Deja Dead
by Kathy Reich

Scribner: 1997
$24.00, 416pp.
ISBN: 0-684-84117-7

Review by Harriet Klausner

Southerner Temperance Brennan works for the Laboratoire de Medecine Legale in Montreal as a forensic pathologist. Her job is to assist the gendarmes in identifying the bodies of murder victims too mutilated or decomposed to be recognized by normal police methods. When a female corpse is found, mutilated and stuffed in garbage bags, Tempe fixates on a similar case. She believes that the two murders were committed by the same person, a sadistic serial killer who will strike again very soon.

The problem Tempe encounters is that none of the police officers assigned to the current case take her theories seriously. Sergeant Luc Claudiel turns into her most obstinate obstacle as he wants her off the case so that the true experts can solve it unimpeded by "amateurs". As more bodies are uncovered and evidence piles up linking the crimes to one demented soul, a task force is formed to ferret out the sociopath into the open. The killer has now focused his attention on Tempe, seeing her as the only opponent needing elimination before she ruins his master plan. As the murderer becomes more desperate and, in reaction, Tempe turns more determined, it becomes inevitable that a confrontation is coming.

There is a certain similarity between Patricia Cornwell's Kay Scarpetta and Kathy Reich's Temperance Brennan even though the latter does not seem as strong a person as the former. She gets the job done through sheer persistence as opposed to a dominant overpowering personality. She is softer and more vulnerable than Scarpetta yet paradoxically she is more appealing.

The pace is fast with the gritty forensic details so horrific that they become hypnotically compelling. The secondary characters are unusual enough to provide the tale with a very distinctive flavoring. Overall, the novel is well worth reading, though the book seems to fall short of the media hype, leaving, at least this reviewer, feel a bit short changed. Still, Kathy Reich definitely has the talent to reach the top.

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