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Cross Bones    by Kathy Reichs order for
Cross Bones
by Kathy Reichs
Order:  USA  Can
Scribner, 2005 (2005)
Hardcover, Audio, CD, e-Book

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* *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

I always enjoy time spent with forensic anthropologist Dr. Tempe Brennan, whose job commute takes her regularly from Charlotte, North Carolina to Montreal, Quebec. Living in Montreal myself, I appreciate the author's mention of familiar local street names and restaurants. And it's good to see that, after one of the longest courtships in series history, Tempe and blue-eyed Detective Andrew Ryan seem to have settled into a steady, fun relationship, on and off the job.

This time, they follow a trail of bones (and corpses) together from Montreal to Tel Aviv and Masada in Israel. At the back of the book, Kathy Reichs credits her colleague, Dr. James Tabor with the facts behind the plot, gleaned from his research for his nonfiction book, The Jesus Dynasty. These include the discovery of bones in a cave during the 60s excavation of Masada, the James ossuary controversy, and the 2000 tomb excavation of familial skeletal remains, two of the individuals named Mary and Salome.

This 8th episode in the series begins, as always, with a body. That of middle-aged Orthodox Jew Avram Ferris, is found in a closet at the victim's place of business. Tempe's examination is complicated by the fact that the closet was very hot, and three cats were trapped in there with the corpse. She establishes that the victim did not kill himself as first assumed, and a mysterious man passes her a photo of a skeleton taken at an archaeological site in Israel. When she faxes the photo to her old friend Jake Drum (a biblical archeologist in N. Carolina) he springs into action.

The man who passed on the picture ends up in Israel, with Ryan on his trail. Tempe also travels there, bearing the bones at Jake's request. She's followed, her room is trashed, and records of the 60s Masada dig go missing. When - shades of Amelia Peabody - Tempe and Jake visit the tomb that he (like Dr. Tabor) found, she and Jake are stoned by the ultra-Orthodox Hevrat Kadisha, who are opposed to unearthing the dead for any reason. The bones are stolen, but Tempe finds another, even more controversial set - remains which fanatics from three different religions would do anything to possess.

At book's end, the mystery is solved, though the controversy remains, and Tempe comments wisely to Ryan on humanity's different faiths, 'They're all just trying to provide a formula for orderly, spiritual living, but somehow the message gets twisted, like cells in a body turning cancerous. Self-appointed spokesmen declare the boundaries of correct belief, outsiders are labeled heretics, and the faithful are called upon to attack them. I don't think it was meant to be that way.'

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