Sunday, October 28, 2012

Death du Jour, by Kathy Reichs

After my foray into The Casual Vacancy, I decide the best way to get my reading feet underneath me again was with some pop-lit, so I turned to Death du Jour, by Kathy Reichs for a little relaxation.  And, it worked.

Death du Jour is the first (so says the interwebs, I got a feeling it’s at least the second) book in Reichs’ Temperance Brennan series.  Brennan is a top-notch anthropologist who splits her time between North Carolina and Montreal, working as both an academic and a medical examiner.  Brennan is highly sought after, and extremely skilled.  Death du Jour follows Brennan as she investigates a series of gruesome murders/unexplained occurrences that always seem to drop into her lap.  The plot is good and is always moving forward with little lags or unbelievabilities (other than the way Brennan manages to stumble across so many bodies).

The characters are engaging and interesting.  Brennan is likable and down to earth in her assessment and reaction to situations; the detective she works with/likes, Andy Ryan, can be a bit pompous (which I don’t think was Reichs’ goal) but he’s an okay guy; Brennan’s sister, Harry, is a fucking mess in a way that’s recognizable to anyone with a similar person in their own lives; and the supporting characters are all well written and no one stands out as a major miss-step.

The only think I didn’t dig about the book from beginning to end was the feeling that I should hold a degree some sort of science-related field to understand what the hell Brennan was describing.  More than once, I found myself thinking of that old TV cop-show cliché “can I get that in English, doctor?” – and Ryan even asked something similar at one point.  While this devise can be played to great effect in a 44 minute television show, in a book, it just takes up extra time and page space that isn’t really needed.

What I did like was the setting – so often Canadian audiences are underserved, but this is one book/series(?) that should speak to Canadians because a large part of the action happens in Quebec.  If you’ve spent any time driving through la belle province, or in Montreal, then the scenery is familiar to you, and the observations that Reichs makes about her locations are added colour and connection to the story.  It’s a nice little twist to what I was expecting to be another by-the-books (pardon the pun) story about a cop investigating a murder.

The names Temperance Brennan and Kathy Reichs may be familiar to some of you – that’s because they are the inspiration for the Fox show Bones.  Now, how in the world Reichs’ Brennan got transformed into Emily Deschenel’s Brennan, I have no idea – on the show, Brennan is an almost unwatchable character with seemingly little humanity as she’s portrayed as far to book-smart to know or care about the plebes.  That dynamic always seems to fall apart at least once an episode to display the emotional side of the character, but there’s never any substantial character growth as she’s always back to her usually self by the start of the next episode.  Honestly though, it’s been a while since I watched, so this might have resolved itself (but, I doubt it, since Hart Hanson has helmed that show since the word go).  

I think Reichs made a huge mistake in selling the character rights to Fox – Bones kept me from reading the books for a long time because I thought they would be similar to the show.  Now that I know better, I’ll probably look out for them when Chapters has its buy 3 get the 4th free sale.

So, final verdict?  This is great beach-blanket reading.  It’s no Dennis Lehane, but it is pretty close to the Preston/Child series that I enjoyed.  For Canadian readers, it’s nice to finally have a story that we can relate too from a big-name author.  Finally, the books prove the point that literature is far superior to television; if you’re a Bones fan, I strongly recommend that you pick up Reichs’ book, and spend that hour every week reading – you’ll get a better plot and more believable characters, and fewer commercial breaks.

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