Kathy Reichs’ anthropologist protagonist Temperance Brennan returns in her fifth novel Grave Secrets, published by Scribner, copyright 2002.
At the beginning of this complicated novel we are treated to an in-depth explanation of a dig in Guatemala at Chupan Ya where, in 1982, the village was attacked by soldiers who destroyed the village and killed all that had been living there. The famous forensic anthropologist Temperance “Tempe” Brennan is called in to help with the identification of the many bodies that were thrown down a well and buried there. Her feelings about this atrocity are nearly overwhelming which inspires her to do the job to the best of her abilities. This savage mass murder happened twenty years before but the families of these lost souls are still wanting to provide a proper burial for these victims of political unrest in their beloved country.
As she digs with trowel and brush she is constantly moved as she and her teammates uncover the personal items as well as the mutilated remains of the innocents who endured this carnage. When picking up for the night she receives a call informing her that Molly and Carlos, two others working on the dig, had been shot. Carlos does not survive but Molly is in a coma in Solola hospital near the site. Mateo, who is in charge of the excavation, is heartbroken but insists the dig must continue. Tempe, who was Molly’s best friend, reluctantly agrees but pleads with Bartolome “Bat” Galiano, the Special Crimes Investigator, to bring the killer(s) to answer for this evil attack on her friends.
Tempe is trying to look after her friend and continue at the dig when she is called by the Guatemalan police and asked for her assistance in recovering a corpse that has been found in a septic tank near Paraiso. A terrible undertaking but it had to be done to identify the victim. Here again we are given in-depth explanations with details that could cause your tummy to do flip-flops. After recovering what was left of the body and trying to continue her examination, Tempe is confronted by Diaz, who is the deputy D.A. which in Guatemala makes him a most powerful man. He confiscates the body and gives no explanation, nor does he allow her to sit in at the autopsy. The government is very sensitive about outsiders interfering.
Andrew Ryan has been dating Tempe for some years now and she calls him for help for she has found out that he and Detective Bartolome had attended the same college and had been good friends. Together they discover a corruption ring that involves stem cell research and DNA transfer; such science was recently approved in the United States and this opens the opportunity for huge profit.
This novel presents us with political histories of Guatemala, in depth studies on forensic science, and adds to all of that the disappearance of Chantale Specter who happens to be the daughter of the Guatemalan ambassador to the United States. There are a lot of Spanish as well as French-Canadian slogans thrown in that really spice up the dialogue. This is not a book for the faint of heart or the weak of stomach because it becomes very graphic at times.
Oh yeah, and Tempe does acquire some interesting romance in her busy life with two men who are oddly alike.
P.S. The off color humor is quite funny!
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