Temperance Brennan

Fatal Voyage

Fatal Voyage

Fatal Voyage

Fatal Voyage was published in 2001 and is the fourth novel in the Temperance Brennan series. The main plot of the novel involves Brennan dealing with an airplane crash in Western North Carolina. Immediately, I could not help but be reminded of the incidents occurring on September 11, 2001. I believe this novel was published before those events, but in my paperback edition, the author added an afterword in which she briefly discusses the NYC incident at the World Trade Center. Reichs herself was a member of the recovery response team. In some sense, I felt “bad” for her because I am sure she was a little disturbed about having written about a plane crash earlier in the year. It must have been a bit unnerving.  Fatal Voyage takes place in October.

In any case, the story starts off with Dr. Brennan entering the crash site where emergency teams are gathering among the refuse and damage. Rather quickly we meet a major character, the Sherriff Lucy Crowe. Normally, I do not really pay attention to descriptions of what the characters look like. I generally pay enough attention to get a vague image and then forget all the details. Crowe, however, was interesting enough that I found myself picturing her throughout the story.  She’s described as being very tall. Crowe has frizzy, carrot red hair and eyes the color of Coke bottles (which Reichs will remind us of plenty of times throughout the rest of the novel.) Upon first meeting Crowe, Brennan estimates Crowe’s age at around forty years old.

It was somewhat difficult for me to figure out just where the crash site was. Crowe is the Sherriff of Swain County. But there’s a lot of talk in the novel about Bryson City. Basically, I just put the crash in some area of the Smokey Mountains that is more rural than anything. Having driven through most of Western North Carolina, Eastern Tennessee, and NorthEastern South Carolina, I pictured these little-driven roads, small townships, and lush green forests that are way too muggy in the summertime and drafty in the wintertime.

After the multitude of official recovery/investigation teams arrive (each bearing their own three-letter acronym), Brennan begins her first day by assisting her colleagues in tagging, photographing, and packaging remains.  After a long day, she is told by her boss to take a break. Instead of milling around the hectic command center, Brennan heads outdoors to the forest. It’s here that she happens upon the situation that entirely changes the storyline.  In the underbrush, she is encircled by a small pack of coyotes (she mistakes them, at first, for wolves.) Fearing for her life, she also notices that the animals are protecting and trying to abscond with a human foot. Obviously, Brennan thinks this foot is connected to the plane crash. She makes several attempts to wrest the foot from the coyotes. At this point, who should show up but none other than Andrew Ryan – the detective she works with (and is sweet on) at her job in Canada. Ryan and Brennan rescue the foot and chase off the pack of coyotes.

I think the cover of the book (my purple edition, anyway) is supposed to be a picture of a skeletal foot representing the foot that Brennan found. However, I don’t know many people who have toes that are so even in their size. Heck, most of the people I know have third toes that are as long as their big toe.

From this point onward, the story changes, Brennan does not really deal with the plane crash. Instead, she ends up in a lot of hot water with her superiors over the mysterious foot and is booted from working with the crash site. She remains in the area, however, because she wants to clear her professional reputation. Also, she discovers that the foot is not actually from the crash, so she begins her investigation.  The foot actually involves a whole series of killings that occurred since the 1940s. Most of Brennan’s troubles come from people in high places impeding her investigation because they will be implicated or guilty of whatever she is investigating.  Andrew Ryan is there, we learn, because his partner Bertrand was on the plane that crashed. Bertrand was escorting a criminal to Canada for arrest/trial.  The coincidence of all of this is a little bit hard to swallow – but it’s fiction and it’s fun, so I just read onward.  Of course, there are plenty of red herrings that Reichs puts us through so that we are as lost as Brennan.

There are a lot of names in this novel. Names of people investigating, names of people on the plane, names of local persons who are being investigated. There are a lot of characters to keep track of. Reichs does a surprisingly good job of keeping everyone pretty clear and even, but sometimes it gets a little difficult if the reader isn’t paying attention. While there is “science” in the novel, I feel Dr. Brennan is less the forensic specialist and more the investigating detective. This is okay, because it works for the novel. But I do hope future novels do not turn Brennan into a detective and lose the coolness of her laboratory expertise. For most of the novel, the only people who are Brennan’s allies are her dog, Boyd, and Sherriff Crowe – who is about as unflappable a character as there ever was.

At one point Brennan goes to Charlotte. I found her descriptions of the city to be very keen. Obviously Reichs has spent much time there and is familiar with the difficulty with navigating the city. In chapter 23 Brennan describes the city streets, truer words were rarely spoken about Charlotte and its streets:

“Charlotte’s street names reflect its schizoid personality.  On the one hand the street-naming approach was simple:  They found a winner and stuck with it. The city has Queens Road, Queen’s Road West, and Queen’s Road East, Sharon Road, Sharon Lane, Sharon Amity, Sharon View, and Sharon Avenue.  I’ve sat at the intersection of Rea Road and Rea Road, Park Road and Park Road.”

Reichs also deals with the local natives in the rural areas of North Carolina with precision and tact.  Yes, there are some hillbilly religious folk. And there are some stubborn, insular folk. But there are also simple, well-meaning folk too. I think most of this comes across in Reichs’ writing. I think this is the first novel wherein Brennan spends the majority of it in North Carolina and not Canada. Overall, I think the book was probably difficult to write. It is a large novel with a wide-open plot. There’s lots of characters to hang on to and lots of plotlines to be careful with. I think Reichs succeeds with her story. The novel is creepy, tense, and amusing all at different points. It works. I don’t like reading about planes crashing, but I appreciate a good detective story. Especially one with two pets (yes, Birdie has his cameos!)

3 stars

Deadly Decisions

Deadly Decisions

Deadly Decisions cover

Deadly Decisions is the third book in the Temperance Brennan novel series by Kathy Reichs.  I have read both the first and second novels, and now today, completed the third.

I started this book sometime in August 2010. I finished it on January 25, 2011.  This does not mean that it was a 2,000 page tome.  I have the ability to read a number of books at the same time. Its like watching TV shows, most people do not watch an entire series of one show and then begin the next. Easily, they watch their favorite shows and manage to keep track of all the storylines and characters.  Nevertheless, I admit that I was not actively reading this book during all these months. I started it, made good progress (perhaps as far as page 120), and then just failed to pick it back up again. I got too absorbed in any number of things.  Last night, I was all set to start yet another novel and I admonished myself:  finish up the old ones first!!  So I did.

From the back of the book:  A North Carolina teenager disappears from her home, and parts of her skeleton are found hundreds of miles away. The shocking deaths propel forensic anthropologist Tempe Brennan from north to south, and deep into a shattering investigation inside the bizarre culture of outlaw motorcycle gangs — where one misstep could bring disaster for herself or someone she loves.

Of the three books by Kathy Reichs that I have read, this was my least favorite.  I think the topic of biker gangs and motorcycles and such just really holds no interest for me.  And, if the book had been really gripping, it would never have taken six months to read the whole thing.  Still, I am not saying that this is a bad book.  I am used to Reichs’ writing style, I like the majority of the recurring characters in her books, and I like the tone and setting of the books.  I understand both the Montreal and Dixie aspects of the stories, and its fun to read about stories that take place in areas that I am familiar with.

In chapter five, we are introduced to a new ongoing plotline involving Andrew Ryan (Brennan’s partner in the previous novels). I, frankly, do not like Ryan whatsoever, so I just did not give a rip about this storyline. By the end of this book, I was disappointed in how this plotline is working out.

I am quite fond of Brennan’s cat, Birdie. I also am starting to become amused by the interactions between Brennan and Claudel.  I feel these interactions could really develop and be quite good in future novels.  Claudel is an intriguing character.  Once again, the story included some of Brennan’s family, Kit and Harry.  This was okay, but Kit is nineteen years old and as a major figure in this novel I was annoyed by him. I am not thrilled with the antics of teenagers.

Overall, I have to give this book 2 stars. It really is on the cusp of 3 stars, but it did take me 6 months to read it.  I will be continuing on in the series.

2 stars

Death du Jour

Death du Jour

Death du Jour

I finished this book today. I was able to read it basically starting late one night and finishing it the next evening. It is the second Temperance Brennan book written by Kathy Reichs. I did read the first book in the series.

This book contains a little less French in it than the previous book in the “series”. The character Temperance Brennan also seems a lot more like the derivative television character that stars in “Bones.”  By that I mean, she is less emotive and more assertive. The story is split between Brennan’s job in Montreal and Brennan’s university job in Charlotte, NC. Much of the story takes place in Beaufort, SC. There is one romantic scene (no sex) involving the character Andy Ryan.

The interesting part of this book is that even if you know how the story is going to go, you still do not feel bored reading along. I was able to guess pretty early on what was going on with Brennan’s sister and the murders that she was investigating. I was not able to guess about the investigation of the nun which started the book, but it wasn’t all that interesting when I did find out at the end of the book. There were some pretty gory parts – babies had been killed. Most people will avoid this book based on that and I cannot say that I blame them. The main problem with the book is that there are a lot of murders. Well, not murders, but actually just dead bodies. At least 12 of them, I think. And while the heavy body count fits with the storyline, I admit that once in awhile I lost track of who the heck each body was etc. Mainly, the bodies are female and around the same age. All kinds of female names and talk of bones. It gets a little too much. Was this Anna? Or was it Kathryn? No! It must have been Carole. Sheesh!

Nevertheless, its a fun read. I like Reichs’ writing style well-enough. Temperance Brennan had a bit more attitude in this novel, which I appreciated. Don’t worry, at one point Brennan does still break down and have a crying fit. (She actually has two, but one is justified – she thought someone killed her cat! Thankfully, Birdie is fine!)

There is a rather long phone discussion between Brennan and another scientist regarding the role of insects and time of death. If you are interested in this sort of thing, larvae and flies and maggots, then this section is probably a lot more engrossing [sic] than if you are reading while eating a pizza. Nevertheless, I do appreciate a little of the “science” in the book. It makes it not seem quite so pulpy. [sic]

3 stars

Deja Dead

deja-deadI finished Kathy Reich’s Deja Dead.  It was the first book she’s written, and involves the character Temperance Brennan.  Brennan is also the star character of the TV show “Bones,” but the character in the novel and in the TV series are entirely different. Their only similarity is that they are both forensic scientists.

It was written in 1997.  The quick synopsis:  In the year since Temperance Brennan left behind a shaky marriage in NorthCarolina, work has often preempted her weekend plans to explore Quebec. When a female corpse is discovered meticulously dismembered and stashed in trash bags, Tempe detects an alarming pattern — and she plunges into a harrowing search for a killer. But her investigation is about to place those closest to her — her best friend and her own daughter — in mortal danger.

Reichs has a different-from-the-norm writing style that is fairly engaging. She’s easy to read because of it. I am not sure what to call it, but it involves short, clip phrases, dry wit, etc.  Some reviews I read took issue with this. Its not so bad, once you get used to it. The story is told in the first-person from Brennan’s perspective, so the dry wit seems to come from her. As a character, this Brennan is not the fantastique character in the TV series, but is still an interesting and curious character. Brennan is a Southerner who moves north to French-speaking Montreal to work in a facility there.

Reviews also complained about the use of French in the book – that it takes place in Montreal, the characters naturally would be speaking both English and French, but why is there so much French in the book itself?  People who wrote reviews like this are whiners.  The French is easily available via context, and frankly, most of the words are common usage anyway. It adds a definite Montreal flavor to the story, which I appreciated.

There are a lot of characters in the book. At first I felt the main character was going to be Brennan and Sgt. Luc Claudel. However, in the middle of the book or so, I began to see less of Claudel and more of Ryan.  Then Brennan’s friend Gabby takes up a few chapters, and I thought Gabby was going to be a major focus…. alas, the supporting characters are all jumbled together – none takes THE lead. There are probably a few too many characters in the book – too much for the author to properly handle. The murders in the book are gruesome and gory. (To be expected, of course.) They are described with some detail and are a bizarre enough to make the reader wonder if Reichs was trying to be over-the-top crazy with the murders.

I thought the killer was someone different than it turned out to be. There was a false clue in the story (probably on purpose) that I suspected. The ending isn’t all that satisfying, but first novels rarely are and these are just pulp fiction descendants. I would read Reichs again (just not directly after having eaten.)

3 stars