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Women Who Kill: Kathy Reichs Balances the Science and the Story in Bones Never Lie

Novelist Kathy Reichs and Temperance Brennan, the lead character in Reichs' series of best-selling thrillers and spin-off television series Bones, are a lot alike. Both lead fascinating lives working as forensic anthropologists and novelists; both travel the world working on high-profile cases (Reichs helped identify victims of 9/11), training FBI agents and teaching at universities. Both, however, will not be at the Houston Museum of Natural Science lecture, discussing and signing her latest book, Bones Never Lie. That will be just Kathy Reich.

In the just-released Bones Never Lie, Temperance Brennan is chasing down Anique Pomerleau, a female serial killer. Brennan has faced Pomerleau before. Years ago, she helped track her down but the sadistic psychopath responsible for the a string of abductions and murders of young women, escaped capture. Now she's back and taunting Brennan, leaving a trail of dead bodies in a twisted version of hide-and-seek.

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Reichs, who uses her real life experiences as the inspiration for her fiction, has had 16 bestsellers in the last 16 years. Will Bones Never Lie make it 17 books in 17 years? The answer seems to be a resounding yes, but even so Reichs says the pressure from her publisher and readers to continually top her last book doesn't affect her storylines.

"I am a high achiever, so I am always raising the bar on myself," she tells us. "However, for me the most important thing is to tell a good story. To that end, I try to please myself. I am quite demanding, and, I feel that if the plot is engrossing for me, hopefully my readers will also like it. I do, of course, always try to remain true to the characters that I have created. I try hard to keep them evolving and growing."

Having her characters keep up with the rapidly changing field of forensics is another consideration for each book. "I am fortunate to be involved in the field of forensics personally, so I am constantly aware of changes in the science. I incorporate those techniques and technologies into the stories, but do realize that what is cutting edge today may not be so in the future."

While each of the Temperance Brennan novels can be read as a stand-alone story, it helps to have read the previous installments in the series. Reichs knows some readers don't read the novels in order, so she has to provide some back-story and explanation in each book. The trick is, Reichs says, is finding the balance, how to tell enough back-story for new readers to keep up without boring long-time readers.

"That is always a challenge when writing a continuing character series; it is similar to writing for television. There are old arcing story lines that continue from book to book, and a new set of questions and information with each new one. It is a challenge to reintroduce the basic premises for new readers while not boring the older ones - [it] takes imagination!"

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Reichs and Brennan have both changed over the course of the series. "I hope I have improved as a writer," says Reichs. "[With] not nearly so many similes and metaphors!"

Brennan is, of course, older in Bones Never Lie, though not necessarily 16 years older than she was in the 1997 Deja Dead, the first book in the series.

Constantly evolving, Brennan nonetheless never surprises Reichs. 'She does not surprise me. I created her and I control the delete key."

Kathy Reichs discusses Bones Never Lie at 6:30 p.m. on October 2 at the Houston Museum of Natural Science, 5555 Hermann Park Drive. For information, call 713-639-4629 or visit hmns.org. $40. Admission includes a copy of Bones Never Lie.

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