Book Review: Deadly Decisions by Kathy Reichs

Kathy Reichs’ crime thrillers focusing on the exploits of forensic anthropologist Temperance Brennan is the basis for Bones, one of my favourite TV shows. However, aside from the main character’s name and occupation, there are very few similarities.

Most of these are to do with the switch of medium, and understandable enough. I must say I prefer the TV version with it’s more light hearted approach, entertaining supporting players and the will-they-won’t-they relationship between Brennan and her FBI Agent Partner, Seeley Booth.

I’ve read a couple of books in the Brennan series, and while I prefer the television adaptation, Reichs does write a decent thriller.


Here, Brennan becomes involved in the Montreal biker wars, having volunteered to work for a special task force after a spate of gang related deaths, including that of innocent bystanders caught in the crossfire, particularly a nine year old girl who’s death effects Brennan greatly.

The investigation uncovers more bodies, including that of a teenager missing from North Carolina many years previously. How does this poor girl tie-in the Canadian bikers?

As well as trying to identify the bodies and solve the cases to bring the bikers to justice, Brennan also has to deal with apparent hostility from her new colleagues. And things aren’t easier on the home front- Brennan’s lover and friend, Detective Andrew Ryan is under investigation for corruption and her reckless nephew has arrived. Making matters worse is her nephew’s love of motorbikes and fascination with the gangs, and a developing friendship with a local reporter investigating the biker war.

Can Brennan work out how all the pieces fit together? What is going on with Ryan? And can she keep her nephew and herself when the bikers work out who she is?

As you can tell Reichs has established a pretty good idea for a thriller, with the menacing, thuggish biker gangs making a good enemy and realistic threat for Brennan, in a way a lone psycho can’t be. The bikers are fairly stereotypical brutes, but the dialogue has enough snap in it to keep it going and some of the verbal sparring is handled well. Reichs writes the dialogue with this clipped, rapid fire style which I personally love and captures the gallows humour used by the jaded cops and criminals.

The science is fascinating, and Reichs manages to avoid switching into tedious exposition or textbook copy and pasting. One of the previous books I read, one of Reichs’ earlier efforts, was a tad too grisly, and it seems that as she’s grown as a writer she’s managed to get the balance right. The killings are still brutal, but she doesn’t dwell on the gruesome details as much.

Brennan is an interesting protagonist, if slightly frustrating at times. She appears confident and in control, but her emotions betray her at times and she’s extremely fallible. I quite liked one of the twists in the tale, with Brennan’s displeasure at her aloof colleague being explained in a way that puts Brennan slightly in the wrong and neatly avoids making the story about other characters’ sexism and flaws, with Brennan having to prove that she can hold her own.  But it transpires the differences are down to other factors and at times you kind of understand why some of the cops have a hard time working with her, because she mishandles situations spectacularly at times.

She’s engagingly human and has a nice line in sarcastic put downs. She makes a good narrator, explaining the science stuff quickly and then moving on with the personal stuff.

The other characters suffer from being seen through someone else’s eyes, but Brennan’s scientific mind means she picks up on things and Reichs gives the supporting players little quirks and tics which make them feel more real.

Reichs writes with genuine verve and keeps the book moving along at quite a clip, creating a gripping thriller. A few of the plot developments can be spotted quite a way off, but the plot makes sense and develops naturally, and there are a few little surprises along the way.

Verdict: A solid, gripping thriller. Reichs writes in an engaging, fast moving style and the characters are drawn well. It’s a good, fun read and ideal for holidays or just unwinding. 7/10.

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.


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