By David Canfield
February 16, 2018 at 10:00 AM EST
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Kathy Reichsauthor of Bones Are Forever (8/2812)
Credit: Marie-Reine Mattera

Kathy Reichs is yet again using her credentials as a forensic anthropologist for a dark, twisty new novel — A Conspiracy of Bones — and EW has an exclusive preview.

The latest from the author, whose books provided the basis for long-running Fox procedural Bones, continues the Temperance Brennan series. Following her boyfriend’s marriage proposal, Tempe has finally agreed to move in with him as A Conspiracy of Bones begins. Her mother is planning the mother of all weddings, but her beloved boss has died a tragic death. His replacement still smolders over Tempe’s criticism of her from years earlier and exiles Tempe from the lab.

Then a friend tips off Tempe that a mutilated corpse has been found: identity unknown, cause of death unclear. Though the body lacks a face, hands, and organs, her new boss refuses to ask Tempe for a consult. Tempe vows to discover the truth, but the clues she discovers are disturbing and confusing. Was the faceless man a spy? A trafficker? A target for assassination by the government? And why was he carrying the name of a child missing for almost a decade?

It’s safe to say fans of the series are in for another chilling ride. Reichs has shared an excerpt of the new book with EW, as well as its official cover. Read on below, and pre-order the book ahead of its Aug. 21 release here.

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Credit: Penguin

Excerpt from A Conspiracy of Bones, by Kathy Reichs

Prologue
Friday, June 22

Reactions to pressure vary. Some people are ductile, able to stretch. Others are brittle, powerless to bend. Physicists talk of stress-strain curves. One thing is certain. If the burden is too great, or the loading too rapid, anyone can snap.

I reached my breaking point the summer after my boss was murdered. Moi. The igneous rock of emotion.

To be fair, Larabee’s death wasn’t the immediate or sole trigger. There was also moving in with Ryan on both the Montreal and Charlotte ends of our geographically complex relationship. His and Slidell’s retirements. Katy’s posting in Afghanistan. Mama’s cancer. Pete’s news about Boyd. A world of stressors was chafing my personal curve.

Looking back, I admit I spun out of control. Perhaps going rogue was an attempt to steer unsteerable forces. A bird-flip to aging. A cry for Ryan’s attention? A subconscious effort to drive him away? Or maybe it was just the goddam Carolina heat.

Who knows? I was holding my own until the faceless man finally sent me over the edge. His remains and the subsequent investigation punched a big black hole in my smug little world.

Mama spotted the changes long before the enigmatic corpse turned up. The distractedness. The agitation. The short temper. I denied it, of course, knowing she was right. I was ignoring emails, the phone. Declining invitations in favor of solo binging on old Hollywood flicks.

And the dreams. Twisting montages filled with dark figures and vague dangers. Or frustrating tasks I couldn’t complete. Anxiety? Hormones? Didn’t matter the cause. I was sleeping little, constantly restless and exhausted.

It didn’t take Freud to recognize I was in a bad place.

So there I was, after midnight, jogging in the same park in which Larabee had been gunned down. Ole Sigmund might have offered a comment on that.

The weather was beyond Dixie summer-night warm. The air was muggy and hot, and my Pro Cool tee was pasted to my back. It had rained as I’d eaten my microwave pizza dinner at ten, and moisture still hung thick in the air. Puddles glistened black on the pavement, went yellow as my fuzzy shadow and I passed under streetlamps blurred by mist.

The lake was a dark void, woolly where the water met the bank. Murky shapes glided its surface, silent, aware of their tenuous state. Park officials fight an endless, often creative battle. No matter the deterrent, the geese always return.

I was passing a black Lego form I knew to be a picnic pavilion when I sensed more than heard another presence. Heart pumping faster, I squinted hard.

A man was standing in the smear of shadow below the pavilion’s roof. His face was down, his features obscured. Medium height and build. I could tell little else about him. Except one thing.

Despite the stifling heat, the man was wearing a trench coat. When he raised an arm, perhaps to check a watch, the fabric flashed pale in the gloom enveloping him.

One nervous glimpse as I jogged past.

Eight more strides, then I slowed and glanced back. The pavilion was empty. I stopped, panting, checking in both directions along the jogging trail. The man was gone.

The mist began to morph back into rain. Listless drops tested for foothold on my face and hair. Time to boogie.

I turned. And caught a flicker of gray. There then gone.

Shot of adrenaline. Was Trench Coat targeting me after all? If not, what was he doing in a park in the rain in the middle of the night? And why so elusive?

Or was my wariness a product of paranoia, another gift from my overburdened stress-strain curve. Either way, I was glad I’d shoved pepper spray into a shorts pocket when leaving home.

Unbidden, images of Larabee’s last moments unspooled in my head. The gray-green pallor of his skin. The eerie glow of the surgical trauma ICU. The impartial pinging of the monitors recording their bloodless peaks and valleys. The screaming silence when the pinging stopped. Later, in an interview room smelling of sweat and fear, the slouchy indifference of the brain-fried tweaker who’d sent the bullets into Larabee’s belly.

Stop!

Aloud? Or just in my mind?

I lengthened my stride, footfalls pounding loud in the stillness.

A full minute, then a trench-coated silhouette, far up where the trail emptied into a small parking lot. The man was walking slowly, his back to me.

Suddenly, noise seemed to ricochet from all around. Rustling leaves. Shifting branches. Snapping twigs. Night creatures? Trench Coat’s geeked-out pals looking to fund more meth?

I had no valuables – carried no money, wore no watch. Would that anger them?

Or were the sounds just overwrought nerves?

I patted the pepper spray at my right hip. Felt the canister. Pink and nasty. A molecule of the price I’d paid had been donated toward breast cancer research.

Momentary indecision.

Veer off and cut through the tangle of shrubs and trees enclosing the park? Stay on the path and time my pace in order to pass the man in the parking lot? There were streetlamps there, overwhelmed, but trying their best.

I slowed. Trench Coat was now just ten yards ahead.

My brain chose that moment to unreel a blockbuster tableau.

As I passed, the man would pull a knife and slit my throat. Our eyes would meet. His would be cruel and cold as death.

Jesus!

Why was I letting this rattle me? In my line of work I encounter far worse than a dude dressed like Bogie in Casablanca. Outlaw bikers who chain saw the heads and hands from their murdered rivals. Macho pricks who stalk and strangle their terrified ex’s. Drunken bullies who wall-slam fussy infants. Those creeps don’t dissuade me from focusing on my job. Quite the reverse. They inspire me to work harder. A journalist once described me as the Queen of Cold Flesh.

So why the drama over a guy in a belted coat? Why the sense of threat to my person?

Yes, I’d hit a rough patch of late. Personally. Professionally. The latter self-inflicted. I could have been more diplomatic. Or kept my mouth shut. Who knew my comments would come back to bite me in the ass? Right. Don’t they always?

So, here I was, out in the woods, not home in my bed. With a psycho? Or a harmless geezer overly sensitive to damp?

Screw it. The route would take longer, but I decided to cut out of the park then weave through neighborhood streets, eventually to Queens Road West, then home.

Before leaving the trail, I paused for one last look.

The man was in the empty lot, standing under one of the struggling lamps. His chin was raised, his features vaguely discernable as dark blotches on a smudgy white rectangle.

My breath froze.

The man was staring straight at me.

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