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Kathy Reichs: Case File for Bare Bones

Have you ever wondered how much of the crime novel you’re reading is based on fact? It’s an interesting question, especially in Kathy Reichs’s case as Dr Reichs is one of America’s leading Forensic Anthropologists!

It’s all about the forensics…

From the Forensic Files of Dr. Kathy Reichs – Case File for Bare Bones

Set during one of the hottest summers on record, the novel Bare Bones sees Dr Temperance Brennan discover bundle after bundle of bones across Charlotte, North Carolina. Are they connected? And who will be the next victim? The answer lies hidden deep within the bones themselves. In this compelling case study, Kathy shares a personal experience that contributed to the plot.

Kathy Reichs:

‘A variety of bones find their way to my lab: trophy skulls smuggled from foreign lands; teaching skeletons spirited from classrooms to fraternity houses; Confederate soldiers buried in unmarked graves; pets laid to rest in backyards or crawl spaces.

It happens all the time. Bones or body parts are discovered. Local authorities, unfamiliar with anatomy, send them to the coroner or medical examiner. Occasionally the ‘vic’ turns out to be a reptile or bird, but most are members of the class Mammalia. I’ve examined spareribs, deer metapodia, ham bones, and elk horns. I’ve gotten kittens in gunnysacks and wood rats mixed in with murder victims. Bear paws, which particularly resemble human hands and feet, also sometimes show up at my lab.

The skeletal remains that found their way into Bare Bones actually entered my life during a blizzard in Montreal in November 1997. When I unzipped the pouch in the lab that day, my jaw dropped. Either this victim had a colossal pituitary disorder or I was looking at Goliath himself.

As it turned out, my dismemberment victim was a moose.

Reading the request-for-expertise form, I discovered that the analysis had been requested by the Société de la Faune et des Parcs, the Quebec equivalent of the US Fish and Wildlife Service. A poacher had been killing moose for years with blatant disregard for the annual quota. Conservation agents had decided to prosecute and wanted an opinion. Could I tie the cut marks on the moose bones to a saw recovered from the suspect’s garage?

I could.

Big bones. Big animal. Big lesson in proceeding rapidly while not fully cognizant of the mission.

Thoreau put it well: “Some circumstantial evidence is strong, as when you find a trout in the milk.”

Or Bullwinkle in a body bag.’


Fascinating stuff! A big thank you to Kathy Reichs for sharing her insight. We’ll have more Case Files from Dr Reichs this week – check back soon.

More information on Kathy can be found on her website.

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