Déja Dead

Posted: February 17, 2010 in 1

Kathy Reichs

Review © 2010 G.N. Jacobs

Imagine my surprise that Dr. Temperance Brennan is not necessarily a stunning, but socially awkward genius with a state of the art lab in Washington, D.C. Yes, I do watch too much TV, but either way the character is fascinating.

In Déja Dead, Kathy Reichs gives us a Temperance Brennan that feels very autobiographical to Dr. Reichs’ own career as a forensic anthropologist. Brennan is a middle aged divorced mother going to work every day in downtown Montreal. Her main task is identify and reinter bodies from dug up church burials and to assist the medical examiners when a body is too decomposed for a traditional soft tissue autopsy.

Female bodies and skeletons roll into the lab and the trail goes cold. But, Tempe feels a connection between the bodies and surmises that a serial killer is at work among the ancient bricks and stones of Montreal. But, few in law enforcement pay her very much attention as the bodies are just different enough that they can be interpreted as the work of a serial killer learning and refining his game, or as five separate murders.

Meanwhile, Tempe is being dragged into what appears to be a completely unrelated drama with her good friend Gabrielle, an accomplished living subject anthropologist. Gabrielle is studying the hookers that live and work in Montreal’s red light district and she has picked up a stalker. Soon, someone is stalking Tempe as well…

I found the writing of this first in the series to be quite masterful in terms of balancing the routine with the elements that convert Déja Dead from a dry report into a novel of eminent readability. Kathy Reichs probably never snuck out of the lab to do her own investigating leaving such things to cops with guns. But, if Temperance Brennan doesn’t follow ten seconds behind the stormtroopers only to discover from a warm pot of spaghetti-Os that the suspect is still on the premises, we don’t read the book.

But, Tempe must then go back into the lab and call up a colleague in another city for insight concerning the saw that hacked up the bodies. Apparently, there are so few forensic anthropologists that their conventions are too small to get first billing in a fun city like Las Vegas. Reichs managed to hold my interest with the juxtaposition of the action and the lab work.

I wanted to learn a little more about Temperance Brennan the woman making use of a fabulous job offer in Montreal to start over after a wrecked marriage. Perhaps, this was because Tempe didn’t know anyone in Montreal, except for Gabrielle? That she had been fulltime in the citadel on the St. Lawrence for at least a year before the story begins suggests she needs to get out more. I didn’t get any slow moments with friends in the bar, because Gabrielle’s peril overwhelms the social interaction. Well, there are more books in the series.

The killer in this piece is like many in the real world, boring nobodies who take up killing to liven up a life of quiet desperation. These people are always brought down by a combination of solid police work that places the suspect as the common element in all the found bodies, a profile and their common need to hang onto souvenirs. This proves that even the mundane can be dangerous, which is another brilliance of this book.

I enjoyed the You-Are-There feel to this book. I ran through back alleys trying to catch up with suspect running from his hidey-hole where he kept his souvenirs of his grisly work. It was creepy to rifle through the killer’s stuff. I suspect the audience couldn’t handle the real thing. This tension propels the reader through the story to the exciting climax that begins with a dead phone line at Chez Brennan…

Déja Dead is one fine read good for keeping a reader awake on an airplane or at the beach. I wonder what will happen next.



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