Flash and Bone (Tempe Brennan #14) by Kathy Reichs
She lived for speed—and vanished without a trace. . . .
As 200,000 fans pour into town for Race Week, a body is found in a metal drum near Charlotte Motor Speedway—a discovery that has NASCAR crewman Wayne Gamble urgently seeking out Tempe at the Mecklenburg County ME’s office: twelve years ago, his sister, Cindi, then a high school senior and aspiring professional race car driver, disappeared along with her boyfriend, Cale Lovette, who was linked to a group of right-wing extremists. The FBI joined the investigation, but it was soon terminated. Is the body Cindi’s? Or Cale’s? Tests reveal that a toxic substance was in the drum with the body—just as another disappearance occurs. Who is orchestrating the mayhem behind the scenes at NASCAR—and what government secrets might have been buried more than a decade ago?
NASCAR is in town, and unfortunately with it, it seems to have brought a fair bit of trouble for my favorite forensic anthropologist. When a body is found, in a barrel, encased in asphalt and dumped at a landfill right next to the track, Tempe is called to the scene. The body is rather well preserved, but can be loosely dated by the strata of the garbage layers. ID will be tough, and a NASCAR crewman, Wayne Gamble, is convinced it may be that of his sister, Cindi, who disappeared 12 years earlier, along with her boyfriend, Cale Lovett. Cindi was set to be a NASCAR superstar, and Wayne is concerned that the investigation wasn’t handled the right way. It doesn’t help the confusion that the FBI also seems concerned about the new body, and Tempe eventually finds out that they also became involved in the original investigation into the disappearance of Cindi and Cale. Tempe’s usual curiosity gets the best of her, and she ends up assisting Detective Erskine Slidell in the now reopened disappearance case, with the dubious help of the FBI. The FBI connection starts to makes more sense when it’s discovered that Cale had ties to a local militia group, the Patriot Posse, who also were known for their similarities to the Klan.
Flash and Bones, even with Ms. Reich’s usual attention to forensic detail and seriousness of the cases, manages to take on a bit of a lighter tone this time around. Adding to that tone considerably is Detective Erskine “Skinny” Slidell. The scenes with him and Tempe were among my favorites, as he throws his considerable weight around trying to get to the bottom of things. He’s a good cop, if a bit rough around the edges, and Tempe’s patience is legendary, which comes in handy around Slidell. On a more personal note, Tempe’s soon-to-be ex-husband Pete is engaged to a woman named Summer, whose bubbleheaded beauty grates on Tempe’s nerves, and makes her seriously concerned about Pete’s sanity. Can you say mid-life crisis? Summer and Pete are in the middle of wedding planning, and Pete couldn’t be less interested. He asks Tempe to talk to Summer and this leads to a few humorous mix ups and a serious desire to slap Summer, but I digress. Summer’s not the only distraction that Tempe is facing, though. The other comes in the form of Cotton Galimore, former cop and head of security for the Charlotte Motor Speedway. Tall, green eyed, handsome Galimore wants to help with the investigation and also has his eye on Tempe. Problem is, he was bounced from the force because of drinking problems and another situation which he insists was a set up. Set-up or no, Slidell doesn’t trust him, but Tempe recognizes that Galimore could provide invaluable help. That and her libido sits up and takes notice every time he’s around, which, frankly, I thought was kind of adorable. Flash and Bones was a fast, fun read, and I’m never disappointed in this series. I’m actually hoping we’ll see much more of “Skinny” Slidell in the future, and wouldn’t even mind seeing a bit more of Galimore in Tempe’s life. Yes, I’m partial to Detective Ryan, but he’s a busy guy back in Quebec and Tempe deserves some personal happiness. If you adore this series as much as I do, Flash and Bones won’t disappoint!