Kathy Reichs: Bones Are Forever and the Death of Innocence

Categories: Books

The opening scene of Bones Are Forever, Kathy Reichs's new novel, is gruesome. Forensic anthropologist Temperance Brennan finds a dead baby girl, her tiny body bloated and covered in maggots. The infant has been stuffed into a bathroom vanity, shoved behind a rusted drainpipe.

It's a tough scene to read. "It was tough to write," Reichs tells us. "While I was writing this book, I was working on three child homicides simultaneously. One age 11 months, one age two years and one age ten years. That was very much on my mind, the death of innocence. Those are the hardest victims to understand, the innocent victims as opposed to the drug dealer that put himself at risk."

Reichs's daughter and daughter-in-law were pregnant soon after she finished the book. She's thankful it wasn't until after she finished the book. "It would have been even tougher if I had known about those pregnancies when I was writing."

Bones Are Forever is the 15th book in the Temperance Brennan thriller series. The character inspired the television series Bones, which was just renewed for its eighth season. Temperance from the books and Temperance from the television series aren't quite the same. "I think of the TV version of Temperance as the prequel to the book Temperance. She's younger, she's just starting out in her career. She's still in Washington; later Tempe's in North Carolina and Montreal. In the series, she's working with Seely Booth; in the books, she's working with Andrew Ryan. In the book, she's married and has a child."

The Temperance Brennan series is extremely successful. The books have been translated into some 36 languages and the television show is in 75 foreign countries and territories. "This character has global appeal in both of its manifestations," says Reichs. "She appeals across all sorts of cultures. I find that absolutely fascinating -- and gratifying."

That success creates a challenge for Reichs, who's tasked with creating plotlines that continue the action from the previous books while also functioning as stand-alone stories. "You've got to reintroduce the characters and certain premises for the first-time reader, but you don't want to bore the returning reader. You've got to find new ways to say the same thing again and again and again. Who is Tempe? What's a forensic anthropologist? I don't like to rely on narrative description. I'd rather have Tempe on the stand testifying or in a faculty meeting talking with her co-workers so that it's a new way of introducing the same material."

After 15 books, lots of readers are as familiar with the characters as Reichs is. And lots of them have plenty of advice for her, not that Reichs finds their suggestions easy to incorporate into her next novel. "It's like politics. One side will say something and the other will say something completely different. Someone will say, 'I want Tempe to be with Andrew Ryan,' someone else will say, 'I don't want Tempe to be with Andrew Ryan.' There's no consensus. I certainly try to listen. I read Twitter. I read what comes in on my Web site, but I'm the author and in the end I have to make the decisions."

For Reichs, taking reader suggestions is much easier than listening to critics. "You tell yourself that you're not going to read the reviews, but you do. I don't mind if they have a valid criticism. What I don't like is when they criticize something I didn't do. There was one critic who said I had my cops always going to donut shops and I never have my cops going to donut shops. So I'm left thinking, did they even read my book?"

Kathy Reichs discusses and signs Bones Are Forever Thursday (today) at 6:30 p.m at Murder by the Book, 2342 Bissonnet. For information, visit the bookstore's website or call 713-524-8597. Free.

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Murder by the Book

2342 Bissonnet, Houston, TX

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