Death Du Jour by Kathy Reichs

December 23, 2009

death-du-jour Plot summary (with possible spoilers): Dr. Temperance Brennan is a forensic anthropologist who splits her time between teaching at the University of North Carolina-Charlotte and working as a coroner for the Montreal police department. She also has a penchant for getting embroiled in murder investigations, which is exactly what happens during her latest stint in Montreal.

The novel begins with Brennan unearthing the bones of a long-dead nun who is being considered for sainthood. She soon discovers that the bones have been moved and tampered with, which is puzzling because she can’t figure out who would have any motive to do such things. Brennan is then tasked with finding out if the bones she recovered even belong to Sister Elisabeth Nicolet in the first place.

While this is going on, Brennan is also called out to help recover bodies from a house fire in Montreal. Brennan learns that the victims in the fire might have been murdered, which brings Detective Andrew Ryan on the scene. There’s definitely a spark between these two, and Reichs fans the flames a bit more in this novel.

The rest of the book then follows both storylines, with Brennan and Ryan being smack-dab in the middle of the arson/murder investigation. The bigger picture involves cults, Brennan’s quirky sister Harry, and ties to South Carolina and Texas, but somehow Brennan and Ryan manage to muddle their way through to an answer.

Liked:

  • Brennan is a pretty likable lead. I started reading these novels because I’m a fan of the Bones television series, so I was a bit surprised to see that book Brennan is nothing at all like TV Brennan. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing. I’ve come to think of the characters as separate entities, so it’s ok now.
  • The mystery was pretty involving. I personally think cults are rather scary, so I was eager to see how that angle would play out. While I wish that Reichs had given more insight into the inner workings of the cult, I still think she handled that storyline well.
  • Brennan and Ryan are a couple I can root for. There was just enough of a love scene to keep the “shippers” interested, but Reichs wisely didn’t overload the novel with too many such interludes.

Disliked:

  • The coincidence fairy was working overtime in this novel. Between Brennan’s sister being involved in a cult, Sister Helena’s niece being involved in the exact same one, and the HQ for said cult to be near Brennan’s U.S. home? Well, that was stretching it just a tad too far. And don’t forget the dead bodies — connected to the case, mind you — turning up on the isolated monkey island. Uh huh.
  • I kind of lost track with whatever was happening with the original sainthood problem. I wonder why Reichs started there, only to drop that storyline and veer off to the cult thing. By the time the saint thread was resolved, I had lost interest completely.
  • I sometimes don’t like Brennan’s attitude, particularly when she’s being juvenile and jealous about Ryan. I mean, she basically assumed that he slept with her sister, which is pretty skeevy, but rather than just ask him directly, she fumed to herself and gave him nothing but attitude. It made me want to scream, “Grow up!” at her.
  • Remember when Brennan was attacked after leaving the bar alone on St. Patrick’s Day? Did Reichs ever explain who the attacker was or why Brennan was attacked? At first, I thought it had something to do with the case, but I don’t think Reichs went back and answered the question. Weird.

Rating:

While the basic mystery in Death Du Jour is actually decent, I couldn’t get past the way Reichs had to rely on coincidences to tie everything together and get her heroine to solve the case. Moreover, there were some pacing problems, with decidedly boring scenes scattered throughout the novel. Because of these issues, I can only give the book 3 stars out of 5.

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