(Arrow, Paperback, 8th UK edition, 1998, read: April 03)
"The bones of a woman are discovered in the grounds of an abandoned monastery and the case is given to Dr. Temperance Brennan, Director of Forensic Anthropology for the province of Quebec. 'Too decomposed for standard autopsy. Request anthropologic expertise. My case.'
Researching recent disappearances in the city convinces Brennan that a serial killer is at work, espite the deep cynicism of Detective Claudel who heads the investigation. Dr. Brennan's forensic expertise and contacts at Quntico finally convince him otherwise, but only after the body count has grown...
Tempe takes matters into her own hands, re-examining remains from past, unsolved murders. She is driven to unravel shocking acts of ciolence by reading the bones of the dead. But even before Tempe makes her crucial breakthrough, the killer closes in..."
I stumbled upon Kathy Reichs some time ago on the bestseller lists and her extremely sucessful series about forensic anthropologist Temperance Brennan sounded quite interesting. The right mix of thrill and horror regarding corpses with which Tempe Brennan works every day. Crime fiction isn't normally my thing (I don't like Minette Walters and Elizabeth George very much) but to put a woman in the center of the story who considers it her job to reconstruct the circumstances of a persons death by looking at their bones and pieces sounded quite interesting.
Let's stay with Ms. Brennan, Montreal and the secrets of the bones. In this classic crime story the murderer is a serial killer and suddenly the life of Tempe and her daughter aren't safe anymore. Because she doesn't succeed with the police who rather ignores her results than investigate her serial-killer theory Tempe works on her own and therefore is noticed by the killer. Her fault, one might say.
The job description sounds similar to Dr. Kay Scarpetta, the heroine of the crime stories by Patricia Cornwell. For the sake of completeness I have to point out that Kay Scarpetta is a forensic pathologist, working with fresh bodies, while Tempe Brennan is a forensic anthropologist and is confronted with old bones. What that means for the story itself I can't tell because I've never read the books of Ms. Cornwell.
The way the story goes one learns a lot about the working methods of the police and their cooperation with the anthropologist ... a conflict which Kathy Reichs knows from her own experience. Apart from that she still has some difficulties being in french-speaking Montreal, which also is something drawn from the real-life working experience of Ms. Reichs. One early one gets the feeling that the woman knows what she's talking about.
The story is thrilling, the central figure multi-layered and complex. She is wrong sometimes and has a hard life with her colleagues. Her first case is solved in complete control and it will be interesting to see what comes next. Up to now there are five books following 'Déjà Dead'.
[Dorothée Büttgen, May 03]
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