker’s Spenser series, Reichs’s novels seem to be getting shorter and shorter.  But unlike Parker’s Spenser and gang, I’m starting to lose interest in the characters in the Brennan series.  The same thing happened to Patricia Cornwell’s series about medical examiner Kay Scarpetta — those novels started off rich in story and science, with complex characters and relationships, and gradually became sloppily written and uninspired in general.  I wonder if maybe the success of Bones has gone to Reichs’s or her publisher’s heads?  Is she being pressure to crank out more, and more simple, installments?  Or is it what I suspected happened to Cornwell — when an author becomes famous, do their editors stop caring about quality, knowing the books will sell no matter what?

Either way, the end result is me skimming paragraphs and rolling my eyes way too much.  Time to find another series about a smart science lady.  Anybody got any suggestions?

[MYSTERY]

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5 Responses to “BOOK: Flash and Bones by Kathy Reichs (2011)”

  1. RogerBW Says:

    Sometimes the editor does care, but the author has enough clout to override her and get the first draft published anyway. When an author seems to go off suddenly, this is often because their books are no longer being rewritten by the editor…

    With Cornwell, it seemed to me that the books were becoming less about solving the crimes and more about these characters who were clearly fascinating people about whose fascinating lives any reader must want to know in excruciating detail. (Also: getting inside the criminal’s head is lazy. The detectives don’t get to do it, so why should we?)

    In the later Spenser books, Parker clearly regards his characters as the epitome of cool (a problem that Jim Butcher has too), but there is at least still a workable criminal plot to hang the story on.

    But you’ll notice I haven’t mentioned Reichs, and that’s because I read Bare Bones when someone lent it to me and wasn’t engaged at all. Hey ho, if we all liked the same things, etc…

  2. Alisaj29 Says:

    I don’t know about smart science lady, but you might want to check out Bess Crawford Mystery by Charles Todd. So far it’s a two book series and the main character is a British nurse during the Holocaust. She becomes involved in solving murders of soldiers that she cares for. The second series I recommend which are really lady science characters, but are good none the less, The Pendergast Novels by Lincoln Childs and Douglas Preston.

  3. Liz Says:

    As you know, I read this series too, and I’ve been wondering the same thing about the writing. I know so little about the writing “biz,” though, that I just thought Reichs herself just wasn’t trying hard (or didn’t care) enough. I’m still learning enough to still be interested in the books. My favorite thing that I learned was how to swear in Quebecois French! I’ve also learned some history and sociology (like “1st Nations”) – but I haven’t picked up much science! But I heartily agree about the characters and plot!

  4. JC (@walkthisworld) Says:

    sadly I have to agree that Reichs just seems to have gone the way of Cornwell.

    I would recommend you to check out Kathryn Fox (if you haven’t already) an australian crime writer and also qualified forensic pathologist.

    Also more detective than forensics but Karin Slaughter’s books are pretty cool particularly her georgia series (although some of the books lag a bit the series is well worth sticking with…just don’t read ahead).

  5. Meg Says:

    Ooh, awesome! Thanks, JC! I will check both those authors out! Haven’t read either one, though I’ve at least heard of Karin Slaughter.

    Alisa, I’ll also look for Todd’s series as well. I’ve read some other Childs/Preston novels and not been terrifically impressed with the writing, but they have been seriously FUN, and I’m definitely in the mood for that sometimes. Will look for that series as well.

    Liz, I have no comments. Other than, Hi, Liz!

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