Select one of the keywords
Death Du Jour    by Kathy Reichs order for
Death Du Jour
by Kathy Reichs
Order:  USA  Can
Pocket, 2000 (1999)
Hardcover, Paperback, Audio

Read an Excerpt

* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Death Du Jour (French for Death of the Day ) follows Deja Dead in a series about Dr. Tempe Brennan. She shuttles between jobs as director of forensic anthropology for Quebec and university lecturer in Charlotte, North Carolina. In Tempe, Reich gives us a sympathetic and well developed character who loves her cat Birdie, gets on well with her ex, hesitates about a new relationship, and is embarrassed by her flamboyant sister. She has doubts about her work and seeks a break from it, in contrast to some of the more obsessive heroines that this genre presents to us.

The story starts with and regularly returns to a historical mystery - Dr. Brennan has been asked to assist with the exhumation and analysis of the body of Sister Elisabeth Nicolet who died in 1888 and has been proposed for beatification. First she has to find the body. That takes some digging, and Elisabeth uncovered is not quite as expected.

The main plot revolves around a cult similar to the Solar Temple, once active in Quebec and responsible for horrendous murders of its members. The initial deaths in Death Du Jour are of an old woman and a family with twin children, and involve arson. There are links to an odd Professor of Religious Studies and to students at McGill University in Montreal. The plots connect when one of the nuns associated with the Sister Elisabeth investigation asks for Tempe's help in locating a missing student niece.

As the body count mounts, it becomes a race with Tempe and Detective Ryan on one side, and a dangerous momentum in the cult's development on the other (background information on cults is woven in well). People are not what they seem and those close to Dr. Brennan are unlikely to come through unscathed. For her grand finale, Reich throws in the Quebec ice storm of 1998, which allows her to handle the denouement at Ange-Gardien with minimal official involvement.

The obvious comparison has often been made between this series and Patricia Cornwell's saga of Chief Medical Examiner Kay Scarpetta. The similarity is in the underlying forensic detail that adds interest to both series (Death Du Jour added entomology and primate anthropology to its technical repertoire this time). The differences lie in characterization and emphasis. Scarpetta is an obsessed and glamorous high-flyer, hob-nobbing with the FBI and helicoptering around the continent. Brennan is more balanced, and indeed all of Reich's characters are both appealing and credible. Tempe is a real person who has women friends and a loving relationship with her daughter, versus the fraught one between Cornwell's two superwomen Kay and Lucy.

While some will still prefer the hard-edged and brilliant Scarpetta (and I continue to enjoy her exploits against the latest serial killer), Reich in Death Du Jour provides a well plotted, thoughtful, informative and ultimately more satisfying read.

Note: Opinions expressed in reviews and articles on this site are those of the author(s) and not necessarily those of BookLoons.

Find more Mystery books on our Shelves or in our book Reviews