This fourteenth book in the long-running Temperance Brennan book series takes place during Race Week in Charlotte, North Carolina. When a metal drum is exposed after some soil erosion in a landfill, Tempe is called in because inside the drum is crumbling asphalt and from the asphalt, seemingly reaching for rescue, is a human hand. This particular area of the landfill has been closed down since 2005 and the operators think the burial of the drum took place between the late nineties and 2002. Clearly, this is not one of the people who have recently been reported missing. The landfill backs on to the Charlotte Speedway and with 200,000 people converging on the area for the races, moving the drum becomes a priority before any one of the hundreds of media outlets on standby for the race learns of the discovery and rushes to report it if for no other reason than to alleviate the boredom until the NASCAR drivers claim their attention.
That, of course is too much to hope for. The next day, Wayne Gamble, a well known figure in the racing world, comes to see Brennan. His seventeen year-old sister disappeared without a trace twelve years ago. When Cindi Gamble and her boyfriend, Cale Lovette, were reported missing, the FBI had been briefly involved. Cale had belonged to the Patriot Posse, a right-wing extremist group. After a few weeks, the bureau had decided that Cale wasn’t important enough in the Posse to justify using FBI resources. Wayne wants to know if there is a possibility that the body in the drum is his sister. Cindi wanted nothing more than to be a NASCAR driver and she was earning a reputation has someone to watch in the future. She was participating in races sponsored by NASCAR and, as her brother points out, if NASCAR is your life, Charlotte is the place to be. Why would she willingly walk away from the racing life she loves? The police were convinced that Cindi and Cale had run away to get married so their interest in finding the teenagers was minimal. Wayne is the only one convinced that something terrible has happened to them. Brennan tells him that the body is not female so definitely not Cindi but she doesn’t forget the story.
Brennan finds herself working with Charlotte PD detective Erskine “Skinny” Slidell, not someone she would seek out in a social situation. Slidell has been assigned the case and there is immediate tension. Cotton Galimore is chief of security for the Charlotte Speedway and he is a disgraced cop who was asked to resign for a few infractions, including drinking on the job. For a brief period, Slidell and Galimore has been partners. Galimore’s job is to keep everything about NASCAR and the upcoming race framed as a family-friendly event. That job becomes a bit more difficult when another man is reported missing. Ted Raines was from Atlanta and worked for the CDC. He was in Charlotte on business and had bought tickets for some of the races. If Raines is the body in the drum, found at the edge of the speedway, selling Race Week as a family occasion is going to require a lot more work.
Before Brennan has a chance to finish her work on the body in the drum, body, drum, and all paperwork disappear. The FBI has taken over jurisdiction and they are not going to explain the reasons.
FLASH AND BONES is quick, light reading. Reichs goes to great lengths to explain NASCAR, its history, and its impact on American cultural life but it reads less as informational than it does as filler. The people in Tempe’s personal life, her daughter, her sometimes boyfriend, Andrew Ryan, and her ex-husband have brief walk-ons but without their presence, the reader doesn’t find Tempe as interesting. There is some humor in Tempe interaction with her ex-husband’s very young, Southern belle fiancee but it isn’t nearly as good as the dialogue between Tempe and Ryan in the other books.
FLASH AND BONES is a good book to get from the library. It isn’t good enough to fit with the rest of the books in the series.