Cross Bones (Temperance Brennan Series #8)

Cross Bones (Temperance Brennan Series #8)

3.9 136
by Kathy Reichs
     
 

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The key to a modern murder lies in the sands of history.

Examining a badly decomposed corpse is de rigueur for forensic anthropologist Temperance Brennan. But puzzling damage on the body of a shooting victim, an Orthodox Jewish man, suggests this is no ordinary Montreal murder. When a stranger slips Tempe a photograph of a skeleton unearthed at an

Overview

The key to a modern murder lies in the sands of history.

Examining a badly decomposed corpse is de rigueur for forensic anthropologist Temperance Brennan. But puzzling damage on the body of a shooting victim, an Orthodox Jewish man, suggests this is no ordinary Montreal murder. When a stranger slips Tempe a photograph of a skeleton unearthed at an archaeological site, Tempe uncovers chilling ties between the dead man and secrets long buried in the dust of Israel. Traveling there with Detective Andrew Ryan, Tempe plunges into an international mystery as old as Jesus, and centered on the controversial discovery of Christ's tomb. Has a mastermind lured her into an elaborate hoax? If not, Tempe may be on the brink of rewriting two thousand years of history — if she can survive the foes dead set on burying her.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"A riveting thriller."

Charlotte Observer (NC)

"Fans of CSI: Crime Scene Investigation should be in heaven."

People

"A spirited rival to The Da Vinci Code...Reichs is in top form."

Sunday Times (London)

Publishers Weekly
Forensic anthropologist Dr. Temperance "Tempe" Brennan gets caught in mysteries past and present when she's called in to determine if illegal antiquities dealer Avram Ferris's gunshot death is murder or suicide. An acquaintance of Avram suggests the former: he hands Tempe a photograph of a skeleton, taken in Israel in 1963, and insists it's the reason Avram is dead. Tempe's longtime boyfriend, Quebecois detective Andrew Ryan, is also involved with the case, so the duo head to Israel where they attempt to solve the murder and a mystery revolving around a first-century tomb that may contain the remains of the family of Jesus Christ. This find threatens the worldwide Christian community, the Israeli and Jewish hierarchy and numerous illegal antiquity dealers, any of whom might be out to kill Tempe and Ryan. Not that Tempe notices. She has the habit of being oblivious to danger, which quickly becomes annoying, as does Reichs's tendency to end chapters with a heavy-handed cliffhanger ("His next words sent ice up my spine"). The plot is based on a number of real-life anthropological mysteries, and fans of such will have a good time, though thriller readers looking for chills and kills may not find the novel quite as satisfying. Agent, Jennifer Rudolph Walsh. (June) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Tempe Brenner gets mixed up in historical and international intrigue in Reich's latest book featuring the forensic anthropologist (see also Monday Mourning). Tempe, stationed in Quebec, is assigned to participate in an autopsy on a Hasidic Jew who was found shot to death in a warehouse closet. At the autopsy, a stranger hands her a photo of an ancient skeleton as an explanation for the victim's death. An investigation suggests that the skeleton may be the remains of an individual who died at Massada, a mountain near Jerusalem where a famous battle between the Zealots and the Romans took place in 73 C.E. Tempe and Detective Andrew Ryan travel to Israel to question the main suspect in the murder investigation, and while there, Tempe meets with a colleague who may have stumbled across the Jesus family tomb. What do "Massada Max" and the bodies in the family tomb have in common? Will Tempe's discovery shake the foundations of the three major world religions? Reichs devotes too much time at the novel's beginning to technical details, but those who wait out the first few chapters will be pleased by the engrossing story that follows. Recommended for all public libraries. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 2/1/05.]-Nanci Milone Hill, Cary Memorial Lib., Lexington, MA Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780743453028
Publisher:
Pocket Star
Publication date:
05/23/2006
Series:
Temperance Brennan Series, #8
Edition description:
Reprint
Pages:
496
Sales rank:
132,736
Product dimensions:
7.50(w) x 4.10(h) x 1.10(d)

Read an Excerpt

Cross Bones


By Kathy Reichs

Scribner

Copyright © 2005 Temperance Brennan, L.P.
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0-7432-3348-4


Chapter One

Following an Easter dinner of ham, peas, and creamed potatoes, Charles "Le Cowboy" Bellemare pinched a twenty from his sister, drove to a crack house in Verdun, and vanished.

That summer the crack house was sold up-market. That winter the new homeowners grew frustrated with the draw in their fireplace. On Monday, February seventh, the man of the house opened the flue and thrust upward with a rake handle. A desiccated leg tumbled into the ash bed.

Papa called the cops. The cops called the fire department and the Bureau du coroner. The coroner called our forensics lab. Pelletier caught the case.

Pelletier and two morgue techs were standing on the lawn within an hour of the leg drop. To say the scene was confused would be like saying D-day was hectic. Outraged father. Hysterical mother. Overwrought kids. Mesmerized neighbors. Annoyed cops. Mystified firefighters.

Dr. Jean Pelletier is the most senior of the five pathologists at the Laboratoire de sciences judiciaires et de médecine légale, Quebec's central crime and medico-legal lab. He's got bad joints and bad dentures, and zero tolerance for anything or anyone that wastes his time. Pelletier took one look and ordered a wrecking ball.

The exterior wall of the chimney was pulverized. A well-smoked corpse was extracted, strapped to a gurney, and transported to our lab. The next day Pelletier eyeballed the remains and said, "ossements." Bones.

Enter I, Dr. Temperance Brennan, forensic anthropologist for North Carolina and Quebec. La Belle Province and Dixie? Long story, starting with a faculty swap between my home university, UNC-Charlotte, and McGill. When the exchange year ended, I headed south, but continued consulting for the lab in Montreal. A decade later, I'm still commuting, and lay claim to the mother lode of frequent flyer miles.

Pelletier's demande d'expertise en anthropologie was on my desk when I arrived in Montreal for my February rotation.

It was now Wednesday, February 16, and the chimney bones formed a complete skeleton on my worktable. Though the victim hadn't been a believer in regular checkups, eliminating dental records as an option, all skeletal indicators fit Bellemare. Age, sex, race, and height estimates, along with surgical pins in the right fibula and tibia, told me I was looking at the long-lost Cowboy.

Other than a hairline fracture of the cranial base, probably caused by the unplanned chimney dive, I'd found no evidence of trauma.

I was pondering how and why a man goes up on a roof and falls down the chimney, when the phone rang.

"It seems I need your assistance, Temperance." Only Pierre LaManche called me by my full name, hitting hard on the last syllable, and rhyming it with "sconce" instead of "fence." LaManche had assigned himself a cadaver that I suspected might present decomposition issues.

"Advanced putrefaction?"

"Oui." My boss paused. "And other complicating factors."

"Complicating factors?"

"Cats."

Oh, boy.

"I'll be right down."

After saving the Bellemare report on disk, I left my lab, passed through the glass doors separating the medico-legal section from the rest of the floor, turned into a side corridor, and pushed a button beside a solitary elevator. Accessible only through the two secure levels comprising the LSJML, and through the coroner's office below on eleven, this lift had a single destination: the morgue.

Descending to the basement, I reviewed what I'd learned at that morning's staff meeting.

Avram Ferris, a fifty-six-year-old Orthodox Jew, had gone missing a week earlier. Ferris's body had been discovered late yesterday in a storage closet on the upper floor of his place of business. No signs of a break-in. No signs of a struggle. Employee said he'd been acting odd. Death by self-inflicted gunshot wound was the on-scene assessment. The man's family was adamant in its rejection of suicide as an explanation.

The coroner had ordered an autopsy. Ferris's relatives and rabbi had objected. Negotiations had been heated.

I was about to see the compromise that had been reached.

And the handiwork of the cats.

From the elevator, I turned left, then right toward the morgue. Nearing the outer door to the autopsy wing, I heard sounds drifting from the family room, a forlorn little chamber reserved for those called upon to identify the dead.

Soft sobbing. A female voice.

I pictured the bleak little space with its plastic plants and plastic chairs and discreetly curtained window, and felt the usual ache. We did no hospital autopsies at the LSJML. No end-stage liver disease. No pancreatic cancer. We were scripted for murder, suicide, accidental and sudden and unexpected death. The family room held those just ambushed by the unthinkable and unforeseen. Their grief never failed to touch me.

Pulling open a bright blue door, I proceeded down a narrow corridor, passing computer stations, drying racks, and stainless steel carts on my right, more blue doors on my left, each labeled salle d'autopsie. At the fourth door, I took a deep breath and entered.

Along with the skeletal, I get the burned, the mummified, the mutilated, and the decomposed. My job is to restore the identity death has erased. I frequently use room four since it is outfitted with special ventilation. This morning the system was barely keeping up with the odor of decay.

Some autopsies play to an empty house. Some pack them in. Despite the stench, Avram Ferris's postmortem was standing room only.

LaManche. His autopsy tech, Lisa. A police photographer. Two uniforms. A Sûrété du Québec detective I didn't know. Tall guy, freckled, and paler than tofu.

An SQ detective I did know. Well. Andrew Ryan. Six-two. Sandy hair. Viking blue eyes.

We nodded to each other. Ryan the cop. Tempe the anthropologist.

If the official players weren't crowd enough, four outsiders formed a shoulder-to-shoulder wall of disapproval at the foot of the corpse.

I did a quick scan. All male. Two midfifties, two maybe closing out their sixties. Dark hair. Glasses. Beards. Black suits. Yarmulkes.

The wall regarded me with appraising eyes. Eight hands stayed clasped behind four rigid backs.

LaManche lowered his mask and introduced me to the quartet of observers.

"Given the condition of Mr. Ferris's body, an anthropologist is needed."

Four puzzled looks.

"Dr. Brennan's expertise is skeletal anatomy." LaManche spoke English. "She is fully aware of your special needs."

Other than careful collection of all blood and tissue, I hadn't a clue of their special needs.

"I'm very sorry for your loss," I said, pressing my clipboard to my chest.

Four somber nods.

Their loss lay at center stage, plastic sheeting stretched between his body and the stainless steel. More sheeting had been spread on the floor below and around the table. Empty tubs, jars, and vials sat ready on a rolling cart.

The body had been stripped and washed, but no incision had been made. Two paper bags lay flattened on the counter. I assumed LaManche had completed his external exam, including tests for gunpowder and other trace evidence on Ferris's hands.

Eight eyes tracked me as I crossed to the deceased. Observer number four reclasped his hands in front of his genitals.

Avram Ferris didn't look like he'd died last week. He looked like he'd died during the Clinton years. His eyes were black, his tongue purple, his skin mottled olive and eggplant. His gut was distended, his scrotum ballooned to the size of beach balls.

I looked to Ryan for an explanation.

"Temperature in the closet was pushing ninety-two," he said.

"Why so hot?"

"We figure one of the cats brushed the thermostat," Ryan said.

I did a quick calculation. Ninety-two Fahrenheit. About thirty-five Celsius. No wonder Ferris was setting a land record for decomposition.

But heat had been just one of this gentleman's problems.

When hungry, the most docile among us grow cranky. When starved, we grow desperate. Id overrides ethics. We eat. We survive. That common instinct drives herd animals, predators, wagon trains, and soccer teams.

Even Fido and Fluffy go vulture.

Avram Ferris had made the mistake of punching out while trapped with two domestic shorthairs and a Siamese.

And a short supply of Friskies.

I moved around the table.

Ferris's left temporal and parietal bones were oddly splayed. Though I couldn't see the occipital, it was obvious the back of his head had taken a hit.

Pulling on gloves, I wedged two fingers under the skull and palpated. The bone yielded like sludge. Only scalp tissue was keeping the flip side together.

I eased the head down and examined the face.

It was difficult to imagine what Ferris had looked like in life. His left cheek was macerated. Tooth marks scored the underlying bone, and fragments glistened opalescent in the angry red stew.

Though swollen and marbled, Ferris's face was largely intact on the right.

I straightened, considered the patterning of the mutilation. Despite the heat and the smell of putrefaction, the cats hadn't ventured to the right of Ferris's nose or south to the rest of the body.

I understood why LaManche needed me.

"There was an open wound on the left side of the face?" I asked him.

"Oui. And another at the back of the skull. The putrefaction and scavenging make it impossible to determine bullet trajectory."

"I'll need a full set of cranial X-rays," I said to Lisa.

"Orientation?"

"All angles. And I'll need the skull."

"Impossible." Observer four again came alive. "We have an agreement."

LaManche raised a gloved hand. "I have the responsibility to determine the truth in this matter."

"You gave your word there would be no retention of specimens." Though the man's face was the color of oatmeal, a pink bud was mushrooming on each of his cheeks.

"Unless absolutely unavoidable." LaManche was all reason.

Observer four turned to the man on his left. Observer three raised his chin and gazed down through lowered lids.

"Let him speak." Unruffled. The rabbi counseling patience.

LaManche turned to me.

"Dr. Brennan, proceed with your analysis, leaving the skull and all untraumatized bone in place."

"Dr. LaManche -"

"If that proves unworkable, resume normal protocol."

I do not like being told how to do my job. I do not like working with less than the maximum available information, or employing less than optimum procedure.

I do like and respect Pierre LaManche. He is the finest pathologist I've ever known.

I looked at my boss. The old man nodded almost imperceptibly. Work with me, he was signaling.

I shifted my gaze to the faces hovering above Avram Ferris. In each I saw the age-old struggle of dogma versus pragmatics. The body as temple. The body as ducts and ganglia and piss and bile.

In each I saw the anguish of loss.

The same anguish I'd overheard just minutes before.

"Of course," I said quietly. "Call when you're ready to retract the scalp."

I looked at Ryan. He winked, Ryan the cop hinting at Ryan the lover.

The woman was still crying when I left the autopsy wing. Her companion, or companions, were now silent.

I hesitated, not wanting to intrude on personal sorrow.

Was that it? Or was that merely an excuse to shield myself?

I often witness grief. Time and again I am present for that head-on collision when survivors face the realization of their altered lives. Meals that will never be shared. Conversations that will never be spoken. Little Golden Books that will never be read aloud.

I see the pain, but have no help to offer. I am an outsider, a voyeur looking on after the crash, after the fire, after the shooting. I am part of the screaming sirens, the stretching of the yellow tape, the zipping of the body bag.

I cannot diminish the overwhelming sorrow. And I hate my impotence.

Feeling like a coward, I turned into the family room.

Two women sat side by side, together but not touching. The younger could have been thirty or fifty. She had pale skin, heavy brows, and curly dark hair tied back on her neck. She wore a black skirt and a long black sweater with a high cowl that brushed her jaw.

The older woman was so wrinkled she reminded me of the dried-apple dolls crafted in the Carolina mountains. She wore an ankle-length dress whose color fell somewhere between black and purple. Loose threads spiraled where the top three buttons should have been.

I cleared my throat.

Apple Granny glanced up, tears glistening on the face of ten thousand creases.

"Mrs. Ferris?"

The gnarled fingers bunched and rebunched a hanky.

"I'm Temperance Brennan. I'll be helping with Mr. Ferris's autopsy."

The old woman's head dropped to the right, jolting her wig to a suboptimal angle.

"Please accept my condolences. I know how difficult this is for you."

The younger woman raised two heart-stopping lilac eyes. "Do you?"

Good question.

Loss is difficult to understand. I know that. My understanding of loss is incomplete. I know that, too.

I lost my brother to leukemia when he was three. I lost my grandmother when she'd lived more than ninety years. Each time, the grief was like a living thing, invading my body and nesting deep in my marrow and nerve endings.

Kevin had been barely past baby. Gran was living in memories that didn't include me. I loved them. They loved me. But they were not the entire focus of my life, and both deaths were anticipated.

How did anyone deal with the sudden loss of a spouse? Of a child?

I didn't want to imagine.

The younger woman pressed her point. "You can't presume to understand the sorrow we feel."

Unnecessarily confrontational, I thought. Clumsy condolences are still condolences.

"Of course not," I said, looking from her to her companion and back. "That was presumptuous of me."

Neither woman spoke.

"I am very sorry for your loss."

The younger woman waited so long I thought she wasn't going to respond.

"I'm Miriam Ferris. Avram is ... was my husband." Miriam's hand came up and paused, as if uncertain as to its mission. "Dora is Avram's mother."

The hand fluttered toward Dora, then dropped to rejoin its counterpart.

"I suppose our presence during the autopsy is irregular. There's nothing we can do." Miriam's voice sounded husky with grief. "This is all so ..." Her words trailed off, but her eyes stayed fixed on me.

I tried to think of something comforting, or uplifting, or even just calming to say. No words formed in my mind. I fell back on clichés.

"I do understand the pain of losing a loved one."

A twitch made Dora's right cheek jump. Her shoulders slumped and her head dropped.

I moved to her, squatted, and placed my hand on hers.

"Why Avram?" Choked. "Why my only son? A mother should not bury her son."

Miriam said something in Hebrew or Yiddish.

"Who is this God? Why does he do this?"

Miriam spoke again, this time with quiet reprimand.

Dora's eyes rolled up to mine. "Why not take me? I'm old. I'm ready." The wrinkled lips trembled.

"I can't answer that, ma'am." My own voice sounded husky.

A tear dropped from Dora's chin to my thumb.

I looked down at that single drop of wetness.

I swallowed.

"May I make you some tea, Mrs. Ferris?"

"We'll be fine," Miriam said. "Thank you."

I squeezed Dora's hand. The skin felt dry, the bones brittle.

Feeling useless, I stood and handed Miriam a card. "I'll be upstairs for the next few hours. If there's anything I can do, please don't hesitate to call."

Exiting the viewing room, I noticed one of the bearded observers watching from across the hall.

As I passed, the man stepped forward to block my path.

"That was very kind." His voice had a peculiar raspy quality, like Kenny Rogers singing "Lucille."

"A woman has lost her son. Another her husband."

"I saw you in there. It is obvious you are a person of compassion. A person of honor."

Where was this going?

The man hesitated, as though debating a few final points with himself. Then he reached into a pocket, withdrew an envelope, and handed it to me.

"This is the reason Avram Ferris is dead."

I shifted my gaze to the faces hovering above Avram Ferris. In each I saw the age-old struggle of dogma versus pragmatics. The body as temple. The body as ducts and ganglia and piss and bile.

In each I saw the anguish of loss.

The same anguish I'd overheard just minutes before.

"Of course," I said quietly. "Call when you're ready to retract the scalp."

(Continues...)



Excerpted from Cross Bones by Kathy Reichs Copyright © 2005 by Temperance Brennan, L.P.. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

Kathy Reichs is the author of eighteen New York Times bestselling novels featuring forensic anthropologist Temperance Brennan. Like her protagonist, Reichs is a forensic anthropologist—one of fewer than one hundred ever certified by the American Board of Forensic Anthropology. A professor in the Department of Anthropology at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, she is a former vice president of the American Academy of Forensic Sciences and serves on the National Police Services Advisory Council in Canada. Reichs’s own life, as much as her novels, is the basis for the TV show Bones, one of the longest-running series in the history of the FOX network.

Brief Biography

Hometown:
Charlotte, North Carolina and Montreal, Québec
Place of Birth:
Chicago, Illinois
Education:
B.A., American University, 1971; M.A., Ph.D., Northwestern University
Website:
http://kathyreichs.com/

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Cross Bones (Temperance Brennan Series #8) 3.9 out of 5 based on 2 ratings. 136 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I read all of her books and am having a hard time finishing this one. Usually I finish in a few days even with a busy schedule. I am counting the pages til it's done. That is a first for any book Kathy Reichs has written. The character development wasn't what it should be. Had this been the first of her books, I doubt that I would have read any more. This plot was hard to follow and seemed constrained. I kept thinking, this is a stretch. I've already bought her next book. I hope it is better. After 7 winners, one dud isn't enough to make me quit reading her work.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I love the Tempe novels, but this one is just bad. The plot just couldn't suck me in this time, and usually I'm ALL OVER these books. I would honestly skip this one and go straight into the next, it's SOOOOOOO much better. And it isn't like she gets anywhere in her relationship in this one.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Can't get enough. I have read all of Kathy Reichs books. And I think you will too.
jonnyedwards More than 1 year ago
Kathy Reich does it again She has you looking one way then broadsides you with the real plot line . I am a fan forever.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I really do enjoy Kathy Reichs books, but this one...let's just say it's not really her best book, doesn't come anywhere close. It started out okay but by the time you got halfway through it, it was like cringing till the end. Don't worry Kathy Reichs fans, her next novel Break No Bones is SOOOO much better. This book, I'd skip it if I were you! Kathy Reichs is a great author and keeps writing Great novels, please don't let one fluke of a book, stop you from reading her books because they truly are Excellent Novels!
Guest More than 1 year ago
After reading the reviews, I may give this author another try....this book was so poorly written!! The metaphores where silly (eggs the size of Mt. Rushmore.....PLEASE!!) And the scenes were boring....the scene with the flashlight and the jackel could have been written by a 10 year old! I will try her again because some fans think this book was a disappointment.....so I'll give her another shot!
Guest More than 1 year ago
I too was waiting anxiously for this book and I too had to force myself to finish it. Unfortunately she started mixing religion into this book. The relgious preaching in the last 2 pages were the final straw. I hope she sees the error of her ways and goes back to writing what she knows so much about.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I found this to be the worst of Reichs' books (I have read all of them). For some unknown reason Reichs decided to take on Dan Brown and the De Vinci Code -- my advice is, DON'T! I enjoy the standard murder/detective novels that Reichs does best, and urge her to return to that. Also, the incessant bantering and bickering between Tempe Brennan and Ryan is just irritating, and should be toned down. Bottom line, this book was simply confusing, with too many plot lines, and not enjoyable to read.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Tedious, messy and confusing are not good words to describe a novel. Unfortunately, this was not a good novel and the words do apply. I have ready all of the past Kathy Reichs books and generally they were very good. I think she tried to stretch Tempe too much in this book. She had her delving into areas that were way over her head. I knew things were going to get overly complex when she had Tempe and Ryan go off to Israel together. If this had been a tightly written, fast paced novel, it would have helped the subject matter. But, it was rambling, confusing, and did not hold my interest. I found myself skimming through parts and finally I decided to check the last few pages to see if a rousing finale would prompt me to keep reading. What I read at the end was not encouraging, but I did plod through the book. I guess everyone can have a 'miss' in a long row of hits. I hope Kathy gets back to basics with good solid stories and mysteries with her next book
1wildcat More than 1 year ago
I found it difficult to finish this one. One thing that hurts is all the DNA stuff. It was just too much. Finished it, but it was not one of the best in that series. Break No Bones should be better.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Too much of the same stuff over and over if you took out repeats book would have been 15 pages very disapointing
Sue5 More than 1 year ago
I like this author. She deals with forensics in real life and brings this to her stories. This one will make you think about the Masada ruins and your beliefs.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Scanned a few at library and they have just gotten more grafic and depressive more angst and her supporting cast with out humor or interest. if you cant say anything nice about a book then dont bother reading their next cause it will be wirse
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
rj2063 More than 1 year ago
This is a excellent book very interesting,it will make you think ,are all my teachings been wrong.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I honestly love reading this series but this one had too much information on nothing. Skip this book and go right to the next one in the series!
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tiger-100 More than 1 year ago
I keep coming back for the next book. this one is really good.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
SusanSM More than 1 year ago
I am so addicted to the Temperance Brennan series. I am now on #11. The great thing about reading her novels is that she's so detailed, it includes a little bit of everything, romance, drama, science, etc. And especially reading from B&N's Nook, I can highlight a word and easily look it up and continue reading. One of these days I would love to meet her and shake her hand. Cross Bones was so thrilling I just may read it again. The history in it was incredible and really got me thinking. Then add the forensics science and it was amazing! This was definitely a must read...again!
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