Bibliophile reviews Kathy Reichs' Death du Jour

No. in series: 2
Year of publication: 1999
Availability: In print
Pages: 379 (hardcover)
Settings and time: Montreal, Canada, Carolina, USA, winter of 1998.
Type of mystery: Murder, thriller
Type of investigator: Forensic anthropologist/amateur detective, police
Some themes: Murder, religion, cults

OK, I know said in a comment that I was going to wait a month, but I couldn’t resist this when I spotted it at the library.

It’s the middle of winter and Tempe Brennan is called in to help identify the burnt remains of people found on the site of an arson. Soon, more bodies begin stacking up. Tempe returns to her hometown in Carolina where she is teaching physical anthropology at a university. While visiting an island nature “reserve” with her daughter she finds more bodies. Clues suggest that the deaths in both Canada and the USA may be connected to the same cult, and Tempe’s sister may be in danger.

I had been told that the Tempe Brennan books get better as the series continues, but if this book is anything to go by, I am not sure I agree. Reichs has - annoyingly - joined the “had I but known” school of mystery writers. The writing style has improved somewhat from the first book, although she is still prone to redundancies, like telling the reader what day it is today when she has already told them a few paragraphs ago what day it was yesterday, and inserting comments or quips that have absolutely nothing to do with the story or character interaction. She also sometimes inserts dramatic statements into the story, like this example:

What he told be next sent an icy wind rocketing through my soul (p. 272).

While I appreciate the effort to avoid the cliché "my blood ran cold", this is over the top.
Tempe is not as recklessly stupid as before, which is an improvement, but the story, although thrilling, is highly unlikely and so fraught with coincidence that it soon stops being even remotely realistic. The side story would have been more interesting if I had not been able to guess right away what the twist would be.

Rating: The writing style has improved while the story is not on par with the previous one. 3 stars.


Maxine said…
Maybe you'll end up thinking the same as me. I did try a couple more, but I did find they slow up and get even less plausible with time.
Have you tried Karin Slaughter, who I think is much better than Reichs or Cornwell? Also Tess Gerriston is bringing her pathologist character more into focus in her books: the first one I read was mainly about the female policeman but the emphasis shifts towards the pathologist (Maura ....) in later books.
Karin Slaughter seems to be able to write well about not much action. The penultimate book in her series (so far), without wishing to spoil, mainly took place in a siege situation, and was mainly told in flashback. In my view it maintained the tension incredibly well.
Her most recent book is also good, though I think the plot somewhat far-fetched, the characterisation is well-established and somehow it "works" (for me!).
all the best.
Bibliophile said…
This will probably be the last Reichs book I read. I looked at the synopsis for the next book, and decided the biker gang angle was a bit too much. And here was I thinking I had found a good replacement for Cornwell.

I am not familiar with Karin Slaughter, but I have a couple of Tess Gerritsen books on my TBR list. Will see if the library has any of Slaughter's books. Thanks for the recommendation.

Popular Posts