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.
Temperance Brennan is back in full effect. When a body is found in a barrel, filled with concrete at a dump near the Charlotte Motor Speedway, our favorite forensic anthropologist is brought in to consult. Soon after the media gets wind of the story, Wayne Gamble, an employee of one of the NASCAR racing teams, visits Tempe to ask if the body found might be that of his sister, who vanished along with her white supremacist boyfriend twelve years earlier. Just as Tempe and her boss start to find answers, things start to get weird. The FBI shows up and the body disappears. Flash and Bones features the return of Officer "Skinny" Slydell and Tempe's soon-to-be-ex-husband Pete, and we finally get to meet Pete's intellectually-challenged fiancée, Summer. We're also introduced to the story behind Kathy Reichs's YA series, Virals. (I have reviewed the first book of the Virals series on my LibraryThing page as well as on my blog.)This installment of the Bones series has not been given stellar reviews. While not the best book she's ever written, I felt that it was a worthy addition to the series, and I was just as engulfed in it as I have been all of her other books. I truly enjoyed it.While the narrator did a great job, her gravelly voice, while lovely, made Tempe sound much older than I imagine her to be. I wish they would have stuck with Linda Emond, whose voice has much more of a chronological range.
This is the 2nd Reichs book that I've read. They are very well-written. Factual. Good dialog. Not one of those mysteries where everything is explained as the killer is just about to kill the detective who is rescued at the last moment. In this book, the police figure out the killer in the nick of time and save Brennan. I would read another one in the series if I came across it but the book wasn't so wonderful that I'm rushing out to look for the rest in the series.
A body is found in a landfill that just happens to be next to a NASCAR race track in Charlotte. (And, according to the Q&A in the back of the book, apparently the landfill actually exists too). Brennan gets called in because, well, who else would you call if you have a body stuck in asphalt. Of course, that one body unleashes a torrent of bodies, old and new, a torrent of suspects, and a lot of interesting connections between the bodies and the suspects. Oh, and there's also a bridezilla in the novel, but I won't spoil that delightful (one of the more fun and funny parts of the novel) sub-plot too much.NASCAR and Temperance Brennan. It makes sense since about half of the books that Brennan are in take place in North Carolina, and NC is nothing if not a haven for NASCAR and its enthusiasts. I was sure what I was getting myself into when I saw that NASCAR was going to somehow play into the story. Sometimes authors can take it way too far when they integrate something real like sports into a fictional world. How much realism do you have, or expect your reader to know, or explain to the reader.For the most part I think that Reichs did an okay job balancing the NASCAR side of the story. I'm a fan of all sports so I already knew a lot of the names, terms, etc., but for those who didn't there was enough explanation that the reader wasn't totally lost, but not too much so that those who love NASCAR would be bored out of their heads.The writing was its usual solid self. Nothing flashy or different, but nothing horrible that would take away from the flow of the story either. Unfortunately the plot wasn't exactly mind blowing. Although Reichs has never done the plot specifically before, reading it, as well as all of Brennan's 'relationship' issues just sorta took me back to some of the recent novels in the series. The novel as a whole was a little repetitive.It's a solid read, especially if you keep up with the Brennan series, but it's more of a 'take out of the library and return' than a 'buy, buy, buy and keep for the rest of your natural life' sorta read. A good read, solid read, just not a make room on your personal shelves for it read.
Another good Kathy Reichs book. Love Temperance. Keep them coming Kathy.
I have been reading every Kathy Reichs. For the past few years, I feel a bit disappointed as her style is always the same. Give all the "clues" and the let eveything fall into place in the last 10 pages. The story is entertaining, in this book we are completely immerse in the world of NASCAR when a body is found in a Oil drum close to the speed way. The setting of this book is completely in Charlotte and Tempe's life is again in jeopardy when she gets too close to the truth.
I admit it...I'm a forensic science fan, and Kathy Reichs' books are always a favorite of mine. This book, Flash and Bones, does not disappoint. Set in Temperance's (Ms. Reichs') town of Charlotte, the story begins with the discovery of a body in a steel drum filled with asphalt next to the Charlotte Motor Speedway. Is the body in the drum tied to the case of two teenagers that went missing years ago? Is it a man that was just recently reported missing? OR, is it someone else?With some unusual causes of death discovered and connections with a right-wing extremist group uncovered, this is one enjoyable and quick read.Recommended.
I have been reading Temperance Brennan books since the first one came out, and I have truly enjoyed them. I did notice that the last two or so, although good, were not up to what I had come to expect from this series. This book is more like the Tempe Brennan that I have to come to love. The book is fast-paced and there are lots of twists and turns in the story. The book is set entirely in North Carolina this time, and all around NASAR racing which is huge in that state. There are lots of bodies turning up in various locations, and lots of threats and terrors for Tempe to deal with as she tries to unravel the mysteries. I love the character of Tempe Brennan and I love the forensic expertise that comes out so often in these books. Ms. Reichs is a wonderful author. True escapism for me.
I was hoping for more scientific stuff in this book again but looked a bit short on the science and definately short on romance!
Kathy makes me glad that I live in Charlotte, NC and the heart of NASCAR country. One of her best novels.
A body in a landfill, mysterious disappearances, obstructive FBI agents, and NASCAR all tie in to the latest Temperance Brennan book. This series is losing steam; I may not keep reading much longer.
I've been reading the Temperance Brennan books since Deja Dead was published. I've noticed that I always prefer the books where Temperance is in Canada at least part of the book. In this book Tempe stays put in Charlotte which is inundated with car racing fans for the NASCAR race. A drum filled with asphalt and a body turns up just outside the race track and Tempe has to identify the body. A crew member wants to know if it could be his sister who disappeared years ago and has never been heard from since.Dr. Brennan ends up spending a lot of time at the race track and we are treated to lots of information about car racing. Maybe if I was more interested in NASCAR I would have found this riveting but it seemed like it was just added in for filler.Hopefully Tempe will be back in Montreal soon and get back in the groove with Detective Ryan.
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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