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.