Assaulted by the bitter cold of a Montreal winter, the American-born Dr. Temperance Breman, Forensic Anthropologist for the Province of Quebec, digs for a corpse where Sister Elisabeth Nicolet, dead over a century and now a candidate for sainthood, should lie in her grave. A strange, small coffin, buried in the recesses of a decaying church, holds the first clue to the cloistered nun’s fate. The puzzle surrounding Sister Elisabeth’s life and death provides a welcome contrast to discoveries at a burning chalet, where scorched and twisted bodies await Tempe’s professional expertise. Who were these people? What brought them to this gruesome fate? Homicide Detective Andrew Ryan, with whom Tempe has a combustive history, joins her in the arson investigation. From the fire scene they are drawn into the worlds of an enigmatic and controversial professor, a mysterious commune, and a primate colony on a Carolina island.
It is hard to go wrong with an opening scene of a large group of nuns huddled around an empty grave in an abandoned church the heart of a Montreal winter. The second book in the Temperance Brennan Series, Death Du Jour follows the exhumation of a potential saint with an extra large serving of death: two mutilated babies and a collection of adults who burned in a house fire; a dead college student who was attacked by dogs; two dead women hidden in an animal sanctuary. This sequel to Deja Dead is not as grisly as it sounds. Sanitized by the scientific mind of forensic anthropologist Temperance Brennan, the body parts lose most of their grotesque horror and quickly become puzzle pieces in the mystery of who-done-it.
As a sequel in a series, I felt like Kathy Reichs attempted too much. Temperance Brennan travels back and forth from Montreal to North Carolina and South Carolina. There are multiple corpses, like a crazy amount of corpses, whose investigations are loosely tied together. The story is overstuffed with characters who fall flat at times: nuns, new professors, new students, a wild sister who visits from out-of-town, and old college friends. Temperance Brennan’s attention is divided between the present day cases and her investigation into the life of the deceased nun; while the nun’s life and the history of Montreal is interesting, there are more pressing matters, like the multiple murders and a potentially sinister religious cult. In the midst of all of this, Kathy Reichs throws in some romance for Temperance Brennan; while I loved the romance, it did not feel as though it developed as naturally as it should have, mostly due to the other distractions in the book. In a nutshell, Death Du Jour suffers from bloat.
However, even though the book was overstuffed, it was still very easy to follow. Reichs is very good at dropping hints so, at times, the reader is one step ahead of Brennan. Reichs is also good with the twists and turns; the ending was somewhat surprising – there were a few things that I did not see coming. Temperance Brennan is still a strong, albeit sometimes frustrating, heroine; she has no sense of self-preservation when faced with the risk of death at the expense of information and answers. Thank goodness for Detective Andrew “Andy” Ryan – without him, Brennan might not survive an investigation. Kathy Reichs continues her skill of including forensic details with an added bonus of including a fairly large amount of cultural anthropology. I found the discussions on religious cults to be fascinating!
I am very much looking forward to picking Dr. Temperance Brennan up again in book three, Deadly Decisions.
Rating: 3 out of 5 Stars
Title: Death Du Jour (Temperance Brennan #2)
Publisher: Pocket Star (2000)
Genre: Fiction, Mystery, Thriller, Detective, Suspense, Medical, Forensics, Crime
Read… on Whidbey Island while… enjoying the long summer holiday weekend.
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Author: Kathy Reichs
Kathy Reichs’s first novel Déjà Dead catapulted her to fame when it became a New York Times bestseller and won the 1997 Ellis Award for Best First Novel. Her other Temperance Brennan novels include Death du Jour, Deadly Décisions, Fatal Voyage, Grave Secrets, Bare Bones, Monday Mourning, Cross Bones, Break No Bones, Bones to Ashes, Devil Bones, 206 Bones, Spider Bones, Flash and Bones, Bones Are Forever, and Bones of the Lost, and the Temperance Brennan e-short, Bones In Her Pocket. In addition, Kathy co-authors the Virals young adult series with her son, Brendan Reichs. These books follow the adventures of Temperance Brennan’s great niece, Tory Brennan. Dr. Reichs is also a producer of the hit Fox TV series, Bones, which is based on her work and her novels.
From teaching FBI agents how to detect and recover human remains, to separating and identifying commingled body parts in her Montreal lab, as a forensic anthropologist Kathy Reichs has brought her own dramatic work experience to her mesmerizing forensic thrillers. For years she consulted to the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner in North Carolina, and continues to do so for the Laboratoire de Sciences Judiciaires et de Médecine Légale for the province of Québec. Dr. Reichs has traveled to Rwanda to testify at the UN Tribunal on Genocide, and helped exhume a mass grave in Guatemala. As part of her work at JPAC (Formerly CILHI) she aided in the identification of war dead from World War II, Korea, and Southeast Asia. Dr. Reichs also assisted with identifying remains found at ground zero of the World Trade Center following the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
Dr. Reichs is one of only eighty-two forensic anthropologists ever certified by the American Board of Forensic Anthropology. She served on the Board of Directors and as Vice President of both the American Academy of Forensic Sciences and the American Board of Forensic Anthropology, and is currently a member of the National Police Services Advisory Council in Canada. She is a Professor in the Department of Anthropology at the University of North Carolina-Charlotte.
Dr. Reichs is a native of Chicago, where she received her Ph.D. at Northwestern. She now divides her time between Charlotte, NC and Montreal, Québec.