In a house under renovation, a plumber uncovers a cellar no one knew about and makes a grisly discovery: a decapitated chicken, animal bones, and cauldrons containing beads, feathers, and other relics of religious ceremonies. In the center of the shrine rests the skull of a teenage girl. Meanwhile, on a nearby lakeshore, the headless body of a teenage boy is found by a man walking his dog.
Forensic anthropologist Temperance Brennan is called in to investigate, and a complex and gripping tale unfolds. Nothing is clear—neither when the deaths occurred, nor where. Was the skull brought to the cellar or was the girl murdered there? Why is the boy's body remarkably well preserved? Led by a preacher turned politician, citizen vigilantes blame devil worshippers and Wiccans, and Temperance will need all of her expertise to get to the real culprit first.
About the Author
Hometown:Charlotte, North Carolina and Montreal, Québec
Place of Birth:Chicago, Illinois
Education:B.A., American University, 1971; M.A., Ph.D., Northwestern University
Read an Excerpt
My name is Temperance Deassee Brennan. I'm five-five, feisty, and forty-plus. Multidegreed. Overworked. Underpaid.
Slashing lines through that bit of literary inspiration, I penned another opening.
I'm a forensic anthropologist. I know death. Now it stalks me. This is my story.
Merciful God. Jack Webb and Dragnet reincarnate.
I glanced at the clock. Two thirty-five.
Abandoning the incipient autobiography, I began to doodle. Circles inside circles. The clock face. The conference room. The UNCC campus. Charlotte. North Carolina. North America. Earth. The Milky Way.
Around me, my colleagues argued minutiae with all the passion of religious zealots. The current debate concerned wording within a subsection of the departmental self-study. The room was stifling, the topic poke-me-in-the-eye dull. We'd been in session for over two hours, and time was not flying.
I added spiral arms to the outermost of my concentric circles. Began filling spaces with dots. Four hundred billion stars in the galaxy. I wished I could put my chair into hyperdrive to any one of them.
Anthropology is a broad discipline, comprised of linked subspecialties. Physical. Cultural. Archaeological. Linguistic. Our department has the full quartet. Members of each group were feeling a need to have their say.
George Petrella is a linguist who researches myth as a narrative of individual and collective identity. Occasionally he says something I understand.
At the moment, Petrella was objecting to the wording "reducible to" four distinct fields. He was proposing substitution of the phrase "divisible into."
Cheresa Bickham, a Southwestern archaeologist, and Jennifer Roberts, a specialist in cross-cultural belief systems, were holding firm for "reducible to."
Tiring of my galactic pointillism, and not able to reduce or divide my ennui into any matters of interest, I switched to calligraphy.
Temperance. The trait of avoiding excess.
Double order, please. Side of restraint. Hold the ego.
The verbiage flowed on.
At 3:10 a vote was taken. "Divisible into" carried the day.
Evander Doe, department chair for over a decade, was presiding. Though roughly my age, Doe looks like someone out of a Grant Wood painting. Bald. Owlish wire-rims. Pachyderm ears.
Most who know Doe consider him dour. Not me. I've seen the man smile at least two or three times.
Having put "divisible into" behind him, Doe proceeded to the next burning issue. I halted my swirly lettering to listen.
Should the department's mission statement stress historical ties to the humanities and critical theory, or should it emphasize the emerging role of the natural sciences and empirical observation?
My aborted autobiography had been smack on. I would die of boredom before this meeting adjourned.
Sudden mental image. The infamous sensory deprivation experiments of the 1950s. I pictured volunteers wearing opaque goggles and padded hand muffs, lying on cots in white-noise chambers.
I listed their symptoms and compared them to my present state.
Anxiety. Depression. Antisocial behavior. Hallucination.
I crossed out the fourth item. Though stressed and irritable, I wasn't hallucinating. Yet. Not that I'd mind. A vivid vision would have provided diversion.
Don't get me wrong. I've not grown cynical about teaching. I love being a professor. I regret that my interaction with students seems more limited each year.
Why so little classroom time? Back to the subdiscipline thing.
Ever try to see just a doctor? Forget it. Cardiologist. Dermatologist. Endocrinologist. Gastroenterologist. It's a specialized world. My field is no different.
Anthropology: the study of the human organism. Physical anthropology: the study of the biology, variability, and evolution of the human organism. Osteology: the study of the bones of the human organism. Forensic anthropology: the study of the bones of the human organism for legal purposes.
Follow the diverging branches, and there I am. Though my training was in bioarchaeology, and I started my career excavating and analyzing ancient remains, I shifted into forensics years ago. Crossed to the dark side, my grad school buddies still tease. Drawn by fame and fortune. Yeah, right. Well, maybe some notoriety, but certainly no fortune.
Forensic anthropologists work with the recently dead. We're employed by law enforcement agencies, coroners, medical examiners, prosecutors, defense attorneys, the military, human rights groups, and mass-disaster recovery teams. Drawing on our knowledge of biomechanics, genetics, and skeletal anatomy, we address questions of identification, cause of death, postmortem interval, and postmortem alteration of the corpse. We examine the burned, decomposed, mummified, mutilated, dismembered, and skeletal. Often, by the time we see remains, they're too compromised for an autopsy to yield data of value.
As an employee of the state of North Carolina, I'm under contract to both UNC-Charlotte, and to the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, which has facilities in Charlotte and Chapel Hill. In addition, I consult for the Laboratoire de sciences judiciaires et de médecine légale in Montreal.
North Carolina and Quebec? Extraordinaire. More on that later.
Because of my cross-border treks and my dual responsibilities within North Carolina, I teach only one course at UNCC, an upper-level seminar in forensic anthropology. This was my biannual semester in the classroom.
And the conference room.
I look forward to the teaching. It's the interminable meetings that I detest. And the faculty politics.
Someone moved that the mission statement be returned to committee for further study. Hands rose, mine among them. As far as I was concerned, the thing could be sent to Zimbabwe for permanent interment.
Doe introduced the next agenda item. Formation of a committee on professional ethics.
Inwardly groaning, I began a list of tasks requiring my attention.
1. Specimens to Alex.
Alex is my lab and teaching assistant. Using my selections, she would set up a bone quiz for the next seminar.
2. Report to LaManche.
Pierre LaManche is a pathologist, and chief of the medico-legal section at the LSJML. The last case I'd done before leaving Montreal the previous week was one of his, an auto-fire victim. According to my analysis, the charred corpse was that of a thirty-something white male.
Unfortunately for LaManche, the presumed driver should have been a fifty-nine-year-old Asian female. Unfortunately for the victim, someone had pumped two slugs into his left parietal. Unfortunately for me, the case was a homicide and would probably require my presence in court.
3. Report to Larabee.
Tim Larabee is the Mecklenburg County medical examiner, and director of the three-pathologist Charlotte facility. His had been the first case I'd done upon returning to North Carolina, a bloated and decomposed lower torso washed up on the shore of the Catawba River. Pelvic structure had indicated the individual was male. Skeletal development had bracketed the age between twelve and fourteen. Healed fractures of the right fourth and fifth metatarsals had suggested the possibility of an ID from antemortem hospital records and X-rays, if such could be found.
4. Phone Larabee.
Arriving on campus today, I'd found a two-word voice mail from the MCME: Call me. I'd been dialing when Petrella came to drag me into the meeting from hell.
When last we'd spoken, Larabee had located no missing person reports that matched the Catawba River vic's profile. Perhaps he'd now found one. I hoped so, for the sake of the family. And the child.
I thought of the conversation Larabee would have with the parents. I've had those talks, delivered those life-shattering pronouncements. It's the worst part of my job. There is no easy way to tell a mother and father that their child is dead. That his legs have been found, but his head remains missing.
5. Sorenstein recommendation.
Rudy Sorenstein was an undergraduate with hopes of continuing his studies at Harvard or Berkeley. No letter from me was going to make that happen. But Rudy tried hard. Worked well with others. I'd give his mediocre GPA the best spin possible.
6. Katy shopping.
Kathleen Brennan Petersons is my daughter, living in Charlotte as of this fall, employed as a researcher in the public defender's office. Having spent the previous six years as an undergraduate at the University of Virginia, Katy was desperately in need of clothes made of fabric other than denim. And of money to buy them. I'd offered to serve as fashion consultant. There's irony. Pete, my estranged husband, was functioning as ways and means.
7. Birdie litter.
Birdie is my cat. He is fussy concerning matters of feline toilette, and expresses his displeasure in ways I try to prevent. Inconveniently, Birdie's preferred litter brand is available only in veterinary offices.
8. Dental checkup.
The notification had been delivered with yesterday's mail.
Sure. I'd get right on that.
9. Dry cleaning.
10. Car inspection.
11. Shower door handle.
I sensed, more than heard, an odd sound in the room. Stillness.
Glancing up, I realized attention was focused on me.
"Sorry." I shifted a hand to cover my tablet. Casually.
"Your preference, Dr. Brennan?"
"Read them back."
Doe listed what I assumed were three hotly contested names.
"Committee on Professional Responsibility and Conduct. Committee on the Evaluation of Ethical Procedures. Committee on Ethical Standards and Practices."
"The latter implies the imposition of rules set by an external body or regulating board." Petrella was doing petulant.
Bickham threw her pen to the tabletop. "No. It does not. It is simp -- "
"The department is creating an ethics committee, right?"
"It's critical that the body's title accurately reflect the philosophical underpinnings -- "
"Yes." Doe's reply to my question cut Petrella off.
"Why not call it the Ethics Committee?"
Ten pairs of eyes froze on my face. Some looked confused. Some surprised. Some offended.
Petrella slumped back in his chair.
Roberts dropped her gaze.
Doe cleared his throat. Before he could speak, a soft knock broke the silence.
The door opened, and a face appeared in the crack. Round. Freckled. Worried. Twenty-two curious eyes swiveled to it.
"Sorry to interrupt." Naomi Gilder was the newest of the departmental secretaries. And the most timid. "I wouldn't, of course, except..."
Naomi's gaze slid to me.
"Dr. Larabee said it was urgent that he speak with Dr. Brennan."
My first impulse was to do an arm-pump Yes! Instead, I raised acquiescent brows and palms. Duty calls. What can one do?
Gathering my papers, I left the room and practically danced across the reception area and down a corridor lined with faculty offices. Every door was closed. Of course they were. The occupants were cloistered in a windowless conference room arguing administrative trivia.
I felt exhilarated. Free!
Entering my office, I punched Larabee's number. My eyes drifted to the window. Four floors down, rivers of students flowed to and from late-afternoon classes. Low, angled rays bronzed the trees and ferns in Van Landingham Glen. When I'd entered the meeting the sun had been straight overhead.
"Larabee." The voice was a little on the high side, with a soft Southern accent.
"Did I drag you from something important?"
"Never mind. Is this regarding the Catawba River floater?"
"Twelve-year-old from Mount Holly name of Anson Tyler. Parents were on a gambling junket in Vegas. Returned day before yesterday, discovered the kid hadn't been home for a week."
"How did they calculate that?"
"Counted the remaining Pop-Tarts."
"You obtained medical records?"
"I want your take, of course, but I'd bet the farm the broken toes on Tyler's X-rays match those on our vic."
I thought of little Anson alone in his house. Watching TV. Making peanut butter sandwiches and toasting Pop-Tarts. Sleeping with the lights on.
The feeling of exhilaration began to fade.
"What morons go off and leave a twelve-year-old child?"
"The Tylers won't be getting nominations for parents of the year."
"They'll be charged with child neglect?"
"Is Anson Tyler the reason you called?" According to Naomi, Larabee had said urgent. Positive ID's didn't usually fall into that category.
"Earlier. But not now. Just got off the horn with the homicide boys. They may have a nasty situation."
Trepidation quashed the last lingering traces of exhilaration.
Copyright © 2008 by Temperance Brennan, L.P.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
The overall plot is not new; it has been done and redone. Brennan spends far more time in this novel as a police investigator than a forensic anthropologist. As a murder mystery, this book was more run of the mill than I would expect.
I have yet to meet a book written by Kathy Reichs that I didn't enjoy. Devil Bones is no exception. Tempe is asked to review the remains found in a home under renovation. The bones were found in what could only be described as a Voodoo setting. While she is doing this, a headless body of a teenage boy is discovered on a lakeshore. Are the two connected in some way? Two detectives work with Tempe to discover if this is really Voodoo or some other form of devil worship. Between a preacher/politician trying to get elected and his sermonizing about the find, one of the detectives getting killed and Andrew Ryan coming back into Tempe's life right along with an old high school flame, there is plenty of action to keep your mind whirling. Linda Emond reads with easy and clarity. She provides several voices that are appropriate for each character so the listener has no problem following who is speaking.
I have collected and read all of Kathy Reichs' book, so I guess you could say I have been a fan for a long time. However, this book seemed almost like a chore to read. The plot was not bad, but it seemed like the technical jargon in this particular book was stronger than the actual plot. Sometimes I found myself skimming the "tech speak" to get to the conversations developing the plot. If she continues with this format, I may become an ex fan.
I really enjoyed the book better than the TV series.
Fantastic! Love Kathy Reichs. She has a way with words, that can express beyond anyone's creative imagination.
Really, what can I say - Kathy Reichs is the queen of forensic mysteries. Reichs works as a forensic anthropologist in the US and Canada. She knows what she writing about. Her character Tempe Brennan is also a forensic anthropologist. The television show Bones is also based on this character. Devil Bones finds Tempe called in to consult on bones found in a cauldron in a hidden cellar. They seem to be part of a religious ceremony. Another body is found and the two may be connected. A local politician is using these murders to stir up the populace. Reich's mysteries are intelligent and well thought out. The details and science are realistic. Her series features some similarities to Cornwell's - the rumpled cop crony, the angry young relative, conflicts with superiors, the on again off again romance with a fellow law enforcement officer and a few others. I just find Reich's writing superior to what Cornwell has put out lately.
Kathy Reichs does it again. I couldn't put down this book. She kept me guessing right until the end. She also got the facts right about the Wiccan religon. I also like that Tempe's life is getting some turns in it and not the standard, 'okay let's hook up with the handsome hero.' I look forward to her next book.
Even though Reichs' books all deal with Temperance and her colleagues, the books are not as formulaic as you might assume they would be. Each book deals with an entirely different forensic situation and the murders take place in different locales that she describes in detail.
Forensic anthropologist Temperance Brennan is in Charlotte, North Carolina working as an instructor at UNC-Charlotte and also at the office of the Chief Medical Examiner. She is called out of a boring college meeting by ME Dr. Larabee, who asks her to go to a house where a plumber broke through a wall only to see a previously concealed cellar with a cauldron with a skull on it behind the wall.----------- Temperance arrives at the scene and she sees two cauldrons with the human skull on one of them but it is missing the jaw. She takes it to lab to examine the find. She determines the skull is that of a black teenage female, but cannot decide on when she died. The two cauldrons contain objects used in Afro-Carib religious ceremonies. While Temp tries to identify the victim, a torso of a young male is found with satanic symbols on it. An evangelical councilman plans to use the satanic angle to further his political aspirations by pointing at a person who is obviously innocent. When two more murders occur, Temp interprets the notes of the murdered cop who worked the case, but that only leads her to danger from a vile killer who has no qualms of committing another homicide.---------- Kathy Reichs brilliantly simplifies the forensics sciences without dumbing down the theories or supporting facts, which turns DEAD BONES into a terrific read. There are plenty of viable suspects but no prime person of interest. Thus the protagonist and the police have their work to end the killings. Temp is strong willed who retains her femininity and sense of humor as she works with human remains and living humans while seeking clues to her current case. Readers will enjoy this in depth complex thriller.------- Harriet Klausner
Classic Temperance Brennan!
Not her best, too much info on nontraditional religions repeated too many times. More like a Holmes, Aha deduction mystery than a forensic proceduual. One of the bright people on Bones would have ided the body as having been frozen in a blink.
Overall this is an okay Temperence Brennan story. Satanism and other dark religions are behind the latest murders Tempe is involved in solving. The personal aspects of the story are very satisfying; the religious aspects are not. I didn't care about the victims or the possible suspects in any way -- good or bad. It didn's seem so much a "murder mystery" as a short tutorial on satanism and "dark" religions. Having read all the Temperence books up through this one I find that I enjoy them less as I go along. We'll see what happens after reading "206 Bones".
This is my first Temperance Brennan book. I was glad to see that in print she is much more normal and funnier than her television character. This was much more a procedural story than a classic-style mystery with the baddie introduced in the first 50 or so pages.
Read this in 2011 after finding 3 of Reichs books at a thrift and buying then reading outof sequence I relized I had to read them all in order! I just love Kathy reichs books!
This was my second Kathy Reichs book and it fell a little short with me. 206 Bones was my first read in the Temperance Brennan series and I enjoyed the plot and pacing of that story. I was really anticipating a good read here. Devil Bones seemed to wander all over the place. A house is being renovated and evidence of some sort of altar with human bones is unearthed. Tempe is called in to help solve this gruesome murder.Although I found the different religious aspects interesting, I felt she spent too much time and energy "teaching" me the difference between Satanism, Wicca, Voodoo and others. And she spent a lot of time pondering her love life and the various men coming in and out of her life. The plot was weak until those moments when she focused on the murders. Unfortunately, she strayed too much from the mystery.
In Charlotte, NC, a house under renovation becomes the site of heated forensic investigation and unrelenting media attention when a plumber stumbles upon a forgotten cellar. There he finds animal and human remains - including a teenage girl's skull - cauldrons and religious artifacts, all arranged in a gruesome display. Then an adolescent boy's torso, carved with a pentagram, is found nearby. Panic over Satanism and devil worship has Charlotte's citizens on a witch hunt led by an evangelical politician. For Tempe Brennan, nothing about the murders is clear. . . and neither is her own heart, which has her tempted yet reluctant to move on from her departed lover. But as she digs deeper into contradictory evidence from the gruesome cellar, Tempe will unearth the truth - darker and more frightening than she ever imagined.
This is the 11th book featuring forensic anthropologist Temperance Brennan.A plumber uncovers a secret room while he is renovating a home. He finds signs of what might be devil worship. A skull is found at the center of a shrine.Temperance investigates and after learning that the skull is from a young girl attempts to find out who the girl was and where the skull came from. While working the case, Temp is working with detective Erskine, "Skinny" Slidell, a detective in the mode of Sam Spade, with few words and hard as nails. As these two investigate the case, they learn of a headless body of a teenage boy found by the side of a river. The body is marked by satanic symbols.The author takes her readers on an adventure into the land of devil worship, Voodoo medicine, Wiccans and other superstitions as she searches for answers. All of this provides an interesting and unique story. There is plenty of action and the story moves with visual scenes as if the reader might be viewing an episode of the TV show "Bones" which is based on the same character.We also learn more of Brennan as a character as the story relates some of her job frustrations and lonliness.It adds to the reader's enjoyment to obeseve the character development and to see her romantic interest.Very entertaining.
I like Kathy Reichs. I like that many of her books are placed in Montreal, a wonderful city. I like Tempe Brennan who uses science to aid the police in solving violent crimes. I like the variety in her plots, biker gangs, (Deadly Decisions) leprosy, (Bones to Ashes) and non-traditional religions (Devil Bones.) Unfortunately I didn't find that Devil Bones was written with the same clarity and quality as her past titles. I trust this is just a blip and her new book, 206 Bones, will bring a return to her form that has made her a best selling author.An okey read but not the great read I was expecting.
I have been reading Kathy Reichs since she released Deja Dead, and I have enjoyed her books very much for the forensic content, and for her characters. This is the 11 book in the series. I like Tempe because she is realistic with realistic flaws. Ms. Reichs mysteries are usually quite difficult to figure out, and this one is to a point, although I did figure out some key things before Tempe did, but it is also a bit confusing. There are so many characters to keep straight, and so many complicated clues, it is difficult to keep it all straight. In this book Ms. Reichs explores some strange fringe religions, and the information about these religions was also difficult to keep straight (at least for me). But the story is there and can be followed underneath all this. I enjoyed the book.
I have enjoyed all of Kathy Reichs books, and Devil Bones is a great story. I am fascinated by forensic anthropology, and KR combines a good story with facts about forensic anthropology.
Another solid suspense novel in the Temperence Brennan series (basis of the TV show Bones).Human bones are found in a sub-basement, along with ritual paraphenalia that Brennan identifies as Santeria. Shortly thereafter, a headless body is found carved with Satanic symbols. Although Brennan protests that they are very different things, other investigators and local politicians are convinced that there is a connection and target a local Wiccan who has ties to the former tenant of the house.To her credit, Reichs makes it very plain that Wicca and Santeria (and voodoo and several others) are *not* Satanist, despite the ignorance and bigotry of several of her characters.
I just finished reading this (as in, like, 15 minutes ago) and loved it. This is the eleventh (I think) book in the Temperance Brennan series, and like all of the others, I totally enjoyed it. Kathy Reichs' does a great balance between Brennan's personal life, the cases she solves, and the educating she does in the book. Many mystery authors gloss over the details, or delve too deeply into them, but in Reichs' case, she does a really good job of educating us with the relevant bits of scientific, historical or cultural information that we need to understand what's going on. Sometimes it's done as good exposition (similarly to crime fighting TV shows, but without the clichés -- or if they're there, it's ironic and not a cop out), other times Brennan is thinking out loud (or to herself, as the case may be) and even other times it just comes up in the context of whatever she's doing. I love reading the Temperance Brennan series as much as I love watching Bones. I think the main reason is because they are so different, but in my head, Brennan is always played by Emily Deschanel. In the interview with Reichs at the end of the book, after the novel is over, Reichs talks about how she sees Deschanel's Brennan as a younger version of the Brennan in her books. I think that's a great comparison and I can totally see it. But back to Devil Bones. It's a fun, if disturbing and very sad book (not gonna make you cry sad, but that's fine -- it doesn't need to be). The plot twists totally threw me, which is something I fully enjoy about Reichs' writing. I cannot wait for the next one, whenever it comes out.
Another gripping book by Kathy Reichs. Unlike Patricia Cornwell she's maintained a level of enjoyment and writing throughout her series that constantly keeps me coming back.
This is my second journey into a Temperance Brennan novels set in Charlotte, NC, and Canada. Temperance is a busy woman with all her forensic examinations and college class schedule. Since I live in Charlotte, the setting in Devil Bones is interesting, as well as the many characters loosely based on true characters. My only problem is that Reichs provides too much medical data that goes over my head. Reichs's characters are real people with problems and not the glossy Hollywood images. Reichs does her research and gives a textbook commentary on the various occult religions such as Wicca worship and satanic worship. These are interesting, but detract from the story, at times.
Tempe has two cases that appear to involve human remains and ritual. A Wicca coven meets near the site where the second set of remains was found. A conservative Christian councilman is mounting a witch hunt and clashing with Tempe, threatening her job. A pushy journalist is making things worse -- stirring the cauldron of emotion, so to speak. A detective is killed (and no, I won't tell you who).This has to be my least favorite Bones novel, but I finished it. It was way too preachy in hammering home its worthwhile message of religious tolerance. While trying to undo stereotypes about practitioners of alternative spiritualities such Wicca, Santeria, etc. (teaching us that they're not Satanists and don't practice human sacrifice, which I already knew) Reichs seemed equally determined to reinforce secular stereotypes about Christians (as a bunch of intolerant, bigoted fools). I suppose it hit home because there are too many Christians who are that way, but it would have been nice if she'd thrown in a reasonable one or two along the way. Oh, the journalist was pretty much a stereotype, too.There was much melodrama on the romance front and the political fronts, plus Temperance has trouble maintaining her temperance (throughout the series, she's been a recovering alcoholic).When you pared it down to the mystery itself, it wasn't a bad read. I just got aggravated with all the melodrama and the stereotypes.The nicest thing about the book was the dedication -- it was dedicated to law enforcement officers killed in the line of duty.