Warning, spoilers (first and second books) in this review.
I enjoyed the first Temperance Brennen novel, so I decided to pick up Kathy Reichs‘ second murder mystery, Death Du Jour. Right away, she hooked me with her first scene line.
If the bodies were there, I couldn’t find them.
~ Death du Jour Excerpt, by Kathy Reichs
I wondered engaged I would be in her second book, when forensic anthropologist Tempe lost her close (and incredibly relatable) friend Gabby in an emotional Deja Dead scene. I was pleasantly surprised when Kathy Reichs introduces Tempe’s sister Harry. Tempe feels more real when confronted with someone completely opposite to her pragmatic character. Knowing they are so different didn’t make it feel like Harry simply supplanted Gabby, though the names are similarly styled. I also enjoyed the beginnings of Tempe’s romance with Lt. Ryan, though in reality it really starts gently in Deja Dead.
I enjoyed the double story in Kathy Reichs’ second novel. She combines historical Quebec records in one case with her southern upbringing in another. While the murders she investigates aren’t quite as graphically disturbing as the first novel, are disturbing because of the reasons behind them. Tempe must deal with cults that cross borders and deal effectively with defectors.
Sister Julienne and I had spoken and corresponded at length. It was she who had initially contacted me about the project. I was intrigued from the outset. This case was very different from my usual forensic work involving the recently dead who end up with the coroner. The archdiocese wanted me to exhume and analyze the remains of a saint. Well, she wasn’t really a saint. But that was the point. Élisabeth Nicolet had been proposed for beatification. I was to find her grave and verify that the bones were hers. The saint part was up to the Vatican.
Sister Julienne had assured me that there were good records. All graves in the old church were cataloged and mapped. The last burial had taken place in 1911. The church was abandoned and sealed in 1914 following a fire. A larger one was built to replace it, and the old building was never used again. Closed site. Good documentation. Piece of cake.
So where was Élisabeth Nicolet?
~ Death du Jour Excerpt, by Kathy Reichs
Death du Jour is as compelling as Deja Dead, though I have difficulty with the endings to both books. In the first book, I believe Luc Claudel has to save Tempe once she’s in the hands of the killer. She wakes wondering what happened. I believe it’s appropriate. But in the second book, she also needs saving, passing out and waking up and wondering along with the reader what happened. While I’m glad Tempe isn’t perfect at crime fighting along with crime solving, I’m disappointed that she needs help at the climax in both books. That’s where the television show Bones has a stronger character, she only occasionally needs saving from episode to episode. Though I will read the next in the series (Deadly Decisions), I may stop reading the series if Tempe can’t get out of her own troubles.
In the bitter cold of a Montreal winter, Tempe Brennan is digging for a corpse buried more than a century ago. Although Tempe thrives on such enigmas from the past, it’s a chain of contemporary deaths and disappearances that has seized her attention — and she alone is ideally placed to make a chilling connection among the seemingly unrelated events. At the crime scene, at the morgue, and in the lab, Tempe probes a mystery that sweeps from a deadly Quebec fire to startling discoveries in the Carolinas, and culminates in Montreal with a terrifying showdown — a nerve-shattering test of both her forensic expertise and her skills for survival.
~ Death du Jour back cover
What books inspire your writing? Are they the same genre?
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