Publisher: Scribner; a division of Simon & Schuster, Inc
40 Chapters; 283 pages
I. Murder Book Summary
27 year old Amy Roberts is a young woman with many names and many problems. She has been known at various times as Alma Rogers, Alva Rodriguez, and Annaliese Ruben. She seems to have a passion for romantic types of names and changes them often.
Recently Amy mysteriously showed up at The Hospital Honore’-Mercier, in Montreal, complaining of vaginal bleeding. She appeared to be very disoriented and confused. Upon examination, doctors suspected she may have given birth recently.
She had no identification on her person, and just as mysteriously as she appeared, she vanished without further treatment.
Suspecting that something is amiss, hospital personnel notify the police. The first time the police officer visits Amy’s apartment, there is no response to his knock. The officer leaves the scene.
A return visit reveals a disturbing find: bloody towels in a dumpster outside Amy’s apartment. The police request a warrant to enter her home.
Forensic anthropologist, Temperance Brennan is deployed by her superiors to assist in the investigation. Brennan’s specialty is “decomposed, burned, mummified, dismembered and skeletal human remains”.
Obviously, someone at the Montreal police department is expecting the worst. And the worst is about to be discovered.
What is found in that dingy, fetid, apartment would chill the blood of even the most seasoned law-enforcement professionals.
Inside the bathroom vanity a baby’s corpse in fetal position is found. It is “barely recognizable as human”, and covered with maggots.
It will later be determined that this infant could have lived between 13 and 15 hours after birth before expiring. Obviously, it suffered.
But the horrors in that dirty apartment are just beginning.
A second dead infant is found…wrapped in a dried, bloody, yellow terry cloth towel. The infant is stuffed in the dark interior of a window wall.
Alarmed, the police call in a cadaver dog unit. In a walk-in closet, behind a vent on the ceiling, another infant is found stuffed inside a pouch.
The three dead babies and a missing mother leave Temperance Brennan and Lieutenant Detective Andrew Ryan with more questions than answers.
Who exactly is Amy Roberts? No one in Montreal seems to know. Upon further investigation it is found that she had visited The Hospital Honore’-Mercier months earlier complaining of similar symptoms.
She moved into her grimy apartment about 3 years ago with an equally mysterious man known only as “Smith”. She paid her rent with cash. Only one person in the neighborhood remembered seeing her coming and going.
She had a “boyfriend” named Ralph “Rocky” Trees. He wasn’t exactly a fountain of information either. He knew her as Alva Rodriguez and last saw her about 2 weeks prior to her disappearance. A long-haul trucker, his relationship with Rodriguez could certainly be described as loose.
Most importantly, although he’s known her for about 2 or 3 years, he denies ever seeing her pregnant.
At this point the plot really begins to thicken.
Oliver Isaac Hasty, Sergeant, of The Royal Canadian Mounted Police stationed in Edmonton, arrives in Montreal to serve an outstanding arrest warrant for Amy Roberts. It is established that she is also known as Annaliese Ruben.
Annaliese was working as an Edmonton prostitute until about 3 years ago when she vanished without a trace. At the time of her disappearance, a serial killer was operating in the Edmonton area. Concern for her welfare leads police to place her in the “Project Kare” (High Risk Missing Persons) database.
The search for the missing Annaliese leads Temperance Brennan, Andrew Ryan, and Oliver Hasty back to Edmonton where they grill Edmonton prostitute Susan Forex regarding Annaliese’s whereabouts.
Forex may be in a position to know where Annaliese is hiding. After all it was she who allowed the missing woman to stay in her home years ago when Annaliese was working the Edmonton streets.
Later, Forex reported her missing…4 months after the lady disappeared.
It was to Forex’s apartment that police suspect Annaliese may have fled to after leaving Montreal.
Forex may have some explaining to do of her own. After pursuing Annaliese to Edmonton, the skeletal remains of a 4th infant are found in Susan Forex’s home.
The elusive Miss Ruben is certainly leading Brennan, Ryan and Hasty on a merry chase. She next surfaces in the small town of Yellowknife, near the Artic circle in the Northwest Territories. This is where she is from originally.
For a small town, there certainly is a lot going on in Yellowknife.
We have Ronnie “Scar” Scarborough, an Edmonton pimp, trying to muscle in on a surprisingly vibrant Yellowknife drug trade. Ronnie was Annaliese’s pimp in the bad old days at Edmonton. He is also an original Yellowknife resident with a violent temper and is know to brutalize his women.
Yellowknife also sports an environmentalist movement and surprisingly enough, diamond mines in the surrounding area. Diamond mines…?
And all this activity seems to revolve around this young woman who may be responsible for the gristly crime on infanticide.
II. Murder Book Judgment:
I find that books that rely heavily on forensic procedures aren’t holding my interest as they once did. I guess it’s just me but, it seems that there is a lot of “stuff” to have to sift through when dealing with forensics. Frankly, a lot of this “stuff” sometimes fails to really “grab” me and hold my attention.
I also find myself getting a little “lost” when you have plots with lots of little sub-plots: like murdered infants, potential drug deals, diamond mines, etc.
So, I tended to focus on the part of the novel that really interested me. That would be the murdered children. And that led to all kinds of doubts and questions.
I began to doubt if Annaliese really was a serial baby killer. That doubt kept rattling around inside my head as I read. It was difficult for me to believe that this woman was a murderer. You’ll find out why, if you read this book.
So, perhaps she’s not the killer. Is someone else involved? She was certainly surrounded by all kinds of sleazy characters. Has she been influenced in some un-godly fashion? And how has she managed to remain one step ahead of Temperance Brennan and her partners?
Something is just way off about all this. Kathy Reichs constructs the novel so that Temperance and the reader know that all is not as it appears. And if you’re like me, you want to see if you can guess what it is.
Trust me, that’s not going to happen until Reichs finally ties all the loose ends together in a “ah-ha” moment in the final chapters.
Yes, the gang-style slayings, baby-killings and diamond mines do come together. All I can say is you‘ll probably be as surprised as I was.
If you’d like to know more about Kathy Reichs just follow the link
Or you can visit her at the official Kathy Reichs website.
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