In a landfill near the Lowes Motor Speedway in Charlotte, workers discover human bones in a 35-gallon drum of asphalt. It turns out there’s a man’s body in the drum, but identifying it could take some doing. There are a couple of possible candidates, including a recently missing Georgia man and a NASCAR driver who vanished more than a decade ago (that case is still a cause célèbre in the area), but Temperance Brennan isn’t entirely sure the body belongs to either of those people. When she finds that the drum also contains a highly toxic substance, and then another man disappears, Brennan begins to suspect this case is much bigger than a body in a drum. Despite the popularity of the Fox TV series Bones, which is based on the Brennan novels, Reichs has done an excellent job of keeping the books separate from their television spin-off. The literary Brennan remains older and more layered than her television incarnation, and the novels remain deeper, darker, and more complex. A fine entry in a consistently solid series.
This review originally appeared in Booklist, July 2011.