She is only one of 100 forensic anthropologists certified with the American board of anthropology in the country.
Dr. Kathy Reichs could, in fact, be called so much more: an author, professor and the 12-season producer on the hit television show Bones, which is based on her life’s work.
That work was also the main topic of her TEDx talk which took place on Oct. 23 in the Algonquin Commons Theatre. The theme of the evening was Changing the Narrative which for Reich means “taking off in a new or different direction.”
Reichs’ fiction books are based on her real-life cases.
“In each of the books I try and take the reader into a different area that forensic anthropologist work,” she said. Her first book Deja Dead is based on the work she did in a large medical-legal lab in Montreal called “Le laboratories de science judiciaries et de medicine legal. The story was based on a serial killer that hunted in Montreal.
The elements in which she testified in his trial had to do with his dismemberment of the victims, the type of tool that was used but more importantly, the pattern of said dismemberment can say a lot about the behavioral profile of the perpetrator.
Her book Death Du Jour is another example of a field that forensic anthropologists work in. Reichs was hired by a private context the Catholic Church Archdioceses of Montreal to exhume and analyze the remains of a woman that had died in 1714 and who at that time had been proposed for sainthood.
“So, the step in that process if there are remains is to verify that they are in fact the correct remains,” she said. “So in this book, we learn how forensic anthropology works in a private context.”
Another one of her books, Fatal Voyage takes the reader into the world of disaster recovery.
“I for many years was part of the disaster mortuary operational response team system in the United States,” she said. “It’s a network that is activated in situations of mass disaster.”
Reichs was part of the team that helped sort out the victims of Hurricane Katrina. They also worked on a case in Georgia in 2002 concerning a mortuary operator who dumped bodies behind his property instead of cremating them. But for the most part, the team responds to commercial airline disasters cases which are explored in that specific book.
“One month after the release of Fatal Voyage I ended up going to the twin towers and doing exactly what I had been reading and researching about for the previous two years.”
Another one of Reichs’ books titled Grave Secrets takes the reader into the world of human rights violations. Reichs testified at the United Nation’s tribunal on the genocide in Rwanda and also helped the forensic anthropologist of Rwanda exhume a mass grave.
In 2005 she was approached by two men who wanted to take Temperance Brennan the lead character in her books and bring her to the small screen in a TV show that would turn into the 12-season phenomenon known as Bones. This TV show follows forensic anthropologist Temperance Brennan and FBI agent Seely Booth as they work together to solve crimes for the FBI. Booth’s nickname for Brennan in the show was “Bones,” from which the show’s title comes from.
Reichs had a big hand in the whole process as a producer and making sure that everything was as scientifically accurate as possible.
“I did work with our props people to make sure our cadavers were authentic.”
She would later go on to change the narrative again and write four screenplays for the show with her daughter, one of which is titled The witch in the wardrobe.
It was recently announced by Dateline Hollywood that Reichs and executive producer and co-show runner Michael Petterson, have come up with a new TV show concept that has been picked up by ABC. Wolfe, written by Pettersons, centers on veterinarian Dr. Charles Wolfe, who has a unique perspective on homicide, believing that murder is a primal, animalistic act and that killers are animals.
After getting elected coroner of Boulder, Colorado, Wolfe partners with his mirror opposite, FBI profiler Kristin Faulk, who is confident Wolfe is dead wrong and that it is nurture, not nature, that leads a person to murder.
Reichs would once again change her focus to write a young adult series with her son about Tory Brennan, Temperance Brennan’s 14-year-old great niece. In the books, her and her friends undergo a change and acquire special perceptive abilities, which they use along with their love of science to solve cold cases.
“We created this because we wanted young kids to think science was cool, especially young girls.”