Monday, January 25, 2016

REVIEW: No Bones about it: The Temperance Brennan series

As someone who is often disappointed in movies based on books I have read, I have to say that television adaptations also rarely resemble their book counterparts. What is exciting on the page must not be as engaging on the small screen because there are often major plot and character changes.

The Temperance Brennan books and the television show Bones is an example of this.  "Based on the books by Kathy Reichs'' is a very loose statement. The plots and characters are nothing alike if you compare the two. The only thing in common is both main characters are named Temperance Brennan and work in the field of forensic anthropology. There, the similarities pretty much stop.

Author Kathy Reichs is a forensic anthropologist based in Charlotte, NC and Quebec, Canada. Her main character, Temperance Brennan, holds the same job in the book series. I've been reading the Temperance Brennan series off and on for 10 years now. There are 18 books and 3 shorter novellas in the series. I read a couple...then move on to other books....and come back. That's just my reading style. So many books to read....I have a vast collection to read through. And I'm flighty....I have to have variety. This means, it takes me a long time to finish a series. I visit favorite characters like long lost friends. I pulled book #6, Bare Bones, off my shelf earlier this month because I wanted a Temperance fix. I had read the book before, but didn't remember much about it.

In the books, Temperance Brennan has an ex-husband, a daughter, and on-again off-again boyfriend and is a completely different character than the television version. She is clinical, but very human. The TV persona reminds me of Sheldon Cooper as a forensic scientist.....very socially awkward in a egotistical manner, but still very likable for some reason.  I like the books. I like the show. I just have to forget that the two are supposedly related in any way...because in reality, they aren't. In the books, Temperance Brennan works in Charlotte NC and Canada, just like the author. She investigates bones found in all sorts of situations from mass burials following genocide to investigating old graves found in construction sites....situations that might actually happen. Brennan on the television show works for the Jeffersonian Institute...something akin to the Smithsonian. She consults with the FBI on cases, and has access to all these cool (and non-existent) computerized forensic tools that help her assist FBI Agent Seely Booth catch the bad guys. The plots are more melodramatic -- serial killers burying the main characters alive, a staff member being a murderer,etc. The usual Television fare. Grab you fast.....hold you firm for 45 minutes or so....then let you go with a joke at the end. Great hour episodes of dramatic television that have absolutely no tie to the book series. Zippo in common.

My question has always been....why call the character Temperance Brennan if the show is not really based on the books?  Her name could have been Dr. Susan Miller and the show would have been the same. Maybe that was the agreement between Reichs and the studio....she would assist with the show if they kept the character name? Who knows. I enjoy both, but have to keep them separated in my mind.

Bare Bones is a good read. A baby's skeleton is found in a wood stove and the child's teenage mother has disappeared. Add in a plane crash in a nearby NC cornfield and mysterious bones found on a farm, and you have the setup for a good bunch of forensic sleuthing by Brennan. It was a good read, but I did feel the plot lacked most of the excitement of earlier books in the series. It was....ok.  Well written, the story flowed well, the characters were acting as they normally act. But for me, this one was a bit....well, boring.   I will read the next book in the series, and I'm sure I will enjoy it just as I have the others. Not every book in a crime procedural series will knock you off your feet and leave an impression as a great piece of monumental fiction. Just like the last couple seasons of Bones have jumped the shark a bit for me.  It happens. I still love both characters, and will continue to read and watch until their stories are completed and finished.

Rating: 7/10 (only because the plot line didn't wow me)
Adult themes, violence & mild sexual situations, although not graphic.
Ages 16 & up

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