Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Written Word Wed. - No Bones About It

Today's book review is on the first of Kathleen Reichs' "Temperance Brennan" series of procedural mysteries. I checked it out because I was curious to see how close the books were to the TV series they inspired, Bones.

Deja Dead by Kathleen Reichs

Temperance Brennan is a forensic anthropologist working for a Canadian police department. When called in to help with identification of a murder victim, Brennan sees similarities between it and an older case, which raises a red flag for her: could it be the work of a serial killer? She thinks so, but none of the detectives assigned to the case agree. Frustrated by their stubborn resistance, she takes it upon herself to investigate on her own, an action that eventually brings her to the attention of the killer, making her a target.

Deja Dead is a procedural mystery, with a heavy focus on the tools of the trade, and an overload of technical jargon. Reichs goes to great pains to outline every aspect of Brennan's work, both the science and the politics. While informative, at times the technical jargon caused the prose to drag for me. Although Brennan technically works for the police, this is more of an Amateur Detective novel, since her investigation is outside the regular parameters of her job.

My overall reaction to this book was lukewarm. I'm not sure how much I would have enjoyed this book if I hadn't gone in with preconceived notions courtesy of Bones. The only character present in both is Brennan, and even then it's a totally different Brennan. The TV version is a young woman who was driven to her career by the death of her parents; she is socially awkward, substituting her job for a social life, and is thus terminally single (at least until the eventual hook-up between her and Boone). The novel version is a divorced mother of a college-age daughter; the book opens with her being upset that her vacation time was being sidetracked by having to work a case, so right off I knew I was in for trouble. Both versions are filled with righteous indignation about the violence perpetrated on the victims they examine, and both have a habit for forcing themselves into investigations where the law enforcement officials don't want them, but the TV version is much more capable of handling herself in those situations, whereas the novel version has a tendency to get knocked out and beaten up.

One of the reasons I love the show Bones is because of its great characters; that was totally lacking here. Brennan's relationship with almost everyone else in the book was adversarial, including her best friend; their relationship in particular annoyed me, but I was equally put out by the chauvinistic police officer who shot down every idea Brennan put forth just because Brennan put it forth. His reluctance to accept her theories made sense at first, but as the book went on his bullheadedness rose to idiotic proportions.

While I wasn't thrilled with the book, I must admit that towards the end I was caught up in it, and stayed up late to finish it; of course, part of that may have been a "oh, please, let it be over now!" thing . . .

Final analysis; not a bad book, and there's enough promise that I'm going to give the next book in the series a try, but if you're looking for a book that captures the spirit and energy of Bones, I'd give this one a miss.