Book Reviews

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With the October 2004 review, we began rating the books on the basis of one to four trowels; 
one trowel= don’t bother, to four trowels= run right out to your local book store and buy the hard cover!

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Grave Secrets by Kathy Reichs

Reviewed on: September 1, 2002

Scribner, New York

In this, her fifth Tempe Brennan novel, author Kathy Reichs continues to hone her skills as a writer as well as a crafter of complex and exciting mysteries. Already in her first entry, Deja Dead, she proved that she could present a compelling and at times downright terrifying plotline, but it’s taken several novels for her abilities as a writer to catch up with her plots.

Verisimilitude has, from the very beginning of the Tempe Brennan series, been a great strength for Kathy Reichs, the storyteller. Like her heroine, Dr. Temperance Brennan, Kathy Reichs is, in real life, a forensic anthropologist at the University of North Carolina-Charlotte, and a consultant for the Laboratoire de Sciences Judiciares et de Medecine Legale for the province of Quebec. She has skillfully brought to bear her experiences in the previous Tempe Brennan novels, and Grave Secrets is no different. It was Kathy Reichs’ first hand experience at excavating the mass graves of the “disappeared” in Guatemala—the nameless victims of that country’s long, brutal and bloody civil war—that gave her the inspiration for the present volume.

Temperance Brennan is on loan to the Guatemalan Forensic Anthropology Foundation to help give voices to those “disappeared” victims. It is a grisly, heartbreaking task as she and her fellow anthropologists sift through what remains of a twenty-year-old killing field. But the violence seems not to be over as Tempe finds herself involved not only in the decades-old tragedy of the mass executions at the village of Chupan Ya, the violence that continues in that frontier area of Guatemala, but also the contemporary disappearances of four young women from Guatemala City, one of whom is the daughter of the Canadian ambassador to Guatemala. As she is drawn into this cat’s cradle of intrigue, Tempe begins to suspect that these very disparate crimes may have a common central core of evil to them.

Kathy Reichs’ fifth Tempe Brennan novel is, as the back-cover blurbs claim, a thrilling page-turner. The plots are intricate, the characterization gets stronger with each passing entry, and the detail and explanation of forensic science is first-rate. If you haven’t read a Kathy Reichs mystery before, this is the time to start!