Sunday, September 9, 2012

Damn You, Kathy Reichs

When I was 17 years old, my best friend, Romy, and I were invited up to the University of Western Ontario for a weekend visit. According to our parents, the purpose of our visit was to check out the academic life of a university student as we'd be applying to go there in the fall.  According to us, the purpose of our visit was to impersonate the life of an university student--specifically their social lives.
Armed with fake ID, cowboy boots, and vintage jeans, we were ready to par-tay.

Sadly, the party weekend that I anticipated did not turn out the way I thought it would.  And I only have myself to blame.  Myself and Jurassic Park, that is.

I had packed Jurrasic Park at the last minute just in case I had a couple spare minutes in between parties and greasy-spoon diners and boys. But just 30 minutes into our 2-hour train ride, I had memorized all of the details of my fake ID, Romy had fallen asleep, and I was bored.  So I cracked open the book.  From that point on, I was hooked. I NEEDED to know what happened.  I read the whole thing within 48 hours.  I read whenever I could.  And when I wasn't reading, I was thinking about what would happen next.

When I think back to that weekend, I don't remember the parties or the greasy spoon diners or the boys.  What I remember is sitting on the dirty carpet of our hosts' carpet reading my book while everyone else slept or gossiped.

From that point on I knew that I had a sick addiction.  An addiction to scientific-mystery novels.

I hadn't allowed myself to read one since.

Until a couple weeks ago when Simon and Schuster gave me the opportunity to read Kathy Reichs's latest book, Bones are Forever before it was released to the general public.  This presented me with quite the pickle.  On one hand, I know that once I start a good mystery, I can't stop.  On the other hand, I am a giant book snob and can't resist the opportunity to read a highly-anticipated book before anyone else. On the other, other hand, I only had a few more days until I had to return to work and knew that once work started, I wouldn't have that much time to read.  If I was going to squeeze one more book into the summer, this was my big chance.

As I had never read a Bones book, I had no idea what to expect. So I did a bit of research.  I found out that Bones are Forever is the 15th in a series of novels written by Kathy Reichs, a Forensic Archaeologist and the books are loosely based on her life.  Each book stars Temperance Brennan as the heroine who is thrust into the craziest post-mortem mysteries.  But the books don't just focus on the case at hand; they also delve into Temperance's personal life, which includes alcoholism, divorce, and steamy affairs…among other things.  And since I know that Temperance is semi-autobiographical, I think that she is a very courageous writer. Writing from personal experience is a really hard thing; it means that whoever reads your work gets more than a glimpse of that part of your brain that most of us are afraid to share. But the honesty and openness of Temperance's character isn't the only thing I appreciated about Bones are Forever.

A ton of the books I read are based on factual events and information.  In almost all of those cases, the author "researches" his/her subject matter in order to write the book.  This is where Kathy Reichs is special--and superior. She doesn't research her books, she LIVES her books.  And that authentic and deep knowledge comes through in the writing.  When writing about the scientific facts, the jargon seems both complex and natural all at the same time.  But she doesn't give too much information.  I never felt confused nor did I ever feel too grossed out or uncomfortable, a feat that is difficult to manage when writing about a pretty complex field of science and the delicate subject matter of death; in the case of this book, it was the death of four newborn infants.

Besides her life experiences and science background, Ms. Reichs also seems to really know her characters.  That's probably because she really does know the other scientists, detectives, and other people that she deals with on a daily basis in her other, non-literary life.  In a book talk I attended with her recently, she said that the words that she writes coming out of police officer's mouths are words that have actually come out of police officer's mouths.

That fact was just one of the many interesting things I learned about Ms. Reichs, her books, and the TV show Bones (based on her books) when I met her last week at Indigo books.  I have gone to many a book talk-for both literary and popluar fiction-and I have to say, that without a doubt, this is one of the largest crowds I had ever seen come out for an author.  It seems that between her books and Bones, the wildly successful TV show based on her books, she has created quite the following for herself.  Those people love her.

Now I sort of love her, too.  And I sort of hate her.  Because after 20 years on the wagon, I'm off it in a big way.  My name is Cayla and I am addicted to reading mysteries.

Damn you, Kathy Reichs...


  1. Speaking of books, do you know any good bookstores that also serve coffee downtown? I'm looking for a cozy warm space where I can buy a book and settle down with a latté. !ndigo books is starting to get too mainstream for me.

  2. I felt like that when I read the Hunger Games series (which I really hadn't expected to like that much!)