Briefly Noted: ‘Cold Cold Bones’ by Kathy Reichs

I enjoyed reading this novel about forensic anthropologist Temperance Brennan in Reichs’ twenty-first novel in the series that inspired the TV show “Bones.” While I have probably seen most of the 246 episodes of the TV program, this is the first time I’ve read one of the books which are categorized as “suspense thrillers.”

I don’t think I can fairly review the book because I’m strongly influenced by the TV version of the character. However, this book kept my attention, the characters were real and fully drawn, and the suspense was constant.

From the Publisher

“Winter has come to North Carolina and, with it, a drop in crime. Freed from a heavy work schedule, Tempe Brennan is content to dote on her daughter Katy, finally returned to civilian life from the army. But when mother and daughter meet at Tempe’s place one night, they find a box on the back porch. Inside: a very fresh human eyeball.

“GPS coordinates etched into the eyeball lead to a Benedictine monastery where an equally macabre discovery awaits. Soon after, Tempe examines a mummified corpse in a state park, and her anxiety deepens.

“There seems to be no pattern to the subsequent killings uncovered, except that each mimics in some way a homicide that a younger Tempe had been called in to analyze. Who or what is targeting her, and why?

“Helping Tempe search for answers is detective Erskine “Skinny” Slidell, retired but still volunteering with the CMPD cold case unit—and still displaying his gallows humor. Also pulled into the mystery: Andrew Ryan, Tempe’s Montreal-based beau, now working as a private detective.

“Could this elaborately staged skein of mayhem be the prelude to a twist that is even more shocking? Tempe is at a loss to establish the motive for what is going on…and then her daughter disappears.

“At its core, Cold, Cold Bones is a novel of revenge—one in which revisiting the past may prove the only way to unravel the present.” 

Book Lover Reviews’ viewpoint is apt: “Cold Cold Bones could glibly be described as a mixed tape of Brennan’s best hits, akin to those photo boards or slideshows parents typically rollout at 21st birthday celebrations. This 21st novel certainly features several of Tempe’s most grisly past cases and pulls together many of her past colleagues and acquaintances, but does so in a way that I think enhances, and perhaps reinvigorates the anthropologist’s characterisation.”

Kirkus writes, in part, “Reichs supplies a great hook, a double helping of homicides past and present, and all the meticulous forensic details and throwaway cliffhanger chapter endings you’d expect from this celebrated series, though the motive behind the murders is significantly less interesting than the ghoulish crimes themselves.”

If you like books labeled as suspense thrillers and/or police procedurals, this novel might bring you just what you’re looking for at night after most of the lights are out and the world is quiet except for the kinds of perps this book brings to life.


Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of the Florida Folk Magic series that begins with “Conjure Woman’s Cat.”