Back in my "only reads mystery and thrillers" days, I became infatuated with the Temperance Brennan series by Kathy Reichs. I loved all of the smart, strong female detectives-Kinsey Milhone, Kay Scarpetta, Skip Langdon-but Tempe was one of my favorites. Maybe it was the whole anthropology thing, but I devoured every book as soon as I could get my hands on it.
Then came the show Bones-so loosely based on this series that if the character didn't have the same name I would never have known they were related at all. After the success of Bones, it felt to me like Reichs was calling it in with her books. I know that there must have been pressure on her to keep churning out the books at the same one-a-year rate even after she started working on the show, but the last few books have been pretty thin-in numbers of pages, plot, and character development.
So it is with great pleasure that I am able to report that Spider Bones, her latest book, seems to be swinging back in the other direction. In Spider Bones, Tempe investigates a drowning victim in Canada. It seems like a clear case of accidental death, but there's a snag-the fingerprints identify the victim as a man who was supposedly killed in Viet Nam in 1968. Tempe travels to Hawaii to the Joint Prisoners of War/Missing in Action Accounting Command, or JPAC, a military agency tasked with searching out and identifying America's war dead from World War II, Korea, and Viet Nam. What starts as a routine investigation turn violent when Tempe's work stirs up the interest of a local businessman with mob connections and a Samoan drug cartel.
While not as good as the best of her early books, this novel takes a step in the right direction. The mystery kept me guessing, which can be hard to do since I've read so many mysteries and thrillers over the years. The topic was interesting, and not something I knew before. But what really makes this series for me is the interplay between Tempe and Andrew Ryan, the Canadian cop who she has an on-again-off-again relationship with. If you're also a Reichs fan, I think that you will enjoy this one better than the last few. I only hope they continue to go back to their glory days before the distraction of Bones.