on March 6, 2004
Meet Tempe Brennan--she is a forensic anthropologist who divides her time professionally between Quebec, Canada and Charlotte, NC. In this tale, Tempe is drawn into the mystery behind several heinous deaths in the small Canadian town of St-Jovite; at the same time, a young college girl has mysteriously disappeared, Tempe's own sister is demonstrating bizarre behavior--even for her--and bodies are discovered on the elite Carolina primate island of a close friend. What, if any connection, do any of these things have--to each other, or to a mysterious cult?
With plenty of mystery, drama, suspense and forensic detail, fans of Kay Scarpetta will readily embrace this writer. I've found yet another new favorite!
on January 23, 2004
In her debut novel "Déjà Dead" Kathy Reichs introduced the character of Temperance (Tempe) Brennan, a forensic anthropologist who spends half her time practicing in her hometown of Charlotte, North Carolina and the other half in Montreal, Quebec. A series of murders and bizarre findings led Tempe to go undercover and explore Montreal's seedy underworld of drugs and prostitution. In "Death du Jour", Tempe seeks to uncover the mystery behind a devastating house fire in St-Jovite that killed 4, including 2 infant babies. It is soon discovered that the cause of the fire is arson and all signs point to a dangerous cult as being the culprit.
As ususal the main strength of a Reichs novel is the believability of its protagonist Tempe Brennan. Tempe is a truly complex character of many emotions that are felt thoughout the novel's engaging first-person narrative. The synergy between herself and detective Ryan is irresistible and reminiscent of Mulder and Scully from the X-files except this time the female is the believer and the male the pessimist. This is a very technical and academic work of fiction with in-depth descriptions of forensic procedures, fossil descriptions and coroner reports. In technical terms the author certainly knows what she writes about since she practices forensic anthropology herself, lending the novel a high sense of genuineness. I found to be most fascinating the in-depth knowledge of cults that we learn throughout, both fictional and historical such as the Solar Temple cult. I was also impressed with Reich's ability to describe the bitter cold of a Montreal winter, having lived there myself I thought she was bang on with some of her descriptions. The climactic final pages take place during the throes of Quebec's devastating ice storm of 1998 and the descriptions are done extremely well, amid a breakneck pace.
As much as I enjoyed "Death du Jour" in my opinion this novel is not quite as good as Déjà Dead. I was disappointed that the French Canadian flavour of the first novel was not as omnipresent and found that the book lost a bit of its steam once the action shifted away from Quebec and into North Carolina. My major beef is that there were way too many wild coincidences; Tempe's sister Harry, who lives in Texas has just registered for a new course that happens to have a field work assignment in...you guessed it Montreal! The house fire in Quebec has links to a cult in the U.S. Where in the U.S.? Why in the Carolinas, right by Tempe's hometown! There were many other improbable links that felt somewhat insulting to a seasoned mystery reader like myself but did not ruin my enjoyment of the novel too much. I found Death du Jour to be very entertaining. It fell short of the accomplishment of her debut novel but with "Déjà Dead" Reichs had set herself a very high pedestal to keep up with. Death du Jour was certainly good enough to make me want to keep reading more Tempe adventures.
on October 27, 1999
For the first 25 pages I was enthralled by the writing and the forensics. Then the coincidences piled up: 1. In Quebec, Tempe investigates the fiery death of a family (later found to be killed by a quasi-religious cult.) 2. In a totally separate storyline, Tempe is asked by a nun acquaintance to find the nun's missing niece ... who JUST HAPPENS to have links to the first murder. 3. Weeks later, Tempe's relaxing on an island off the Carolina coast when she JUST HAPPENS to discover the buried bodies of two murdered women. Guess what? This new crime JUST HAPPENS to be related to those murders way up north in Quebec. 4. Tempe's troubled sister, living in ANOTHER state, JUST HAPPENS to have recently joined the same murderous cult responsible for all these murders! Tempe doesn't have to pursue the investigation -- the clues just come flying to her from points all over North America. I am amazed that so many self-described mystery buffs do not even comment on these faults in their reviews. Did they not notice them? Or are they so dazzled by the forensic details (which are indeed excellent)that they forgot the basics of a believable plot?
on July 31, 1999
Kathy Reichs uses too much narrative for my taste. The main character, Tempe Brennan, is not particularly likeable and it is not clear why she chooses to do some of the things she does. For instance, what was the point of the "mugging"? Why didn't she at least tell Ryan about it? Maybe I would understand had I finished the book. I feel betrayed by her weaving me into her life and then killing her cat. I am not an activist but I don't understand a writer who feels he/she needs to kill an animal for what? Shock effect? I understood the reason for the other deaths - even the babies - which were remote and had some purpose to the plot. But to make the reader feel warmth and love for Birdie, through her writing in both books, and then kill him? I didn't feel it worth my time to finish the book. Nor will I read another of hers.
on March 26, 2016
PLOT OR PREMISE:
Twisting sub-plots make it hard to describe as one common theme, but in essence, Dr. Temperance Brennan is back with a problem -- dead people, including babies, are popping up all over the place as a result of a religious cult. Even her sister gets involved, not to mention a young female relative (can we say Kay Scarpetta's niece?). In fact, the majority of this book comes even closer to a rip-off of that other series, but closer to the lousy writing near the end of the Scarpetta series than the tight stories that launched the female coroner genre. The story starts in Montreal, and then moves to Carolina, and then eventually back again to the Montreal area. Unlike the first book, you never get the same sense of place.
WHAT I LIKED:
A difficult question...the story is interesting, just with a lot of holes and loose threads. One really good thing that is missing from this story that was in the previous one is the removal of the francophone / anglophone dynamics, that is not only annoying, but also inaccurate for the timeframe.
WHAT I DIDN'T LIKE:
The list is growing...First, and most important, I hate the way it mirrors the Kay Scarpetta stories, essentially ripping-off the work that has gone before. Second, Reichs has a really bad habit -- trying to build suspense and mystery by an old trick of hiding certain things. At least two major "clues" in the sub-stories are not revealed, instead having Temperance kind of taunt the reader in a I-know-but-the-reader-won't-until-I-feel-like-revealing-it-to-them. None of the "clues" are that big, nor are they worth waiting for, and the reader is just left feeling irritated and cheated by the story. Either the waiting has to be worth it, by making the news so unbelievable that you say "WOW!", or you have to play fair with the reader and share the news as it comes along. Finally, I have to say that not only is this book not particularly great, it is a real let-down from the first one. It reads like Reichs threw it together from two separate stories, and with a lot of extra characters thrown in, none of which are any more than wooden extras.
I received no compensation, not even a free copy, in exchange for this review. I am not personal friends with the author, nor do I follow her on social media.
Temperance Brenna, book 2
This talented author offers a great plot and a rich cast of characters. Her entertaining and fascinating writing is peppered with enough clinical expertise to pique ones interest without overstocking the imagination. The kind of forensic detail that only Kathy Reichs can provide...
Once again, we are taken into intriguing murder investigations by Tempe, a guru, in anthropological forensics
"Death du Jour", involves multiple cases weaving from Montreal to North Carolina. It opens as Tempe Brennan is trying to locate the remains of a long-deceased nun, a challenge on its own. Sister Elizabeth Nicolet is up for sainthood and her bones are needed, the body is not where records show it.
Simultaneously, Tempe is called to assist Homicide Detective Andrew Ryan in an arson investigation North of Montreal. Leads bring them to the nucleus of a strange commune in the Carolinas. Unclear at first, a connection is uncovered between the cases. Tempe and Ryan find themselves in a struggle to save more lives...
This is a multi-faceted plot, written in a thrilling manner, enjoyable and easy to follow.
on August 8, 2003
This was the second Kathy Reich's novel I've read - the first was Fatal Voyage. Although I've read these out of sequence that doesn't seem to be an issue so feel free to start whereever you like!
Fatal Voyage was set purely in the Carolinas; this one is divided fairly evenly between Tempe's alta-egos - the Southern Belle and the French Canadienne ;) and is more involving for the change of scenery. Tempe starts with the exhumation of a 19th century nun, though her tale doesn't mingle much with the rest of the story. We quickly discover that not is all that it seems with the discovery and, my one major gripe, is that we're not told what it is that Tempe has found. For me mystery novels are better when we are given the information as the hero / heroine discovers it. In this case it would have added to the mystery if we had known what, exactly, was so puzzling.
Anyway, Tempe quickly gets drawn into the main story - the hunt for the brutal killers of a family in Canada. Bodies are dropping everywhere and, at first, there's no indication that they are connected. Are they? Tempe seems to think so and the hunt around Quebec and the Carolinas heats up.
Of course, Tempe cannot hunt this quarry without herself becoming a target herself. But is her sister a target this time too?
As before, Kathy Reichs skillfully weaves these various events into one compelling story that keeps the pages turning and the mind ticking. Great!
on February 3, 2003
Kathy Reichs, Death du Jour (Arrow, 1999)
Death du Jour is the first book I've read in 2003 that made me want to not put it down until I had turned the final page. It's well over twice as long as most of the novels I've read over the course of this year, and yet it took me less time than many of them to get through. It does have its problems, but readability is certainly not one of them.
Temperance Brennan, a forensic anthropologist who divides her time between North Carolina and Quebec, is in the latter province as the story opens, sifting through the supposed grave of a nun who is being proposed for beatification. Things don't go as planned. Not long after she gets home, she's called to the scene of a devastating house fire to check out a few more bodies. Things don't go as planned. She gets caught up in the twin mysteries of the nun and the house fire, and off we go.
The best thing about the book is its compelling readability. Reichs makes her work unputdownable through throwing clues, monkeywrenches, and events at the reader nonstop from the first chapter till the last. There's never a let-up, no pause for breathing. And this in a novel that tops four hundred pages; it's like making an Arnold Schwarzenegger action flick that runs six hours. Few people are going to try, fewer still will succeed. Reichs manages it well here.
The bad thing about the book, and yes, there is one, is its predictability. There are many points in the book where something happens and it's obvious to the reader how the event connects into the whole puzzle, even while it escapes the police, the main character, and everyone else in the novel. When it comes right down to it, the mystery isn't really much of a mystery; it's more a police procedural than anything else. Or it would be if it weren't trying so hard to be a mystery.
Still, that's not a reason to dismiss a book that hooks a reader this quickly and this decisively. Death du Jour is the perfect way to kill a weekend, a fast-paced, easy read that will make the hours fly by as you wander through the world of Tempe Brennan. ****
on November 4, 2002
First off, I've never had the pleasure to read any of Patricia Cornwell's books, so I don't have to compare Kathy Reichs' Temperance Brennan to Kay Scarpetti. I found both "Death DuJour" and its predecessor, "Deja Dead," quite good. I like the second one a little better, as I feel Reichs has found her "voice" in Tempe's character.
This book is a real whirlwind of complex plotlines, and there are times when Tempe is in Carolina that you wonder how in the world will these storylines converge? I think Ms. Reichs does a fine job in showing the relationship to all the different things going on. The mystery behind Sister Elizabeth is given a big clue in one of Tempe's dreams and although it certainly isn't the focal point of the book, it's inclusion demonstrates the vast amount of research Ms. Reichs' imbues in her works.
Tempe's relationship with Andrew Ryan is an interesting one, kind of like two alley cats in heat, but I hope their "courtship" evolves; I think he's good for her.
I agree with a previous reader that the addition of Harry, Tempe's wacko sister, is unnecessary; she reminds me of Marla in the Goldie (Diane Mott Davidson) series. Superflous, and not really essential. I think Harry's inclusion was to give Tempe a more personal interest in the cult aspect.
I was totally surprised by whom the culprit was in this one, and even though in some ways, it's a little bit of a let down (there's one other person I feel had more motive), but hey, she's the writer.
All in all, a book well written with some incredibly suspenseful scenes, a great knowledge of not only forensics, but cults, and religious propaganda.
Can't wait to make some "Deadly Decisions."
on September 7, 2002
To the avid reader, there are few things more disappointing than a good tale poorly told. Regrettably, this is precisely what we have in _Death du Jour_: a potentially gripping plot replete with clumsy writing and more distractions than direction.
Reichs has borrowed so heavily from the Patricia Cornwell formula that it is tempting to say that the two authors are indistinguishable. However, that would be to sell both authors a bit short. While it is true Reichs' character, Temperance Brennan, is indistinguishable from Cornwell's Scarpetta in all material aspects, Reichs' prose contains none of the easy, flowing grace that propels readers to the climax of a Cornwell story. This is really a shame, for Reichs has an immense talent (superior to that of Cornwell, by the way) for conceiving of a tale worth telling.
The tale told here initially takes the reader down a path that reads like that of the rather dry journal of a forensic anthropologist unearthing the bones of a long-dead religious figure. This introduction, interesting only for its subject matter, reveals the art and science behind forensic recovery efforts. While this is interesting, it is hardly enough to sustain the interest of even the marginally demanding mystery reader. Thankfully, this (as it turns out, irrelevant) introductory jaunt is ended rather quickly as the real plot gets underway.
With the help of Andrew Ryan, a similarly dogged and clever Canadian detective, Brennan works the Canadian crime scene of a deadly house fire that leads to a charge of arson and a need to follow clues leading back to a strange commune in the Carolinas. Brennan's seemingly odd dual citizenship becomes instrumental in the unraveling of an intricate mystery involving numerous disappearances and murders. For in the travels between the Laboratoire de Médicine Légale in Montreal and her home in the Carolinas, Temperance Brennan begins to piece together the clues surrounding the disappearance of several University students and a possible connection with a mysterious cult. Along the way, the duo uncovers colorful characters and interesting plot twists, but the mediocre writing is simply too much of a consistent and genuine distraction in the telling of this otherwise captivating tale.
As the story concludes, we learn of all the details behind the murders, as if motivation and critical particulars were an afterthought for the author. This anticlimactic recitation of crucial facts is indicative of the stylistic and structural problems throughout the book. In the end, Reichs simply demands too much of a leap of faith from her readers. There is far too little pay-out for the investment that readers make in taking this ride with her at the helm. It's an investment I'm not likely to make again with this author, and that's a real shame because she does spin a good yarn.