Crime author Kathy Reichs doesn’t have to go far to find an expert on crime scene forensics — she is an expert. And as a working forensic anthropologist, she knows who to call to get deeper knowledge on DNA or any other issue.
Reichs, 66, created a character, Temperance Brennan, who does the same kind of work with law enforcement with the same agency, the Laboratoire de Sciences Judiciaires et de Médecine Légale for the province of Québec.
For years Reichs commuted, as her fictional counterpoint does, between work as a professor in North Carolina and Montreal. The author, whose latest Brennan book, the 18th, is “Bones Never Lie,” will appear Oct. 20 as one of the panel of five authors at the Metro Detroit Book and Author Luncheon at Burton Manor.
“I try in every book to use a different kind of forensic science,” Reichs says in a phone interview. “I’m lucky because I work in a combination medical, legal and crime lab, so my colleagues are right there. I can get help with DNA or blood spatter analysis or whatever it is I need help with. And I work with homicide detectives and police detectives. In ‘Bones Never Lie,’ I had a lot of help from the cold-case unit.”
Reichs also serves as producer on the Fox TV series “Bones,” in its 10th season. “Bones” is based upon her Brennan series, and therefore, Reichs’ own career. She had other offers to put Temperance Brennan on screen, but she went with the Fox show because: “We seemed to be on the same page, to produce a character-based show, not another police procedural. We also wanted to put some humor in it, which is tough to do when you’re dealing with violent death.”
The TV Temperance is a bit different from the literary one, younger for one thing.
“I think of the TV show as a prequel,” Reichs says. “I read every script and I give notes, but not nearly as much as I used to, because our writers are so savvy, they’re pretty familiar with the science now. I do occasionally write a screenplay, and I get out there on set as often as I can.”
Reichs’ prose is crisp; dense with scientific terms and acroynms for police agencies, but with action that moves quickly. She has a feel for the rough banter between cops and medical examiners, and also describes precisely how forensic scientists interact with cops.
“One of the fallacies of TV and books is that the forensic scientists get involved deeply in the case,” Reichs says. “I work with the homicide detectives to recover remains, but I pretty much work in the lab. I don’t get involved interviewing suspects.”
“Bones Never Lie” has Reichs’ fictional scientist Brennan revisiting a cold-case crime from her past, the discovery of human remains, several young girls, in the basement of a pizza parlor in Montreal. She also revisits an old love, French-Canadian police detective Andrew Ryan.
An earlier Temperance Brennan book, “Monday Morning,” dealt with the Montreal story.
“That is the only story that was based on a real case,” Reichs says. “Bones were found in the basement of a pizza parlor, and I was asked to work on them. The key question there was, how long were they down there? That gave me the idea for ‘Monday Morning.’ That is the only book in which the villain got away.”
In “Bones Never Lie,” Brennan is called into the Charlotte, North Carolina, cold-case unit because there is an unsolved child homicide with similarities to the Montreal case.
“They’re asking for Tempy’s help because it looks like this villain from the earlier book has reappeared,” Reichs says.
Reichs’ own taste in mystery fiction runs the darker genres, works such as “Silence of the Lambs” by Thomas Harris, “Which was the first use of fairly realistic forensic science,” Reichs notes. She also admires the less-technical beauty of Raymond Chandler’s writing — “I certainly love his snappy dialogue” — as well as James Lee Burke, “his descriptions of atmosphere are so beautiful.”
There will be two more Temperance Brennan novels, at least that’s what Reichs is contracted for, but she’s also busy with a Young Adult series she writes with her son, Brendan, “Viral,” which features Temperance Brennan’s 14-year-old grand niece.
Her literary success has Reichs somewhat bemused. Did she ever think, while studying anthropology at college, that she’d be a professional writer?
“No,” Reichs says with a laugh. “Because I prefer to be over in the science lab. That was my interest, not the literature classes.”
Also Appearing at the Metro Detroit Book & Author Luncheon:
Hampton Sides. Historian and journalist Sides has written several acclaimed non-fiction books, including “Ghost Soldiers,” about the Bataan Death March during World War II. His new bestseller, “In the Kingdom of Ice: The Grand and Terrible Polar Voyage of the USS Jeannette,” is about a daring 1879 Arctic exploration funded by the publisher of the New York Herald.
Gary Shteyngart. The Russian-born Shteyngart has made a reputation with his comic writing. His first novel, “The Russian Debutante's Handbook,” won the Stephen Crane Award for First Fiction. In his latest book, “Little Failure: A Memoir,” Shteyngart describes his immigrant experience, coming to America with his parents in 1979 as part of a wave of Russian Jews allowed in, in exchange for American wheat.
Lisa Jackson. Just in time for Halloween, Jackson, the author of romantic suspense novels, has “Close to Home” out, a chilling novel about a woman, Sarah MacAdams, and her two daughters who move into a rundown, haunted Victorian house near Oregon’s Columbia River, near where MacAdams grew up. Some of MacAdam’s family’s secrets come out as the mystery deepens around the disappearance of young girls in the area.
Craig Johnson. Johnson has written 10 mystery novels about the slow-talking but quick-witted Wyoming Sheriff Walt Longmire, including the latest, “Wait for Signs.” (The A&E series “Longmire,” which ran for two years, was based upon Johnson’s novels.) Johnson has a background in law enforcement and lives in a small town in Wyoming.
Metro Detroit Book & Author Luncheon
11 a.m. Oct. 20
Burton Manor Banquet and Conference Center
27777 Schoolcraft Livonia.
11 a.m. Books go on sale
Noon. Lunch is served
1 p.m. Authors speak.
Call (586) 685-5750.