BOOKREVIEWS: Break No Bones, by Kathy Reichs, William Heinemann, pounds 17.99.
Kathy Reichs' latest novel, Break No Bones, starring the forensic anthropologist heroine Dr Temperance Brennan, starts with the usual puzzling corpse when a recently-decomposed body is uncovered in a shallow grave off a lonely beach in South Carolina.
Just another normal day on an archaeological dig for Temperance then, and via various unburied twists and turns, bodies and potential perpetrators mount up to plunge the doctor into another chilling murder mystery.
In the school of authors who have used their everyday professions as background to their novels, Kathy Reichs is surely one of the best. The harsh deaths and clinical forensic details are set against our heroine's day-to-day life, her strong-and-silent detective boyfriend, and her charming but cheating estranged husband. Even Birdie the cat and Boyd the dog make frequent well-characterised appearances.
I can't help but suspect that the author has re-written herself as the feisty, determined - but occasionally over-impetuous - lead character, fighting injustice and sleazy evildoers with wit and perseverance while untangling a mess of bodies and scientific facts.
With comparisons to Patricia Cornwell being inevitable, Kathy Reichs wins out in my opinion, with a warmer heroine and more entertaining and realistic supporting characters.
Look out for strong-willed women, wormy men and shockingly amoral perpetrators.