Kathy Reichs, . . Scribner, $23.95 (320pp) ISBN 978-0-7432-3346-0
Feisty forensic anthropologist Temperance (Tempe) Brennan is supposed to be on vacation, but body parts keep turning up. At the start of her sixth adventure, she's awaiting the arrival of her current flame, Quebecois sleuth Andrew Ryan, so she can head for the beach near her hometown of Charlotte, N.C. Before he shows up, she's called in to use her world-class forensics skills when a local janitor's infant granddaughter is found dead and charred in an oven. Then some strange, decomposing remains (" 'Human?' 'I'm not sure' ") are discovered by Brennan's dog during a barbecue at a local lakeside resort. Ryan finally arrives, but Brennan's vacation is indefinitely put on hold when a small plane crashes nearby. Two people are dead, and her expertise is required yet again ("The skull had suffered massive communitive fracturing on impact. The fire had done the rest"). Brennan eventually realizes that all three cases are linked to a drug-smuggling ring that also dabbles in poaching exotic animals. As she pursues her investigations, she is forced to work with "Skinny" Slidell, a redneck cop who rubs her the wrong way, but tension is defused by the presence of Ryan, who gamely gives up his vacation to pitch in. He matches Brennan quip for quip, and Tempe's dog, Boyd, provides extra comic relief. Reichs has built a reputation on cut-to-the-chase writing and swift plotting, and this latest effort delivers everything her fans have come to expect.
Reviewed on: 05/05/2003