THE #1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER
Producer of the FOX television hit Bones KATHY REICHS accelerates the suspense in NASCAR country, where Dr. Temperance Brennan reignites a stalled federal case with explosive forensic clues—to murder.
She lived for speed—and vanished without a trace. . . .
As 200,000 fans pour into town for Race Week, a body is found in a metal drum near Charlotte Motor Speedway—a discovery that has NASCAR crewman Wayne Gamble urgently seeking out Tempe at the Mecklenburg County ME’s office: twelve years ago, his sister, Cindi, then a high school senior and aspiring professional race car driver, disappeared along with her boyfriend, Cale Lovette, who was linked to a group of right-wing extremists. The FBI joined the investigation, but it was soon terminated. Is the body Cindi’s? Or Cale’s? Tests reveal that a toxic substance was in the drum with the body—just as another disappearance occurs. Who is orchestrating the mayhem behind the scenes at NASCAR—and what government secrets might have been buried more than a decade ago?
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
LOOKING BACK, I THINK OF IT AS RACE WEEK IN THE RAIN. Thunderboomers almost every day. Sure, it was spring. But these storms were over the top.
In the end, Summer saved my life.
I know. Sounds bizarre.
This is what happened.
Bloated, dark clouds hung low to the ground, but so far no rain.
Lucky break. I’d spent the morning digging up a corpse.
Sound macabre? Just part of the job. I’m a forensic anthropologist. I recover and analyze the dead that present in less than pristine condition—the burned, mummified, mutilated, dismembered, decomposed, and skeletal.
OK. Today’s target wasn’t actually a corpse. I’d been searching for overlooked body parts.
Short version. Last fall a housewife vanished from her Cabarrus County home in rural North Carolina. A week ago, while I was away on a working vacation in Hawaii, a trucker admitted to strangling the woman and burying her body in a sandpit. Impatient, the local cops had sallied forth with shovels and buckets. They delivered the bones in a Mott’s applesauce carton to my employer, the Medical Examiner’s Office, in neighboring Mecklenburg County.
Yesterday, my aloha tan still glowing, I’d begun my analysis. A skeletal inventory revealed that the hyoid, the mandible, and all of the upper incisors and canines were missing.
No teeth, no dental ID. No hyoid, no evidence of strangulation. Dr. Tim Larabee, the Mecklenburg County medical examiner, asked me to have a second go at the sandpit.
Correcting screwups usually makes me cranky. Today I was feeling upbeat.
I’d quickly found the missing bits and dispatched them to the MCME facility in Charlotte. I was en route to a shower, a late lunch, and time with my cat.
It was 1:50 p.m. My sweat-soaked tee was pasted to my back. My hair was yanked into a ratty knot. Sand lined my scalp and undies. Nevertheless, I was humming. Al Yankovic, “White & Nerdy.” What can I say? I’d watched a YouTube video and the tune lodged in my head.
Wind buffeted my Mazda as I merged onto southbound I-85. Slightly uneasy, I glanced at the sky, then thumbed on NPR.
Terry Gross was finishing an interview with W. S. Merwin, the U.S. poet laureate. Both were indifferent to the conditions outside my car.
Fair enough. The show was produced in Philadelphia, five hundred miles north of Dixie.
Terry launched into a teaser about an upcoming guest. I never caught the name.
Beep! Beep! Beep!
The National Weather Service has issued a severe-weather warning for parts of the North Carolina piedmont, including Mecklenburg, Cabarrus, Anson, Stanly, and Union counties. Severe thunderstorms are expected to move through the area within the next hour. Rainfall of one to three inches is anticipated, creating the potential for flash flooding. Atmospheric conditions are favorable for the development of tornadoes. Stay tuned to this station for further updates.
Beep! Beep! Beep!
I tightened my grip on the wheel and goosed my speed to seventy-five. Risky in a sixty-five-mile-an-hour zone, but I wanted to reach home before the deluge.
Moments later Terry was interrupted again, this time by a muted whoop-whoop.
My eyes flicked to the radio.
Feeling stupid, I checked the rearview mirror.
A police cruiser was riding my bumper.
Annoyed, I pulled to the shoulder and lowered my window. When the cop approached, I held out my license.
“Dr. Temperance Brennan?”
“Looking somewhat worse for wear.” I beamed what I hoped was a winning smile.
Johnny Law did not beam back. “That won’t be necessary,” indicating my license.
Puzzled, I looked up at the guy. He was mid-twenties, slim, with an infant mustache that appeared to be going nowhere. A badge on his chest said R. Warner.
“The Concord Police Department received a request from the Mecklenburg County medical examiner to intercept and divert you.”
“Larabee sent the cops to find me?”
“Yes, ma’am. When I arrived at the recovery site, you’d left.”
“Why didn’t he call me directly?”
“Apparently he couldn’t get through.”
Of course not. While digging, I’d locked my iPhone in the car to protect it from sand.
“My phone is in the glove compartment.” No need to alarm Officer Warner. “I’m going to take it out.”
The numbers on the little screen indicated three missed calls from Larabee. Three messages. I listened to the first: “Long story, which I’ll share when you’re back. The Concord PD received a report of a body at the Morehead Road landfill. Chapel Hill wants us to handle it. I’m elbow-deep in an autopsy. Since you’re in the area, I hoped you could swing by to check it out. Joe Hawkins is diverting that way with the van, just in case they’ve actually got something for us.”
The second message was the same as the first. Ditto the third, but more terse. It ended with the inducement: You’re a champ, Tempe.
A landfill in a storm? The champ was suddenly not so chipper.
“Ma’am, we should hurry. The rain won’t hold off much longer.”
“Lead on.” I could not have said this with less enthusiasm.
Warner returned to his cruiser, whoop-whooped, then pulled into traffic. Inwardly cursing Larabee, Warner, and the landfill, I palm-slapped the gearshift and followed.
Traffic on I-85 was unusually heavy for Thursday, midafter-noon. As we approached Concord, I could see that the Bruton Smith Boulevard exit ramp was a parking lot.
And realized what a nightmare this little detour of Larabee’s would be.
The Morehead Road landfill is back-fence neighbor to the Charlotte Motor Speedway, a major stop on the NASCAR circuit. Races would be held there this weekend and next. Local print and broadcast coverage was extensive. Even I knew that tomorrow’s qualifying would determine which lucky drivers made the cut for Saturday’s All-Star Race.
Two hundred thousand avid fans would pour into Charlotte for Race Week. Looking at the sea of SUVs, campers, pickups, and sedans, I guessed that many had already hit town.
Warner rode the shoulder. I followed, ignoring the hostile glares of those cemented in the logjam.
Lights flashing, we snaked through the bedlam on Bruton Smith Boulevard, past the dragway, the dirt track, and a zillion fast-food joints. On the sidelines, the tattooed and tank-topped carried babies, six-packs, coolers, and radios. Vendors sold souvenirs from folding tables beneath improvised tents.
Warner looped the surrealistic geometry of the Speedway itself, made several turns, then rolled to a stop outside a small structure whose siding might once have been blue. Beyond the building loomed a series of mounds resembling a Martian mountain range.
A man emerged and issued Warner a yellow hard hat and a neon orange vest. As they talked, the man pointed at a gravel road rising sharply uphill.
Warner waited while I received my safety gear, then we proceeded up the slope. Trucks rumbled in both directions, engines churning hard going in, humming going out.
When the road leveled, I could see three men standing by an enormous Dumpster. Two wore coveralls. The third wore black pants and a long-sleeved black shirt over a white tee. Joe Hawkins, longtime death investigator for the MCME. All three featured gear identical to that lying on my passenger seat.
Warner nosed up to the Dumpster and parked. I pulled in beside him.
The men watched as I got out and donned my hard hat and vest. Fetching. A perfect complement to my current state of hygiene.
“We gotta quit meeting like this.” Joe and I had parted at the sandpit barely an hour earlier.
The older man stuck out a hand. “Weaver Molene.” He was flushed and sweating and filled his coveralls way beyond their intended capacity.
“Temperance Brennan.” I’d have skipped the handshake, given the black moons under Molene’s nails, but didn’t want to be rude.
“You the coroner?” he asked.
“I work for the medical examiner,” I said.
Molene introduced the younger man as Barcelona Jackson. Jackson was very thin and very black. And very, very nervous.
“Jackson and I work for the company that manages the landfill.”
“Impressive pile of trash,” I said.
“Site’s got a capacity of over two and a half million cubic meters.” Molene ran a dingy hankie across his face. “Friggin’ weird Jackson stumbled onto the one square foot holding a stiff. Or maybe not. Probably dozens out there.”
Jackson had mostly kept his eyes down. At Molene’s words, he raised and then quickly dropped them back to his boots.
“Tell me what you found, sir.”
Though I spoke to Jackson, Molene answered.
“Probably best we show you. And quick.” He pocket-jammed the hankie. “This storm’s coming fast.”
Molene set off at a pace I would have thought impossible for a man of his bulk. Jackson scampered after. I fell into line, paying attention as best I could to the uneven footing. Warner and Hawkins brought up the rear.
I’ve excavated in landfills, am familiar with the aroma of eau de dump, a delicate blend of methane and carbon dioxide with traces of ammonia, hydrogen sulfide, nitrogen, hydrogen chloride, and carbon monoxide added for spice. I braced for the stench. Didn’t happen.
Good odor management, guys. Or maybe it was Mother Nature. Wind swirled dirt into little cyclones and tumbled cellophane wrappers, plastic bags, and torn paper across the landscape.
Our course took us the length of the active landfill, down a slope, then around a series of what appeared to be closed areas. Instead of raw earth, the tops of the older mounds were covered with grass.
As we walked, the rumble of trucks receded, and the whine of fine-tuned engines grew louder. Based on the changing acoustics, I figured the Speedway lay over a rise to our right.
After ten minutes, Molene stopped at the base of a truncated hillock. Though tentative grass greened the top, the side facing us was scarred and pitted, like a desert butte gouged by eons of wind.
Molene said something I didn’t catch. I was focused on the exposed stratigraphy.
Unlike the sandstone or shale that make up metamorphic rock, the mound’s layers were composed of flattened Pontiacs and Posturepedics, of squashed Pepsis, Pop-Tarts, Pringles, and Pampers.
Molene pointed to a crater in a brown-green layer eight feet above our heads, then to an object lying about two yards off the base of the mound. His explanation was lost to a clap of thunder.
Didn’t matter. It was obvious Jackson’s “stiff” had dropped from the mound, probably dislodged by the previous day’s storm.
I crossed to the thing and squatted. Molene, Warner, and Hawkins clustered around me but remained standing. Jackson kept his distance.
The object was a drum, approximately twenty inches in diameter and thirty inches high. Its cover lay off to one side.
“Looks like a metal container of some kind,” I said without looking up. “It’s too rusted to make out a logo or label.”
“Flip it,” Molene shouted. “Jackson and I turned the thing bottom up to protect the stuff inside.”
I tried. It weighed a ton.
Hawkins squatted, and together, we muscled the drum upright. Its interior was filled with a solid black mass.
I leaned close. Something pale was suspended in the dark fill, but the pre-storm gloom obscured all detail.
I was reaching for my Maglite when lightning sparked.
A human hand flashed white in the electric brilliance.
Dissolved to black.
© 2011 Temperance Brennan, L.P.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I am a voracious reader who enjoys bestsellers, all types of literature and more. This is one of the best books I have ever read
Charlotte, North Carolina is hosting a major NASCAR event. When a body is found lodged in a drum of asphalt at the dump adjacent to the Charlotte Motor Speedway, Dr. Temperance Brennan is part of the team. While working on the case, Tempe is visited by Wayne Gamble, a pit crew member, whose sister disappeared with her boyfriend years earlier. Gamble is worried that the victim could be his sister Cindi or her boyfriend Cale Lovette. At the time of the couple's disappearance, Lovette was involved with the Patriot Posse, a right wing extremist group. To complicate matters further, lab reports indicate that the unidentified man in the barrel died of ricin poisoning, a deadly toxin, and an employee of the CDC has gone missing. Suddenly, the FBI is all over the case and has whisked away the body, as well as all the autopsy samples and reports. But this won't stop Tempe, who is working individually with both Charlotte Detective Erskine "Skinny" Slidell and Cotton Galimore, a disgraced former police officer who is now head of security for the Speedway. She's determined to solve both the disappearance of the young couple, as well as determine who was found in the barrel, and how or if the two cases are connected. Reichs' has created quite a mix for Tempe in this latest novel. She's been recruited by her ex-husband and his finance to help solve their pre-wedding spats. Currently without a love interest, Tempe finds herself attracted to one of the new people in her life. She's finally letting her hair down a little and spouting expletives, which makes her character more likable and human. FLASH AND BONES is a nice new offering from Kathy Reichs that not only provides the reader with a good mystery, but also covers the history of NASCAR. Lynn Kimmerle
I am a huge fan of Kathy Reichs' Temperance Brennan series and look forward to each new book. This book does not disappoint. Like Ms. Reichs herself, Temperance is a forensic pathologist who works both in NC and in Quebec. This book stays in NC and centers on a body found near a NASCAR racetrack. The story builds on this initial premise and gets more and more intense as it goes on. Temperance finds herself in the middle of feuding cops, the FBI, and her fellow lab staff. One of the things I enjoy about this series is all of the information that is woven into the plot. In addition to forensic pathology information, this book has a lot of the NASCAR history written into it. Information on the beginnings of NASCAR, history of the drivers, and even a little on how the present day race world functions. The side story of her ex-husband's fiancé Summer needing Temperance's help in planning her wedding adds a touch of humor to the story. It also gives Temperance some great lines full of sarcasm that go over the beleaguered bride's head. One of the best parts of this book is the way Ms. Reichs makes her characters so believable whether it's a disgraced former cop or a cranky, humorless coworker. Even the two missing people who we never meet become real to the reader. The ending is not telegraphed earlier in the book and is absolutely believable. My only gripe-not enough Ryan, Longtime readers will know what I mean. I can't wait for the next book!
The Charlotte Motor Speedway hosts a major NASCAR event, but a corpse found in a barrel of asphalt interrupts Race Week festivities. Mecklenburg County Medical Examiner forensic anthropologist Temperance Brennan is assigned to make a faster than the speed of light identification of the victim so the remains can be expeditiously removed from the race. In 1998 Wayne Gamble's older sister Cindi and her boyfriend Cale Lovette disappeared. She dreamed of becoming a racing car driver while belonged to the Patriot Posse right wing extremists. Wayne believes the victim in the barrel is his sibling. As Brennan works the cold case, the FBI claims jurisdiction, which has Temperance stunned as the Feds had the case a dozen years ago and dropped it abruptly. Meanwhile Charlotte-Mecklenburg PD officer Erskine "Skinny" Slidell and Charlotte Motor Speedway security chief also fog up Brennan's inquiry. This is a strong Brennan mystery as Kathy Reichs blends trademark forensics with racing in a fast-paced thriller. Besides law enforcement, CDC is also involved leaving the heroine to wonder if she is dealing with a massive cover-up. Readers will enjoy the latest Brennan tale as she bangs heads with law enforcement while performing what she believes is the proper duty of a county ME. Harriet Klausner
I didn't know what to expect when I started reading it while on vacation. My wife had just finished it and thought that I may enjoy it because of the Nascar story. I started it on a saturday morning and finished it on monday, was pleasantly surprised at the great flow of the story. Look forward to reading more.
While I usually enjoy her books, this one seems thin on story. I do like how different the books are compared to the show. Maybe the next one will be more to my liking.
Not one of my favorite temperance brennan stories. Seemed slow and didn't hold my interest a well as these books can.
Dr. Temperance Brennan is at it again...this time inside NASCAR. We are most comfortable in our hometowns. But Dr. Brennan is about to find out more than she ever wanted to know about the world of NASCAR, private militia, personal grudges and old cases. In the style that I so love, we are lead through a maze of facts, bodies, strange poisons, government agencies and strange circumstances. All from the comfort of her hometown! I love both the "Book Dr. Brennan" and the "TV Dr. Brennan" but each are very different. The current TV show Bones, is based on this series of books by Kathy Reichs. However, if you are a fan of the show, be prepared for a very different Temperance Brennan. Both are complex and intriguing, but this is not the same character! This was another wonderful glimpse into the life of a medical forensic anthropologist that keeps you reading until the very last page!
her earlier books were much better than the last two and this one was better than the last two but not that great either sorry I really look forward to the bones books but not to much anymore. this was a bit on the boring side, really wanted to like it.
An OK addition to the series and, for me a fast read, but one that ultimately feels as if she's marking time, especially as there is a small reference to Tempe's great niece who is the focus of her new young adult series. The investigation was OK and it was interesting to learn how you remove a body from a barrel full of asphalt. But as I really don't have any interest in NASCAR, I found some of the sections at the track quite tedious. On the personal side, I miss Tempe's relationship with Ryan, who hardly appears in the book, and found the interludes with her husband and his fiancé frankly ridiculous. I do hope she continues to write the series but am hoping that the next one brings a return to Canada and a resumption of the sparring with Ryan.
Interesting and captivating.
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Stop writing clopfics!!!
While I love her novels, I am not a fan of Nascar and I wish the book depended more on plot than just incessantly going over the history of Nascar. As with most of the Charlotte novels, Ryan is barely present, which severely irks me, but the science is up to par and the case is fairly interesting. Not her best, but also not her worst.
love how Kathy Reichs keeps the reader coming back for more. I've got 16 of the series and can hardly wait till I get the rest of them on my NOOK. I tend to stay up too late reading and then it is hard to get up in the morning.
Meanwhile, Twilight, Apple, amd Rainbow were continuing their s ex party. Then, the door bell rang. Twi removed her horn from Rain's pus sy and answered it. Rarity stood there. "Hi, l'm bored, and l was hoping you weren't busy." "App, Rain, and l are have a party, but you're welcome to join us- if you particiate in the games." "Thank you!" Rari replied. She followed Twi into the living room. Her eyes widened when she saw App's hoove and leg inside Rain's pus sy. "Actually..." she said as she started backing towards the door. "Oh no. You said you're bored, so we're gonna help that." Rari reluctantly agreed.
Though not "into" Nascar or the like, I found this book as hard to put down as all of Reichs' books. Very enjoyable.