In Break No Bones, the ninth installment of the Temperance Brennan series, Kathy Reichs combines mystery with excellent character development. The book opens up with Temperance Brennan and her archaeological students the day before a dig on an Indian gravesite is supposed to finish up. A decomposing body is discovered in a shallow grave on Dewees, an island north of Charleston, SC, and Brennan instantly knows this isn’t some prehistoric find. After dealing with nosy reporter Winborne, Brennan gets to a phone and calls the local coroner, her friend Emma Rousseau. Once Emma arrives at the scene, they take the body back to the lab and determine that the remains are that of a middle-aged white male.
After getting a partial identity on the remains, Emma passes out and is rushed to the hospital where she confirms to Brennan that she has cancer. Weak and abed, Emma gets a call about a body found hanging from a tree. Brennan agrees to look into the case if Emma promises to rest. At the scene, Brennan figures out some pertinent information, leading her to think that the remains and this body might have a connection. The body count starts to pile up as Brennan navigates the clues while dealing with her personal life - her philandering ex-husband and her current boyfriend are both there with her.
Temperance Brennan is a wonderful character that is richly drawn by Reichs. The balance of work and personal life with the mystery elevate Break No Bones from the ordinary to the extraordinary. The story with its many twists is challenging in its scope, but Brennan’s sardonic humor is a real treat. Overall, Break No Bones is an excellent entry in the series and can be experienced well as a stand-alone. A really good forensic thriller, with the “breathy” audio performance being the only negative.