Spider Bones by Kathy Reichs – Review

Book Jacket:

Kathy Reichs -#1 New York Times bestselling author and producer of the FOX television hit  Bones – returns with the thirteenth riveting novel featuring forensic anthropologist Dr. Temperance Brennan.

John Lowery was declared dead in 1968 — the victim of a Huey crash in Vietnam, his body buried long ago in North Carolina. Four decades later, Temperance Brennan is called to the scene of a drowning in Hemmingford, Quebec. The victim appears to have died while in the midst of a bizarre sexual practice. The corpse is later identified as John Lowery. But how could Lowery have died twice, and how did an American soldier end up in Canada?

Tempe sets off for the answer, exhuming Lowery’s grave in North Carolina and taking the remains to Hawaii for reanalysis—to the headquarters of JPAC, the U.S. military’s Joint POW/ MIA Accounting Command, which strives to recover Americans who have died in past conflicts. In Hawaii, Tempe is joined by her colleague and ex-lover Detective Andrew Ryan (how “ex” is he?) and by her daughter, who is recovering from her own tragic loss. Soon another set of remains is located, with Lowery’s dog tags tangled among them. Three bodies—all identified as Lowery.

And then Tempe is contacted by Hadley Perry, Honolulu’s flamboyant medical examiner, who needs help identifying the remains of an adolescent boy found offshore. Was he the victim of a shark attack? Or something much more sinister?

A complex and riveting tale of deceit and murder unfolds in this, the thirteenth thrilling novel in Reichs’s “cleverly plotted and expertly maintained series” (The New York Times Book Review). With the smash hit Bones now in its fifth season and in full syndication—and her most recent novel, 206 Bones, an instant New York Times bestseller—Kathy Reichs is at the top of her game.

You can read an excerpt here.


The latest installment in the Temperance Brennan series (the books that inspired the Fox TV series BONES), is pretty much exactly what we’ve come to expect from Kathy Reichs. Once again we find fascinating science, a crime that reveals a new and interesting slice of our world, and plenty of decomposing bodies.

For fans of BONES, the books are very different from the TV show – there’s no Booth, there’s a darker cast to the crimes, and the gory bits are far gorier than anything allowed on network television. It’s a grimmer world, without the quirkiness we’ve come to expect of the TV show.

Spider Bones centers around the world of JPAC, and the lengths the military will go to bring home the bodies of our fallen soldiers around the world, which is truly humbling. It makes for a fascinating backdrop to this puzzle.

I did enjoy Spider Bones more than Reichs’ last book, 206 Bones, but overall I’m getting frustrated with this series. I know there is something inherently formulaic in any crime thriller, but this formula seems to be wearing particularly thin. I can’t tell if it’s just a sign of its age (this is the 13th book, after all) or if I’ve become a more critical reader (after reading all 13), but Reichs seems to employ the same writing devices with fatiguing regularity – the overt foreshadowing, the subconscious clues that hint at something Brennan has forgotten, the belligerent co-worker, the eureka moment of obscure science, and the most egregious, the Tempi near-death experience that happens in every book like clockwork. Now I understand about high stakes and dramatic tension and all of that – certainly in Raymond Chandler’s books Marlowe took his licks in every story – but it seems beyond ridiculous that so many people would be gunning for a forensic anthropologist.

In terms of character work, things pretty much remain the same – Tempi is still a smart, strong woman, and Andrew Ryan is still lurking around the edges of the story as the eternal love interest. This story has both Ryan and Tempi’s daughters causing bitchy mayhem, which I found tiresome. Katie’s arc, both in how she dealt with a personal loss and how teenage whiny she became, despite the fact that she’s in her 20s, particularly grated on me. But the banter with and between the cops of this story was good fun.

Still, Reichs’ strong suit remains utterly unimpeachable – her knowledge of forensic science and real life criminal investigations, which imbues each story with an undeniably authentic feel. The investigations are the heart of these books and they remain fascinating. Once again the gory details are wrought in all their unpleasant glory, and the trail of evidence is well worth following. I just wish there was a little more depth to this series.

In the end, I was entertained by this book and read it easily in a day – and while I’m not entirely satisfied with it, I still am sure to pick up the next book in this series when it comes out.

Byrt Grade: B+

As Levar Burton used to say – you don’t have to take my word for it…

ThrillerWriters.org says:

Spider Bones is Kathy Reichs at the top of her game–Tempe remains witty, irascible, and very smart, and once again cutting edge forensic science is expertly combined with a fast-paced, riveting plot.

A Series of (Un)Fortunate Reviews says:

Much as I love the series–book and TV–I’m beginning to think that Kathy Reichs isn’t half the writer that Karin Slaughter or John Connolly are.  This suspicion has been sneaking its way through my brain for the past few installations of the Brennan series.  I can’t help but wonder if the early books are the same as the later ones or if its just that my tastes and critiques have become more discerning.  One thing I must say for the series: the books are quick reads.  I read Spider Bones in two days.  It is a fast developing, page turning read.

A Bookworm’s World says:

As always, Reichs’ writing is realistic and has the unmistakable ring of authenticity… Her writing style is effortless and the plot moves along quickly. Lots of foreshadowing kept me turning pages…Not my favourite of this series, but a really good read.