Summary and book reviews of Grave Secrets by Kathy Reichs

Grave Secrets

A Novel

by Kathy Reichs

Grave Secrets
  • Critics' Opinion:

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  • First Published:
    Jul 2002, 336 pages
    Paperback:
    Jul 2003, 400 pages

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Book Summary

Dr Temperance Brennan finds herself in a dangerous web that stretches far beyond Guatemala's borders in a powerful, page-turning book that combines riveting authenticity with witty, elegant prose.

It was a summer morning in 1982 when soldiers ravaged the village of Chupan Ya, raping and killing women and children. Twenty-three victims are said to lie in the well where, twenty years later, Dr. Temperance Brennan and a team from the Guatemalan Forensic Anthropology Foundation now dig. No records were kept. To their families, the dead are "the disappeared."

Forensic anthropologist for the medical examiners in North Carolina and Montreal, Tempe is in Guatemala for a month's service to help some families identify and bury their dead. She digs in a cold, damp pit where she finds a hair clip, a fragment of cloth, a tiny sneaker. Her trowel touches something hard: the hip of a child no more than two years old.

It's heartbreaking work. Something savage happened here twenty years ago. The violence continues today. The team is packing up for the day when an urgent satellite call comes in. Two colleagues are under attack. Shots ring out, and Tempe listens in horror to a woman's screams. Then there is silence. Dead silence.

With this new violence, everything changes, both for the team and for Tempe, who's asked by the Guatemalan police for her expertise on another case. Four privileged young women have vanished from Guatemala City in recent months. One is the Canadian ambassador's daughter. Some remains have turned up in a septic tank, and Tempe unfortunately knows septic tanks.

Teaming with Special Crimes Investigator Bartolomé Galiano, and with Montreal detective Andrew Ryan, who may have more than just professional reasons to join her on the case, Tempe soon finds herself in a dangerous web that stretches far beyond Guatemala's borders. The stakes are huge. As power, money, greed, and science converge, Tempe must make life-altering choices.

From cutting-edge science in the lab, where Tempe studies fetal bones and cat hair DNA, to a chilling en-counter in a lonely morgue, Grave Secrets is powerful, page-turning entertainment from a crime fiction superstar who combines riveting authenticity with witty, elegant prose.

Chapter 1

"I am dead. They killed me as well."

The old woman's words cut straight to my heart.

"Please tell me what happened that day." Maria spoke so softly I had to strain to catch the Spanish.

"I kissed the little ones and left for market." Eyes down, voice toneless. "I did not know that I would never see them again."

K'akchiquel to Spanish, then reversing the linguistic loop, reversing again as answers followed questions. The translation did nothing to blunt the horror of the recitation.

"When did you return home, Señora Ch'i'p?"

"A que hora regreso usted a su casa, Señora Ch'i'p?"

"Chike ramaj xatzalij pa awachoch, Ixoq Ch'i'p?"


"Late afternoon. I'd sold my beans."

"The house was burning?"

"Yes."

"Your family was inside?"

A nod.

I watched the speakers. An ancient Mayan woman, her middle-aged son, the young cultural anthropologist Maria Paiz, calling up a memory too terrible for ...

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Reviews

Media Reviews

Library Journal - Leslie Madden

Often compared with Patricia Cornwell, Reichs, a forensic anthropologist herself, effectively balances the story with scientific and medical details. However, this novel contains graphic descriptions and is not for weak stomachs.

Publishers Weekly

...the author keeps the twists coming, and by the novel's climax, she has skillfully interwoven her many subplots and red herrings into a satisfying puddle of sex, sleaze, greed and gore.

Booklist - Stephanie Zvirin

Not up to the level of some of Reichs' past work, including Death du Jour (1999), but still well worth reading.

Author Blurb Anne Rivers Siddons
If there is anyone as good at the forensic thriller, I don't know who it is. Kathy Reichs's science is cold and elegant, and her characters are warm and complex. The result is irresistible.

Reader Reviews

KBRO

Grave Secrets
I really enjoyed this book. I liked that I had just learned about "the dissappeared" in a Spanish class and I had wanted to learn more about it. I have read all the other books of Reichs' and I this was one of the four or so that I really ...   Read More

sarah johns

i read all your books and total ador them all, i wish only to be intellecual and brave like you.

andrea leger

Grave Secrets is a book that is well worth reading. Although Kathy Reichs books are fiction, the facts surrounding the characters are well researched and true. The atrocities mentioned in the book took place during the bloody 36 year civil war. My ...   Read More

cathy

What a boring book. Did we really have to read time after time that heroine had a shower and was to tired to eat. No local color.
This book was a total waste of money.

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