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From Barnes & NobleThe Barnes & Noble Review
Who woulda thunk it.
While there have been serial killer novels in various forms for at least a century, this particular type of tale didn't formalize into a subgenre until Shane Stevens, Lawrence Sanders, Thomas Harris, and Patricia Cornwell defined it as a set of conventions and story patterns. Harris and Cornwell added the forensics. Sort of what Erle Stanley Gardner did with the legal mystery back in the '30s. Because Cornwell now leads the pack, everybody who works in anything remotely like the serial killer form is compared to her. She has her fans; she has her detractors.
Kathy Reichs's first novel, Deja Dead , was so successful that the Cornwell comparison was inevitable and, in at least a few ways, fair. What impels them novels is science, forensic science, and what seems to win their readers is the particular tone the forensics lend the narrative. The knowing clinical detail seems to excite the readers as much as the human aspects of the story.
You can decide for yourself which writer you like better, Cornwell or Reichs. Hell, nothing wrong with liking them both. Comparisons and competitions get tiresome after a while.
As for my report on the new Reichs novel, Death du Jour — you knew I'd get around to it eventually, didn't you? — I found it a skillfully done mystery, long on mood and character. Reichs has a solid grasp of how to start and end a scene, paying it off with maximum effect so you'll be sure not to put the book down. If she hasn't studied her Ed McBain (the all-time champ of starting and ending scenes), I'd be surprised.
She is also able to juggle subplots extremely well. The A plot here concerns Temperance Brennan (a Romance novel name I'll never warm to) exhuming the remains of Sister Elisabeth Nicolet, who was buried in 1888, a nun the church may make a saint. When the bones are finally located, Brennan suspects that the nun did not die naturally. The B story line involves a nasty arson case. And story line C brings in Brennan's sister, a missing student, and...I'm getting confused just retyping my notes here. The amazing thing is, you don't see any of the seams in this book. Reichs is a first-rate plotter. She pulls off some very intricate storytelling with ease.
She's also a good writer. There's a finished, polished feel to her sentences, and a real feel for place in her descriptions. She enjoys writing and has respect for it. There's nothing slapdash here. I haven't yet read her first novel. But if it's half as good as this one, I can see what all the fuss was about.
— Ed Gorman