Kathy Reich’s Cold Cold Bones, Review: Feisty fallibility

Cold Cold Bones (Temperance Brennan #21) by Kathy Reichs is a quality addition to and worthy milestone marker for this much-loved series. Read my full review.

Cold Cold Bones Synopsis

Cold Cold Bones, Review - Kathy Reichs  Temperance Brennan Book 21

Book 21, Temperance Brennan

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.

(Simon & Schuster, July 2022)

Genre: Crime-Detective, Thriller, Mystery, Drama

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Book Review

Any book series of great length is going to have its highs and lows. On the back of Temperance Brennan’s notably strong 20th outing The Bone Code, I had been eager to see what fresh criminal depravity Reich would have her iconic forensic anthropologist investigate in this 21st novel. But as it turns out, Cold Cold Bones it is quite literally a case of ‘what is old is new again’.

But firstly, this novel’s opening paragraph must rank among the most attention grabbing:

It begun with an eyeball. The pupil was wide as a Texas prairie, the iris the color of faded denim. Crimson vessels spiderwebbed the yellow-white sclera.

Although, as in typical Kathy Reichs style, the book synopsis has already given away several plot elements that readers would, if they’d only learned of them within the novel text, have found shocking or at least surprising.

A ‘best of Temperance Brennan’ hits list

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.

Reich’s entertains with Brennan’s trademark deadpan observations – this, looking through a one-way window at a suspect in a police interview room:

…, all angles and scowls, sat motionless in a scarred wooden chair at a gray metal table…. I put his height at somewhere around six feet. His attitude at two exists past hostile.”

And, if like me you have always loved Tempe for her flaws, then you will enjoy her feisty fallibilities taking centre stage in Cold Cold Bones rather than copious forensic detail. Her recollection-laden caustic banter with the antagonistic detective Slidell is the fuel that propels this highly compelling and emotionally driven search for the perpetrator. And that leads me to this novel’s weakness, a conclusion that felt a little anti-climactic in comparison to the thrill of the chase that preceded it.

Overall though, Cold Cold Bones Book 21 is a quality addition to, and worthy milestone marker for, this iconic Temperance Brennan series. If you have lost touch with the series and want to reconnect with its lead character, this is the book for you.

BOOK RATING: The Story 4 / 5 ; The Writing 4 / 5

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More Cold Cold Bones reviews

“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…”— Kirkus Reviews 

‘Tempe is working on a case that is extremely personal from start to finish, making this 21st entry the most focused character study of our protagonist thus far.’ – BookReporter

“Reanimates all the ghosts from Temperance Brennan’s forensic past until they thoroughly haunt her present. Who or what is staging this grimly nostalgic murder spree? In Kathy Reichs’ deft hands, the question is given delicious urgency. This page-turning series never lets the reader down.”
 — Harlan Coben, author of The Match

About the Author, Kathy Reichs

Kathy Reichs’s first novel Déjà Dead, published in 1997, won the Ellis Award for Best First Novel and was an international bestseller. Cold, Cold Bones is Kathy’s twenty-first entry in her series featuring forensic anthropologist Temperance Brennan. Kathy was also a producer of Fox Television’s longest running scripted drama, Bones, which was based on her work and her novels. One of very few forensic anthropologists certified by the American Board of Forensic Anthropology, Kathy divides her time between Charlotte, North Carolina, and Montreal, Québec. Visit her at KathyReichs.com or follow her on Twitter or Facebook.

* My receipt of a review copy from the publisher did not impact the expression of my honest opinions above.