I did finally get off the memoir train and jump into some fiction: Monday Mourning by Kathy Reichs. I didn’t say it was literature, just fiction. I might work up to some good books, but it’s the start of summer after a shitty year, so bear with me.
If you don’t already know, Kathy Reichs is a real-life forensic anthropologist who has a side gig writing novels about a forensic anthropologist named Temperance Brennan. This will be familiar if you have ever watched the TV show “Bones,” in which Temperance Brennan is a “real life” forensic anthropologist who has a side gig writing novels about a forensic anthropologist named Kathy Reichs. Get it? (In one episode of “Bones,” they were making a TV show or a movie or something based on one of Brennan’s books. Very meta.)
Anyway, the novels are fairly well written, if formulaic. They contain actual science, which is kind of cool And they are quick escapist reads in which a woman is a main character, is smart, and has lots going on in her life beyond the search for a man to complete her. (Though she totally likes sex and gets some occasionally, so that’s cool, too.)
But, oh, the predictability. I hate when a supposedly brilliant character doesn’t figure shit out that I see coming from a mile away. (See also: The DaVinci Code.) I’m sure it’s very, very hard to write a mystery / thriller in which all the clues are there but the reader doesn’t figure everything out way before the protagonist. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try, authors. Please, at least try. I feel like every mystery I read either just leaves out giant important pieces of information until the moment of the big reveal, or I doubt the intelligence of the character who can’t put together the pieces when I did it long ago. I mean, she does this shit for a living, doesn’t she?
The Kathy Reichs novels have the additional “feature” of always, without fail, including two or three chapters devoted to the moment of extreme peril during which Tempe is surely going to die, surely! But then her (male) colleagues show up and rescue her just in a nick of time. Whew! If you are a science geek and you find yourself frequently tied up, buried, beaten, and set on fire… maybe you should find another line of work. Something behind a desk with a computer? You kind of suck at fieldwork.
So, I’ve complained a lot about this book. But it’s the seventh book in the series, and I’m reading them in order. I do keep coming back. Why? Inertia? The science? The fact that there don’t seem to be better mysteries / thrillers out there? I like to read bad books, because I know how to complain but I’m less comfortable finding good things to say about quality literature? Who knows? Whatever the reason, I’m sure we’ll hit the next few in this series during the course of my sabbatical. And I’m only moderately ashamed to admit it.