Skip to Main Content

Cold, Cold Bones



Buy from Other Retailers

About The Book

“Reichs has written her masterpiece—smart, scary, complicated, and engrossing.” —Michael Connelly
“This page-turning series never lets the reader down.” —Harlan Coben
“The crowning achievement of a master storyteller.” —Nelson DeMille

#1 New York Times bestselling thriller writer Kathy Reichs’s twenty-first novel of suspense featuring forensic anthropologist Temperance Brennan who uncovers a series of gruesome killings eerily reenacting the most shocking of her prior cases.

Winter has come to North Carolina and, with it, a drop in crime. Freed from a heavy work schedule, Tempe Brennan is content to dote on her daughter Katy, finally returned to civilian life from the army. But when mother and daughter meet at Tempe’s place one night, they find a box on the back porch. Inside: a very fresh human eyeball.

GPS coordinates etched into the eyeball lead to a Benedictine monastery where an equally macabre discovery awaits. Soon after, Tempe examines a mummified corpse in a state park, and her anxiety deepens.

There seems to be no pattern to the subsequent killings uncovered, except that each mimics in some way a homicide that a younger Tempe had been called in to analyze. Who or what is targeting her, and why?

Helping Tempe search for answers is detective Erskine “Skinny” Slidell, retired but still volunteering with the CMPD cold case unit—and still displaying his gallows humor. Also pulled into the mystery: Andrew Ryan, Tempe’s Montreal-based beau, now working as a private detective.

Could this elaborately staged skein of mayhem be the prelude to a twist that is even more shocking? Tempe is at a loss to establish the motive for what is going on…and then her daughter disappears.

At its core, Cold, Cold Bones is a novel of revenge—one in which revisiting the past may prove the only way to unravel the present.

Reading Group Guide

Cold, Cold Bones

Kathy Reichs


Winter has come to North Carolina and, with it, a drop in crime. Freed from a heavy work schedule, Tempe Brennan is content to dote on her daughter, Katy, but their peaceful idyll is interrupted when they find a box on the back porch. Inside: a very fresh human eyeball with GPS coordinates etched into it. The directions lead to a macabre discovery behind a Benedictine monastery—which brings further revelations involving a series of seemingly unconnected violent murders.

Unconnected until Tempe realizes what they all have in common: a resemblance to her own previous cases. Tempe is at a loss to establish what is going on . . . and then her daughter disappears.

At its core, Cold, Cold Bones is a novel of revenge—one in which revisiting the past may prove the only way to unravel the present.

Topics & Questions for Discussion

1. The book opens with Tempe helping her daughter, Katy, move into her new home after recently finishing a career in the military, which included episodes of combat. What do you notice about the ways that Katy and Tempe treat each other? How does their relationship affect the course of the book?

2. Katy decides to volunteer at a local shelter for unhoused veterans while looking for some community. Tempe is wary of the veterans there and suspects them first when Katy begins to act erratically and doesn’t answer her phone. What first arouses her suspicions? How do Tempe’s feelings color the audience’s perception of the shelter? How might Tempe’s reaction to Katy’s decision reflect the attitudes of the rest of their community?

3. On page 51, Katy asks her mother if she knows how many people are unhoused in the United States, then informs her there are “over half a million. Roughly nine thousand right here in North Carolina. Around forty thousand of that national number are vets.” How does Katy’s disgust with the treatment of people who have served sit with Tempe? What does she make of her daughter’s opinions? Do you think her reaction contributes to Katy’s distance?

4. Tempe’s phone is both a lifeline and a source of fear and suspense. Ryan is often unreachable because of cell service and bad weather, Charlie sends a few cryptic messages before he dies, and Katy begins refusing phone calls. How does each situation erode Tempe’s sense of safety? How does Tempe’s being cut off from others serve the killer’s motives?

5. On page 217, Tempe’s investigation of the hit-and-run victim sparks a powerful emotional reaction, one that she seems to be alone in experiencing. “Many males are embarrassed in the presence of strong female emotion. Most have mastered the art of nonreaction.” Why do you think Tempe was the only one who had this reaction?

6. Tempe handles a great deal of violence on a regular basis. Do some research about the number of medical professionals who are later diagnosed with PTSD, the same condition that Katy suffers from. Why do you think Tempe is unwilling to link her condition with that of her daughter? In what ways is the justice system in the United States like a warzone?

7. Cold, Cold Bones is a story of vengeance against Tempe for mistakes she’d made in the past. Despite not being an investigator or an officer of any kind, Tempe has a great deal of influence. In the course of investigating this case, how many people does Tempe suspect? How many people does she involve incidentally in a serial killer investigation?

8. On page 361, Slidell is allowed to press a suspect who doesn’t have anything to do with the case to coerce a confession out of him. Look into the unreliability of confessions given under duress. How often do police push people to confess to things they didn’t do?

Enhance Your Book Club

1. Cold, Cold Bones alludes to many of Tempe’s prior cases. Try reading past Temperance Brennan adventures like Bones Never Lie, Break No Bones, and Bones of the Lost. How are the mysteries in these books reprised in some form in Cold, Cold Bones?

2. Were you able to put together the clues in Cold, Cold Bones to identify the killer in advance of Tempe’s figuring it out? What were some of the leads you followed? When did you crack the case?

About The Author

Photograph © Marie-Reine Mattera

Kathy Reichs’s first novel Déjà Dead, published in 1997, won the Ellis Award for Best First Novel and was an international bestseller. Fire and Bones is Reichs’s twenty-third novel featuring forensic anthropologist Temperance Brennan. Reichs was also a producer of Fox Television’s longest running scripted drama, Bones, which was based on her work and her novels. One of very few forensic anthropologists certified by the American Board of Forensic Anthropology, Reichs divides her time between Charlotte, North Carolina, and Charleston, South Carolina. Visit her at or follow her on Twitter @KathyReichs, Instagram @KathyReichs, or Facebook @KathyReichsBooks. 

Product Details

  • Publisher: Scribner (June 20, 2023)
  • Length: 368 pages
  • ISBN13: 9781982190033

Browse Related Books

Raves and Reviews

Reichs is on an incredible streak...The writing is especially sharp here; the story is intense; and Tempe is at her snarky, brook-no-idiots, don’t-mess-with-me best ... In this consistently satisfying series, rank this one near the top."
Booklist (starred review)

"Reichs supplies a great hook, a double helping of homicides past and present, and all the meticulous forensic details and throwaway cliffhanger chapter endings you’d expect from this celebrated series."
Kirkus Reviews

"Cold, Cold Bones is a thing of clever beauty—smart, scary, complicated, and engrossing from the first sentence. Kathy Reichs has written her masterpiece, a story that reminds us that the past is not quiet and never completely behind us.”
Michael Connelly, New York Times bestselling author of The Dark Hours and The Law of Innocence

Cold, Cold Bones reanimates all the ghosts from Temperance Brennan’s forensic past until they thoroughly haunt her present. Who or what is staging this grimly nostalgic murder spree? In Kathy Reich’s deft hands, the question is given delicious urgency. This page-turning series never lets the reader down.”
Harlan Coben, New York Times bestselling author of Stay Close, Hold Tight, and Tell No One

"Masterfully constructed...The cold cases may be stacking up, but for Temperance Brennan, the real target is very close to home."
J.A. Jance, New York Times bestselling author of Nothing to Lose and Proof of Life

“A mystery within a mystery that invites you to get into the action, complete with twisting turns and heart-stopping dives into the unknown. What I love most about Kathy Reichs’s novels is Tempe and Skinny’s witty dialogue. These two iconic characters make one of the best investigative teams in mystery literature. Cold, Cold Bones is the crowning achievement of a master storyteller, a feast for her many fans, and a delight for new readers.”
Nelson DeMille, New York Times bestselling author of The Deserter and The Cuban Affair

Praise for The Bone Code

The Bone Code is a brilliant entry in a ground-breaking series and does Temperance Brennan proud. The story has all the elements we’ve come to expect—it’s smart, gripping, and builds to a heart-stopping crescendo. More than twenty years ago, these wonderful novels began paving the way for other writers, especially Canadians like me, to be noticed. I owe Kathy and Tempe a debt of gratitude, not just for helping to make my own writing life possible but for hours of white-knuckle reading.”
—Louise Penny, #1 New York Times bestselling author of All the Devils Are Here

"Kathy Reichs is expert at making science both scary and thrilling, and she's in top form in The Bone Code. The story moves at such a relentless pace I couldn't stop turning the pages!"
—Tess Gerritsen, New York Times bestselling author of Choose Me

“Over the course of twenty books, Kathy Reichs and Tempe Brennan have thrilled readers with pacey, mazey tales grounded in real science, with plots springing from the author's prodigious knowledge and passion for truth and justice. We readers are truly grateful—and looking forward to the next twenty!”
—Ian Rankin, New York Times bestselling author of the Inspector Rebus novels

“Few crime writers are as edifying and terrifying as Kathy Reichs. She never lets you forget that “folk do the damnedest things.”
The Times (UK)

“A strong story told in a breezy fashion with an interesting [array of] memorable minor characters.”
Evening Standard (UK)

“[Places] the forensic anthropologist in a race against time…Unmissable.”
Crime Monthly

“I await the next Kathy Reichs thriller with the same anticipation I have for the new Lee Child or Patricia Cornwell. The Bone Code over-achieves. Temperance Brennan uses all her skills as a forensic anthropologist to solve a murder mystery story that races across America at the speed of fright.”
—James Patterson

Resources and Downloads

High Resolution Images

More books from this author: Kathy Reichs

More books in this series: A Temperance Brennan Novel