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Copy-cat murders and community contagion will thrill forensic fans

The Bone Code by Kathy Reichs 

When a medical waste container with two bodies inside is washed up on the shore during a storm in South Carolina, there are startling similarities to a 15-year-old crime.

It’s an unsolved case that still haunts forensic anthropologist Temperance Brennan but what she doesn’t yet know is that the discovery will soon ignite a terrifying and deadly series of events.

The Bone Code – a classy, clever, edge-of-the-seat thriller – is the 20th novel in US author Kathy Reichs’ brilliantly authentic and addictive Temperance Brennan series which began with Déjà Dead in 1997 and straight out of the blocks won the Ellis Award for Best First Novel and became an international bestseller.

Since then Reichs – herself a forensic anthropologist – has won an army of adoring fans and the role of producer for the hit TV series, Bones, which is based on her work and her novels.

And in the age of Covid-19, her mastery of this superb medical science series retains its powerful appeal as we join Temperance (Tempe) on a gruesome case which may or may not be linked to a human flesh-eating contagion which is causing panic in the Carolinas.

On the way to the hurricane-ravaged Isle of Palms, a barrier island off the South Carolina coast, Tempe receives a call from the Charleston coroner. The storm has tossed ashore a medical waste container. Inside are two decomposed women’s bodies wrapped in plastic sheeting and bound with electrical wire.

Kathy Reichs

The discovery makes Tempe’s gut clench and her mouth go dry because she recognises many of the details as identical to those of an unsolved case she handled in Quebec fifteen years earlier. With a growing sense of foreboding, she travels to Montreal to gather evidence.

Meanwhile, health authorities in South Carolina become increasingly alarmed as a rare human flesh-eating bacterium starts to spread. So focused is Tempe on identifying the container victims that, initially, she doesn’t register how their murders and the outbreak of illness may be related.

With support from her long-time partner and former detective Andrew Ryan, and in a search that soon proves dangerous, Tempe discovers the startling connection between the victims of both murder cases… and that the killings and the disease outbreak have a common cause.

Someone is protecting a dark secret… and willing to do anything to keep it hidden.

Reichs is at the top of her game in this rollercoaster tale which harnesses the topical theme of community contagion with an action-packed and spine-tingling mystery that twists and turns on a baffling course right through to the thrilling finale.

‘The Bone Code will hook you in from the shocking opener to the utterly satisfying last gasp’

And Tempe certainly has her work cut out in this outing as she tackles not just the increasing fear and paranoia over an incurable flesh-eating bacterium in Charleston, but also a brutal double murder that echoes down the years.

As always, science and its many different branches play a leading role in this tense and all-round entertaining drama which explores the dangerous and sinister consequences of the misuse of genetics.

But at the forefront stands the redoubtable figure of Tempe… witty, dependable, super-intelligent, acutely observant, and as tenacious (excuse the pun) as a dog with a bone.

Written with Reichs’ famously incisive prose, a richly portrayed cast of characters, and eye-watering forensic detail, The Bone Code will hook you in from the shocking opener to the utterly satisfying last gasp.

(The Bone Code by Kathy Reichs, Simon & Schuster, hardback, £20)

Pam Norfolk
Pam Norfolk has been writing book reviews for over ten years, including for the Wordsworth Trust. She has also worked as a reporter and sub-editor on regional and national newspapers.

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