Blending Forensic Anthropology, Montreal's Québecois Culture, and the Carolinas
by Steven Williams
Kathy Reighs was born in 1950 in Chicago. She is both a crime writer and professional forensic anthropologist. In her professional work as a forensic anthropologist, Reichs has worked for the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, State of North Carolina and is currently working for the Laboratoire des Sciences Judiciaires et de Médecine Légale for the province of Québec. She is one of only seventy-nine forensic anthropologists certified by the American Board of Forensic Anthropology. She has served on the Board of Directors for the American Academy of Forensic Sciences as Vice President of that organization and is currently serving on the National Police Services Adivsory Board in Canada. As a professional forensic expert, Reichs is the editor of and a contributor to the nonfiction book Forensic Osteology: Advances in the Identification of Human Remains (1986) as well as acting as the editor of Hominid Origins: Inquiries Past and Present (1983). She has also had a number of academic papers published in academic journals. Within th academic facet of her professional career, Reichs is a professor in the department of anthropology at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte.
Reichs had an early interest in mysteries as a child, being an avid fan of the Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys mysteries and remembers particularly being drawn to the ones set in exotic locales. Reichs' first novel, Déjà Dead, won an Ellis Award for Best First Novel and became a New York Times bestseller. She has gone on to became a popular writer of crime fiction and in 2007 her novel Break No Bones was short-listed for the Ellis Award for Best Novel. All Reichs' novels feature Temperance Brennan, a forensic anthropologist. Tempe shares Reichs fluency in French, a rarity among forensic anthropoligists and one which both women to stand out, both professionally an in the novels. The previous eleven titles in Reich's series of Temperance Brennan novels are Deja Dead, Death du Jour, Deadly Decisions, Fatal Voyage, Grave Secrets, Bare Bones, Monday Mourning, Cross Bones, Break No Bones, Bones to Ashes, and Devil Bones.
Reichs has also been a producer for the FOX TV series Bones - now in its fifth season - inspired by her professional experiences as well as her novels. The series borrows the name of the books' heroine, Temperance 'Bones' Brennan, for its main character. In the setting of the TV series, 'Bones' Brennan lives and works in Washington, D.C. and moonlights as an thriller writer, writing novels that feature a 'fictional' forensic anthropoligist named Kathy Reichs. Other than this, the Bones series has no other direct tie-in to Reichs' Temperance Brennan novels.
Hominid Origins: Inquiries Past and Present (1983)
Edited by Kathy Reichs. This book was an outgrowth of a symposium organized by the Department of Anthropology at Northern Illinois University in 1976.
Forensic Osteology: Advances in the Identification of Human Remains (1986)
Forensic Osteology: Advances in the Identification of Human Remains, 2nd edition (1998)
Edited and with contributions by Kathy Reichs. A reference book on the state of modern foroensic osteology. The the newest edition of this book contains twenty-five chapters contributed by experts that review and discuss the most recent advances in the examination of human remains. This edition is notable as an indicator of how far the techniques and applications of forensic anthropology have advanced in only a little more than the ten years since the publication of the book's first edition. Besides acting as editor, Kathy Reichs contributed the articles Forensic Anthropology: A Decade of Progress and Postmortem Dismemberment as well as co-authoring the two articles A Multimedia Tool for the Assessment of Age in Immature Remains and Faxial Approximation.
Déjà Dead (September, 1997)
Déjà Dead introduces Kathy Reichs' recurring character Temperance 'Tempe Brennan, a forensic anthropologist originally from North Carolina and working for Montreal's Laboratoire de Médecine Légale for the Province de Québec. She has left a shaky marriage back home to take on her new, chalenging job. Tempe believes that there is a sadistic serial killer behind the deaths of two women whose bodies she has examined. Unfortunately the police are unconvinced so Tempe sets out to investigate the murders herself. This puts her in conflict with a homicide cop who sees her as simply an interfering woman. Tempe's sleuthing quickly leads her into French Montreal's seedy underworld but it is her graduate student friend, a woman studying the mating habits of prostitutes, who provides key information that allows Tempe to pick up the trail of the murderer. The killer becomes aware of her pursuit though and places a skull in her garden as a warning, putting Tempe herself under direct threat.
Death du Jour (May, 1999)
Reichs' second Tempe Brennan mystery finds Tempe burried under a heavy workload. Three of the cases in particular are puzzling. First, there is the century-old remains of a catholic nun that Tempe has been asked to exhume in order to positively identify the remains in preparation for the dead woman's beatification. Not only are the remains not where they should be in the convent graveyard but they are not quite right either. Next there are the murders of two people and the arson fire of the house they are in. Tempe is brought into the case to determine the identities of the bodies. Four more corpses are found nearby, that of a couple and their twin four-month-old boys. As Montreal police investigate it turns out that the deaths including the murdered family may be connected to a strange cult located in North Carolina. Then a university teaching assistant, a nun's missing niece, disappears after recently joining that commune. Tempe is still also working as a professor in North Carolina and it just so happens that the cult has a commune near her home in the Carolinas. While Tempe is back in North Carolina for her teaching job, she takes her daughter to an island monkey reserve where she discovers several bodies in shallow graves. These additionals deaths also seem to have links to the North Carolina cult.
Deadly Decisions (July, 2000)
The third Temperance Brennan mystery by Reichs has Tempe discovering another puzzling connection between Quebec and the Carolinas. The link between Montreal and North Carolina begins with the death of a nine-year-old girl recently killed in a Montreal street by crossfire between rival motorcycle gangs. There is a motorcycle gang war going on in Montréal and Tempe has been called in to help with the forensics for a pair of identical twin motorcycle gang members who have inadvertantly blown themselves up with their own homemade bomb. This puts Tempe in attendence when a rival gang member turns informant and leads police to two much older bodies as well as the skull and leg bones of a teenage girl who disappeared form North Carolina fifteen years earlier. Though the skull is a recent discovery, the remainder of the girl's dismembered remains had been laid to rest by her family more than fifteen years earlier. Tempe begins looking for the reasons why.
Fatal Voyage (July, 2001)
Reichs' fourth novel begins with Tempe joining an emergency disaster mortuary response team sent to investigate an airplane crash in North Carolina's Smoky Mountains. During the investigation and recovery, Tempe stumbles upon a body part that does not match up with any of the plane's passengers. The foot she has found belonged to an unidentified elderly man with no apparent link to the plane crash or its victims. To complicate matters there is no sign of the bodies of two men who are supposed to have been on the plane, a detective and a criminal he was escorting back to Canada to stand trial for murder. When Tempe starts digging more deeply into the mystery of the unexpected body part, she unexpectedly loses her job with the state thanks to a politically ambitious lieutenant governor. Worried about her professional reputation, she sets off on her own to continue her investigation into the unexplained body part. She is surprised to find that the mysterious foot is a link to a depraved episode in the local history of the crash site that has connections to North Carolina's political and business elite.
Grave Secrets (July, 2002)
The fifth Temperance Brennan mystery by Kathy Reichs moves her main character into a more exotic setting. At the beginning of the story, Tempe is working with some Guatemalan colleagues on a project to identify the remains of Guatemalan villagers who were 'disappeared' twenty years earlier. Things quickly turn dangerous when part of the investigative team is ambushed by men with guns. Then, she is unexpectedly called in to consult on some human remains. What is left of the body of a girl has been found in a septic tank and the police are concerned that it might be the body of the daughter of the Canadian ambassador to Guatemala, one of four recently missing upper class young women. If so, it may indicate that at a serial killer is loose in Guatemala City. Tempe works to try and figure out whether there actually is a connection between the recently discovered remains and the missing young women. She develops a growing suspicion based on clues she uncovers that there may also be a connection to the murder of a human-rights investigator involved in the 'disappearance' exhumation project. As she pursues her investigation, Tempe is forced to realize that she may has a likely target for whoever apparently wants the 'disappeared' identificatin project to stop.
Bare Bones (July, 2003)
Bare Bones, Kathy Reich's sixth Temperance 'Tempe' Brennan mystery novel begins with Tempe on her way to a beachside vacation near her hometown of Charlotte, North Carolina, her first vacation in years. Before she can head out though she is asked to help with the investigation of the death of an infant. A local janitor's granddaughter is found dead and burned and the body burned up in a woodstove and the mother has disappeared. To top this off, some strange, decomposing remains that may or may not be human are discovered by Tempe's dog during a barbacue at a local resort. Then there is the crash of a small plane crash and the resulting fire both burnes the pilot and passenger beyond recognition and leaves a mysterious black coating on the bodies. Gradually Tempe comes to realize that all three cases are related to a drug-smuggling ring that also is involved in poaching. Then Tempe realizes that someone is following both her and her daughter.
Monday Mourning (June, 2004)
Reichs' seventh Tempe Brennan begins with Tempe in Montréal in the depths of winter in order to testify as an expert witness in a murder trial. Three sets of human bones are discovered burried in shallow graves in the basement of a pizza parlor once owned by a mob bos. Tempe is called in to help identify the remains, when they died, and what were their cause of death. At first it looks like the remains are old, possibly as old as one hundred years which makes the police essentially uninterested in the case. Once Tempe begins her detailed examinations though, she discovers that the remains are of young women, probably teenagers, and probably killed simetime in the 1980s. A murder case it is. As Tempe continues her work in the lab, she makes another grisly discovery. The the women had been tortured before being murdered.
Cross Bones (June, 2005)
Cross Bones, Reichs' eighth mystery begins with Tempe Brennan being called in to determine whether the death of a slightly shady Orthodox Jewish antiquities dealer was murder or suicide. Tempe receives a surprise clue from an acquaintance of the dead man. He hints that the death was probably murder and provides her with a photograph of a skeleton taken in Israel in 1963 that he says is the cause of the man's death. Tempe heads off to Isreal and becomes involved in the mystery surrounding a first century CE tomb that may or may not contain the remains of James, the brother of Jesus Christ. The skeleton was apparently originally discovered during an archaeological dig. As Tempe uncovers the murdered mans connections into the black market antiquities trade, she also puts herself squarely in the middle of a swirling controversy over the authenticity of the crypt the ancient remains were found in.
Break No Bones (July, 2006)
Tempe Brennan begins Reichs' ninth myster supervising an archaeological student excavation of a prehistoric burial ground on a barrier island near Charleston, South Carolina. The discovery of the more recent remains of a body changes things. When the local county coroner, an old friend of hers, ends up being too ill to work, Tempe takes on the investigation as a favor. Another body is found hanging from a tree deep in the woods. A third is discovered in a barre. All three bodies have subtle, telltale indications that they were murdered in the same way. Tempe keeps on working through the puzzle after the discoveries bring Tempe's estranged husband, a lawyer, into town in pursuit of leads in a missing persons case connected to a local church. Through it all Tempe pursues her clues and in the end uncovers a disturbing secret.
Bones to Ashes (August, 2007)
The tenth Temperance Brennan novel begins with the examination of an unidentified New Brunswick skeleton from Québec's cold case unit. Tempe determines that the bones belonged to a teenaged girl. She is also asked to help with the cases of four other missing girls by and the remains of three other unidentified bodies of teenage girls. Investigation reveals a link between the skeletal remains, the missing girls, and the three unidentified bodies. It looks to be a series of teenage abduction murders and all indications are that it is a single serial killer who is responsible.
Devil Bones (August, 2008)
Tempe is drawn out her recently serene and untroubled life as an anthropology professor to help with another grisly murder investigation in this, the eleventh Temperance Brennan mystery by Kathy Reichs. The skull of a teenage girl is found in a basement in Charlotte along with a decapitated chicken, animal bones, and cauldrons containing beads, feathers, and other relics of religious ceremonies. Nearby, the remarkably well-preserved torso of a teenage boy is found in river. Tempe and a Charlotte police department detective investigation of the deaths leads them into the city's underground world of Santeria, Voodoo, and Wicca. At the same time they are pursuing their methodical investigations they must cope with a citizen vigilante witch-hunt movement out for revenge, stirred up by a local fundamentalist preacher turned politician who blames devil worshipers and Wiccans for the murders. In the end Tempe discovers that it there is no simple explanation for the murders, instead she uncovers a tangled web of dirty politics, religious persecution, and male prostitution.
206 Bones (August, 2009)
206 Bones, the twelfth novel in the series, begins with Tempe, aka Temperance, regaining consciousness to discover that she is bound and in a dark, cold, very small enclosed space. The story develops as she tries to maintain her composure while reconstructing the events that lead up to her desperate situation. It all began with a false accusation that Tempe had mishandled the autopsy on the remains of a missing elderly heiress that she had recently brought back to Chicago from Montreal. To complicate matters, the one man with information about the incriminating call is dead within hours followed by the discovery the corpses of two more elderly women in the countryside near Montreal. Tempe gradually comes to the devistating conclusion that a forensic colleague must have been responsible for sabotaging the lab work that lead to her present dire predicament.
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