In DEJA DEAD, Kathy Reichs fashions her main character, Dr.
Temperance Brennan, after herself. Upon reading a bit about the
author, I learned that Reichs is a forensic anthropologist for the
Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, State of North Carolina, and
for the Laboratoire de Sciences Judiciaires et de Médecine
Légale for the province of Quebec. Coincidentally, so is Dr.
Brennan. Reichs is an anthropology professor, so is Brennan. These
parallels have helped her create both a believable character and an
interesting and exciting story.
DEJA DEAD begins with Dr. Tempe Brennan planning a weekend of
sightseeing around Montreal. Before she has a chance to leave,
however, a body is discovered that she must examine. It was
discovered on the same site where several historical burials had
been found in the past. Dr. Brennan is sent to determine if this is
an archaeological case, or a case for the coroner's
City workers have discovered the torso of the victim in a plastic
garbage bag with a plunger protruding from the pelvic region. The
head and limbs are missing but subsequently found in similar
garbage bags in the same area.
As a forensic anthropologist, Dr. Brennan studies the bones of the
victim in an effort to determine details and probable cause of
death. In this particular case, the body is so badly decomposed
that there is not much left to examine.
The details she gleans from what seems to be such a small amount of
evidence are astounding. Brennan is able to establish the
approximate age of the victim, sex, and --- with the dental records
and missing person reports filed --- the identity of the victim.
She is also able to determine the instrument used to cut up the
Tempe begins to recall other murders with similar details ---
dismemberment, similar method of disposal. She begins to think
there may be a serial killer in Montreal. But no one in the police
department will consider this theory.
Inspector Luc Claudel, homicide detective with the Montreal Urban
Community Police, is one of Brennan's biggest obstacles. Regardless
of her steadfast belief that this case is related to other unsolved
cases and perpetrated by the same individual, he refuses to
entertain this thought. He, as well as other detectives on the
case, find no motive to relate the murders to one another. Still,
Tempe continues to investigate on her own, risking her job in the
process as she infuriates Claudel.
Complicating matters further is Tempe's friend Gabby. She and Tempe
were friends in school, both anthropology majors. While Tempe
focused on physical anthropology, Gabby went along the cultural
research path. She is now studying the hooker subculture in
Montreal and, from all indications, has gotten involved in
During a dinner date, she alludes to some fear in her work and
then, after having no contact for nearly three weeks, she calls
Tempe --- frightened. Gabby has always been a bit unreliable, so
Tempe doesn't put much thought into it. When Gabby drops out of
sight yet again, she is more annoyed than worried. After all, she
has her own troubles in finding the link between the murder
victims. If Gabby is going to play games, Tempe isn't going to
worry about it. This attitude will return to haunt her.
As details pile up confirming the existence of a serial killer, the
police finally take Tempe seriously and form a task force to
capture the killer. Events escalate at this point until the final
DEJA DEAD had me completely in its grip through the final pages.
Once I reached the final third of the novel, you couldn't have
pried it from my hands. I had to know how Tempe would fare. I had
to know all of the details leading right up to that final moment
when the killer is found.
Although some readers may feel compelled to compare Reichs to
Patricia Cornwell, I found Reichs' writing more eloquent. She
spends more time describing and developing details than Cornwell
does. I felt more suspense during the climax in Reichs' book than I
have with Cornwell's books --- because of the great detail Reichs
provides. Everything fit together and built upon the next event to
create a thrilling conclusion.
When considering DEJA DEAD, don't dismiss it as a Cornwell-clone.
You won't want to miss out on an excellent novel and wonderful new
heroine in Dr. Tempe Brennan.
-- Reviewed by Colette Engel