> Zed Book Club / The Bone Code

Photos: DNA structure (phive2015/GettyImages); Stormy sea ( da-kuk/GettyImages); The Bone Code

> Bookshelf

The Bone Code

U.S. author Kathy Reichs, who publishes her 20th Bones book on July 6, says she and her cat-loving, geeky heroine are 'one and the same' / BY Trish Crawford / July 6th, 2021

She’s a wife, a grandmother of six, a professor and anthropologist, but forensic science has always been Kathy Reichs’ calling card, in real life and in the pages of her Temperance Brennan series.

On July 6, the day before her 73rd birthday, Reichs publishes The Bone Code, her 20th story about Brennan, the cat-loving science geek who solves cases with her detective boyfriend, Andrew Ryan.

Reichs and her alter ego have both experienced a cerebral aneurism, with successful operations behind them. “I know her very well, because she’s me,” Reichs says in an interview before an afternoon break to play with the grandkids, ranging in ages from 5 to 11, at her beach house in Charleston, S.C.

They call her “Grancie,” which she says is an Irish endearment. Born Kathleen Toelle in Chicago, Ill., she got her BA in anthropology at the American University in Washington, D.C., and a PhD in physical anthropology at Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill., in 1975. She became a professor at the University of North-Carolina, Charlotte, and from the early ‘80s, she also worked as a forensic consultant in Quebec and North Carolina.

Kathy Reichs


Reichs, who begins her workday at 8 a.m. and ends at 1 p.m., started writing fiction about 25 years ago to help put her three kids through college. Her first book, 1997’s Déjà Dead, was a New York Times bestseller and won the Ellis Award for Best First Novel, in part due to interest in the O.J. Simpson trial two years before, which attracted massive media coverage of forensic evidence. Before the former professional football player was  acquitted in the stabbing deaths of his ex-wife and her friend, people were fascinated by testimony about blood-splatter patterns, knife-blade trajectories, time of death analysis – not to mention the fit of a glove – and they gravitated to Reichs’ stories about the evidence Temperance Brennan uncovered from the skeletons and corpses on her examination tables.

Next came Death du Jour and Deadly Décisions. The French flourishes in her titles were a nod to her connection to the province of Quebec, where she was a consultant for its Laboratoire de Sciences Judiciaires et de Médecine Légale, in addition to her work for the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner in Charlotte, N.C.

She deliberately chose Montreal as a venue for Brennan’s work, since she knew it well and felt it would be “exotic” to American readers. It is a place she loves and misses since the pandemic shut down the border, as she has many friends there.

In real life, Reichs helped gather and identify the remains of the victims of the 9/11 attacks in New York and testified in Rwanda at the UN Tribunal on Genocide, and the dedications at the front of her books illuminate the major events in her personal and professional lives.

Kathy Reichs
Photo: Marie-Reine Mattera


Death du Jour, published in 1999, is “to all who survived the great Quebec Ice Storm of 1998.” In 2001, it was a shout-out to her three children, Kerry, Courtney and Brendan, who had all graduated from university by the time Fatal Voyage was published. Her 2002 Grave Secrets was for “The Innocents” who died in the 9/11 terrorist attacks and those she exhumed from a mass grave in Guatemala. “I have touched their bones, I mourn them,” she wrote in the preface. In her 2009 book 206 Bones (the number in the human body), she applauded peers who, like herself, had been certified by the American Board of Forensic Anthropology. “The exam was a bear, but we did it,” read the dedication in a book about malfeasance by laboratory staff. It also contains an epilogue discussing how The Innocence Project has used DNA tests to free hundreds of imprisoned people who were convicted with faulty scientific evidence, and calls for certification for all “experts,” so judges and the courts know they have been held to the highest standards.

Kathy Reichs


The Bone Code is dedicated to her husband of 52 years, retired lawyer Paul Reichs, and was inspired by news items about the human genome, which got her thinking about the possibility of genetic tinkering for evil purposes. After a hurricane, a medical container washes up on shore with two decomposing bodies inside, and the search to identify them leads Brennan to one of her cold cases. There’s also a flesh-eating plague that touches on current fears awakened by the COVID-19 global pandemic, even though she started the book a year and a half before.

Reichs gets her ideas from news, and keeps a file for upcoming stories. When asked in a follow-up email if the tragic news about human remains found at former residential schools in Canada was something her main character could help with, she agrees that Brennan has expertise in the area, but Reichs only has sympathy for grieving Indigenous peoples. “It’s a very sad situation,” she wrote.

Reichs is aging Tempe, as she calls her heroine, although not as fast as the flesh-and-blood author, and has no plans to retire either of them. “I enjoy writing,” she says. “I miss it if I’m on tour.” She doesn’t plot her books out in advance, but just runs with a central idea, preferring to write “by the seat of [my] pants.”

The Fox TV show Bones, which she helped produce, ran for 12 seasons beginning in 2005. Starring Emily Deschanel as Brennan and David Boreanaz as FBI agent Seeley Booth, Reichs was happy with the casting, particularly the chemistry between the two leads. But ending it in 2017 was the right decision, she says, with the show “going out on top.”

Reichs is at work on her next book, which is due Nov. 1, and her contract with Simon & Schuster requires at least one more. When asked to give a one-word clue about the topic of the 21st Bones book, Reichs says: “The tentative title is Cold Cold Bones.  Is that clue enough?”


Prince Harry’s ‘Spare’ Continues to Break Worldwide RecordsThe book also seems to have put a dent in the popularity of members of the Royal Family — including the Prince and Princess of Wales.

Prince Harry’s Memoir Breaks U.K. Sales Record On First Day of ReleaseThe publisher of the new memoir, 'Spare", says it had sold 400,000 copies so far across hardback, e-book and audio formats.

Barack Obama’s Favourite Books of 2022The former U.S. president’s 13 titles include Canadians Emily St. John Mandel and Kate Beaton, as well as tomes from Michelle Obama, George Saunders and Jennifer Egan

Here are the 5 Books on Bill Gates’ Holiday Reading ListThe billionaire philanthropist is giving hundreds of copies to little libraries around the world

Sheila Heti and Eli Baxter Among 2022 Governor General’s Literary Award WinnersToronto writer Sheila Heti took home the fiction award for 'Pure Colour,' a novel the GG peer assessment committee called "a work of genius."

Suzette Mayr Wins $100,000 Scotiabank Giller Prize for ‘The Sleeping Car Porter’The 2022 Giller Prize jury called Mayr's novel "alive and immediate — and eerily contemporary."

Writers’ Trust of Canada Awards: Authors Nicholas Herring, Dan Werb Nab Top PrizesThe Writers' Trust of Canada awards amounted to a combined monetary prize value of $270,000.

Bob Dylan Releases ‘The Philosophy of Modern Song,’ a Book of Essays Dissecting 66 Influential SongsIn his new book, Bob Dylan offers up both critique and historical insight into various musical recordings of the last century by a variety of popular artists.

Prince Harry’s Memoir ‘Spare’ Will Be Published in January 2023The long-awaited memoir will tell with "raw unflinching honesty" Prince Harry's journey from "trauma to healing", his publisher said on Thursday.

Sri Lankan Author Shehan Karunatilaka Wins 2022 Booker PrizeKarunatilaka won the prestigious prize on Monday for his second novel ‘The Seven Moons of Maali Almeida’, about a dead war photographer on a mission in the afterlife.

Canadian Council for the Arts Reveals Governor General’s Literary Awards FinalistsThe finalists for the Governor General's Literary Awards spotlight books in both the English and French language, as well as translated works.

New Penguin Random House Award Named After Michelle Obama Will Honour High School WritersMichelle Obama Award for Memoir will provide a $10,000 college scholarship to a graduating public school senior based on their autobiographical submission.

French Author Annie Ernaux, 82, Becomes First French Woman to Win Nobel Prize for LiteratureThe author said, of winning, that "I was very surprised ... I never thought it would be on my landscape as a writer."

Hilary Mantel, Award-Winning British Author of ‘Wolf Hall’ Trilogy, Dies at 70Wolf Hall, published in 2009, and its sequel Bring Up the Bodies, released three years later, both won the Booker Prize, an unprecedented win for two books in the same trilogy and making Mantel the first woman to win the award twice.

Prince William “Cannot Forgive” Prince Harry, According to ‘The New Royals’ Author Katie NichollPrince William “just cannot forgive his brother,” according to Katie Nicholl, author of 'The New Royals: Queen Elizabeth’s Legacy and the Future of the Crown.'

Five Finalists Announced for Hilary Weston Writers’ Trust Prize for NonfictionThe winner — to be announced on November 2 — will take home the annual $60,000 prize.

Peter Straub, Bestselling American Horror Writer, Dies at 79Friend and co-author Stephen King has said the author's 1979 book, "Ghost Story," is his favourite horror novel.

Rawi Hage, Billy-Ray Belcourt and Sheila Heti Make the 2022 Scotiabank Giller Prize Long ListThe jury read 138 books to choose 14 titles for the long list, one of which will win the $100,000 prize, one of the richest in Canadian literature

Salman Rushdie, Novelist Who Drew Death Threats, Is Stabbed at New York LectureThe Indian-born novelist who was ordered killed by Iran in 1989 because of his writing, was attacked before giving a talk on artistic freedom.

Raymond Briggs, Creator of Beloved Children’s Tale ‘The Snowman’, Dies at 88First published in 1978, the pencil crayon-illustrated wordless picture book sold more than 5.5 million copies around the world while a television adaption became a Christmas favourite in Britain and was nominated for an Oscar.

Canadian Author Emily St. John Mandel Makes Barack Obama’s 2022 Summer Reading ListObama's list includes everything from fiction to books on politics, cultural exploration and basketball.

Canadian Author Rebecca Eckler to Launch RE:books Publishing House Focused on Female Authors and Fun ReadsThe former National Post columnist says her tagline is ‘What’s read is good, and what’s good is read.’”

Brian Thomas Isaac’s “All the Quiet Places” wins $5,000 Indigenous Voices AwardThe B.C. author, a retired bricklayer, drew on his childhood growing up on the Okanagan Indian reserve for his coming-of-age story set in 1956

Canadian-American Author Ruth Ozeki Wins Women’s Book Prize for “The Book of Form and Emptiness”The UK judges said her fourth novel, inspired in part by the Vancouver Public Library, contained "sparkling writing, warmth, intelligence, humour and poignancy."

The Bill Gates Summer Reading List Includes a Sci-Fi Novel On Gender Inequality Suggested by His DaughterBill Gates' summer reading list includes fiction and non-fiction titles that cover gender equality, political polarization and climate change.

American novelist Joshua Cohen wins the Pulitzer Prize for fiction for “The Netanyahus”The 2022 Pulitzer prizes include this satirical look at identity politics, focused on the father of former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, at a crucial time in the Jewish state’s history

Margaret Atwood, Alice Munro Among Canadian Authors Recognized in Commemorative Reading List Marking Queen’s Platinum JubileeThe authors are among six Canadian scribes included on the The Big Jubilee Read list.

Queen Elizabeth II’s Aide Reveals Details of Life in Royal Pandemic Lockdown in New Addition to BookAngela Kelly, who's worked for the Queen for 20 years, discusses everything from cutting the Queen's hair to "the light and laughter that was shared ... even in the darkest moments."

New Leonard Cohen Story Collection, ‘A Ballet of Lepers,’ Set for October ReleaseThe collection features a novel, short stories and a radio play written between 1956 and 1961.

Archived Letters Reveal How Toni Morrison Helped MacKenzie Scott Meet Future Husband Jeff BezosBezos hired Scott at the hedge fund where he worked after receiving a recommendation from Morrison. Shortly thereafter, the pair married and Scott helped Bezos launch Amazon.

Prince Harry’s Memoir is Set to Rock the MonarchyFriends say the California-based royal got a million-pound book deal to write "an intimate take on his feeling about the family."

European Jewish Congress Asks Publisher to Pull Anne Frank BookThe Congress says 'The Betrayal of Anne Frank' has "deeply hurt the memory of Anne Frank, as well as the dignity of the survivors and the victims of the Holocaust."

Canadian Author Details Anne Frank Cold-Case Investigation That Named Surprise Suspect in Her Family’s Betrayal in New BookAhead of the 75th anniversary of the publication of Frank's 'The Diary of a Young Girl' in June, a team that included a retired FBI agent and around 20 historians, criminologists and data specialists identified a relatively unknown figure as a leading suspect in revealing her family's hideout.

Man Who Tricked Authors Into Handing Over Unpublished Manuscripts Arrested by FBI in New YorkFilippo Bernardini, an employee of a well known publication house, has been arrested for stealing hundreds of unpublished manuscripts.

Hollywood Legend Betty White Has a Last Laugh in New Biographic Comic BookThe creators of the biographical comic book have released similar books about Hollywood legends like Carrie Fisher, Lucille Ball, David Bowie and Elizabeth Taylor.

Barack Obama Reveals His List of Books That Left “A Lasting Impression” in 2021Obama's favourite 2021 reads include two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning author Colson Whitehead's 'Harlem Shuffle' and 'Klara and the Sun,' by Nobel Prize-winning author Kazuo Ishiguro

“Interview With the Vampire” Author Anne Rice Dies at 80 — Tributes Pour in From Stuart Townsend and OthersThe author, who was best known for her work in gothic fiction, died on Saturday evening as a result of complications from a stroke.

Norma Dunning wins $25,000 Governor General’s English fiction prize for ‘Tainna’The Edmonton-based Inuk writer explores themes of displacement, loneliness and spirituality in six short stories

Omar El Akkad wins $100,000 Giller prize for “What Strange Paradise”The former Globe and Mail reporter, who published "American War" to acclaim in 2017, tackles the global migrant refugee crisis in his second novel

South African Author Damon Galgut Wins the Booker Prize For ‘The Promise’Galgut received nominations for his 2003 and 2010 works before finally taking home the prize this year. 

Hollywood Legend Paul Newman Discusses Life, Acting and Aging Gracefully in Newly Discovered MemoirPublishers of the newly discovered memoir say the Hollywood legend wrote the book in the 1980s in response to the relentless media attention he received during that time.

Here’s What You Need to Know About the Toronto International Festival of AuthorsDirector Roland Gulliver lands in Toronto to open his second, much-expanded virtual festival with more than 200 events

Tanzanian Novelist Gurnah Wins 2021 Nobel Prize in Literature for Depicting the Impact of Colonialism and Refugee StoriesGurnah, 72, is only the second writer from sub-Saharan Africa to win one of the world's most prestigious literary awards

Miriam Toews Garners Third Giller Prize Nomination for “Fight Night” after Shortlist AnnouncedSophomore efforts from novelists Omar El Akkad and Jordan Tannahill join debut books from Cheluchi Onyemelukwe-Onuobia and Angélique Lalonde

Tina Brown’s New Book, ‘The Palace Papers’, Covers the Royal Family’s Reinvention After Diana’s Tragic DeathTina Brown's sequel to her 2007 release 'The Diana Chronicles' is set to hit shelves April 12, 2022. 

Audible.ca Releases Andrew Pyper’s Exclusive Audiobook “Oracle” For New Plus Catalogue LaunchThe thriller about a psychic FBI detective is one of 12,000 titles now available for free to members

Barack Obama and Bruce Springsteen to Release Book Based On Their “Renegades” PodcastThe new book will feature a collection of candid, intimate and entertaining conversations

Prince Harry Will Publish a Memoir in Late 2022Harry says he's writing the book "not as the prince I was born but as the man I have become."


Sign Up for the Weekly Book Club Newsletter