Kathy Reichs

Books: Mystery

Tempe Brennan: Deja Dead (1997), Death Du Jour (1999), Deadly Decisions (1999), Fatal Voyage (2001), Grave Secrets (2002), Bare Bones (2003), Monday Mourning (2004), Cross Bones (2005), Break No Bones (2006), Bones to Ashes (2007), Devil Bones (2008)

Tempe Brennan

Deja Dead (1997)

deja_deadKathy Reichs was recommended to me by Ms Bookish, who (during my Great Book Giveaway) sent two later books in the series along for my grandmother. Reading those books piqued my interest, however, I really prefer to read a series in order if at all possible, so decided to pick up Deja Dead, the first book in the Temperace Brennan series.

After I started reading, I remember that at some point when I was a child, I decided what I wanted to be when I grew up was Quincy. But med school didn’t interest me in the slightest as I didn’t want to deal with living people, so that dream disappeared, to be forgotten for years.

Temperance Brennan does the stuff I wanted to do when I was little–figure out how people died and what or who killed them. And she isn’t a doctor, she’s a forensic anthropologist. Alas, at this late date I discover my dream job. Of course, in retrospect I don’t have the patience or dedication for be a forensic anthropologist, but it’s still cool to discover a name for what I thought would be an awesome job when I was in elementary school.

So Temperence (or Tempe) is a forensic anthropologist for the Montreal police (the title is more complicated than that, but this is close enough). She’s hoping to get away for the weekend, when a call comes in that some bones have been discovered, so she heads out to determine if the bones are human or animal, and if they are human, if they are ancient bones or part of a murder.

Her plans for the weekend are dashed when the immediately realize she’s looking at a murdered body. But over the months, things get worse for her, as she comes to believe they’re looking at a serial killer, but can’t find the proof to convince her co-workers.

First, this did read like a first book. But that’s not a bad thing. After all, everyone has to start somewhere, and I knew I was reading a first book when I started it. But it did mean there were a couple of weaknesses. I had a hard time with the sense of passing time. The case was a slow moving on, one the sense of time passing wasn’t always clearly made. But in the grand scheme of things, that’s not a big deal.

Several things she did I really liked: because much of the book read like a thriller, every time Tempe left the house I was expecting something bad to happen to her. Yes, the bad things did happen, but not always when I was expecting them. Yes, she made stupid choices, but she tried to be as safe as possible when she was doing things that weren’t safe or bordered on stupid. So very little TSTLS (too stupid to live syndrome).

And there were lots of twists and turns, which were interesting and unexpected. I’m always fond of the unexpected, as long as it makes sense. They felt like the way a real mystery or case would unravel, with mistakes an errors made by everyone.

So I’ve ordered the next book in the series, and eagerly await not just the next story, but also to see how the writing evolves

Rating: 7/10

Death Du Jour (1999)

death_du_jourAt the start of Death Du Jour Tempe Brennan finds herself searching for the dirt floor of a church for the bones of a woman who may or may not be a saint. She’s enjoying the historical archeology as a change from the murders, suicides and accidental deaths she normally sees over the course of her work on Montreal.

Unfortunately for Tempe, that welcome distraction is soon interrupted by the search of the scene of a brutal house fire. The intensity of the fire made it likely that anyone left alive inside would need to be recognized by their bones. Add to that a surprise visit from her flighty sister, and Tempe’s week in Montreal becomes far more complicated than she had expected.

There are many things I liked about Death Du Jour, and a couple things I took issue with. As with the previous book, this second book had good writing, strong characters, and good storytelling. All three made Death Du Jour a fast an enjoyable read.

One thing, however, particularly bothered me.


"It’s an amazing coincidence, isn’t it?"

Yes, yes it was. And I was rather bothered by the sheer amount of coincidence.

I don’t discount her interest and involvement in the cases, but between the NC and Montreal connection AND Tempe’s sisters involvement, I was starting to have trouble suspending belief. But I went with it, because the story was good, and sometimes–just occasionally–things that strange really do happen. But I’d hate for the author to make a habit of it.

I also could have done without the dramatic ending. It’s exciting and all, but makes the story feel less believable to me.  


Despite those that weakness, however, I really did enjoy the story, and look forward to the next story.

OH. There were some boink-like descriptions. Just so you know.

Rating: 7/10

Deadly Decisions (1999)

deadly_decisionsTempe is finishing her final exams and teaching her workshop at Quantico when she receives a call from Montreal asking her to come back to work early, as they received a case requiring her expertise. These bombing victims and the death of a nine year old girl caught in the crossfire lead Tempe to become involved in the investigation of biker gangs operating in Montreal.

Tempe is also trying to figure out her relationship with Detective Andrew Ryan, a situation that becomes almost immediately more complex.

And into the middle of this involvement drops Tempe’s nephew, Kit. He’s 19, at loose ends, and once again arguing with his father, so he crashes with his favorite aunt.

As usual there’s lost of interesting scientific and forensic stuff. This time the new bit was blood spatter. Pretty neat.

I still have issues with some of the "coincidences" that occur, but the books are otherwise fascinating and enjoyable to I just place those coincidences into my suspension of disbelief bin and get on with the story.

These books are written so you should easily be able to start anywhere in the series without having read the previous books.

Rating: 7/10

Fatal Voyage (2001)

fatal_voyageThis time Tempe finds herself in the North Carolina woods helping with the recovery of a plane crash.

The forensics this time were about recovering bodies from a terrible accident, and the procedures used not only in the chain of evidence, but also to put the remains of the victims together. Also, we got a brief look at the analysis that can help determine whether a soil was near a decomposing corpse.

I really liked the mystery this time. I’m resigned to the fact that Tempe is going to keep getting herself into trouble, so am ignoring that for the mysteries and this one was good.

SPOILER (rot 13)

I particularly liked how the events mingled and seemed related by actually were not. It seemed reasonable that body parts would be assumed to be part of the plane crash, but as they attempted to determine who the foot belonged to, things became more and more complex.

I also liked how the stonewalling worked. I expected from the start the governor was involved in something dirty, but I didn’t expect it to expand beyond him. I also liked how the members of the community knew something was wrong in the area, and as they were unable to define the problem, blamed it on Satan and evil.

I was also glad to see Tempe finally deal with her relationship with her ex-husband–even if it did take a woman answering the phone to make her realize that decision.


As with the previous books, you should be able to read Fatal Voyage without having read the previous books in the series. I’m definitely enjoying this series, both the forensic science and the mystery.

Rating: 7/10

Grave Secrets (2002)

grave_secrets_reichsTempe is is Guatemala working to recovery the bodies of "the Disappeared" who were kidnapped and/or killed during the Guatemalan civil war. Not only is the work itself depressing, but two of her co-workers are attacked, and upon discovering her previous work, ask her to assist in the recovery of a body believed to be a teenage girl.

Although all of the Tempe Brennan books are dark to some degree, Grave Secrets is darker and more depressing because of the nature of the work Tempe was doing in Guatemala–the recovery of mass graves of women and children. However, I appreciated the seriousness and her willingness to write about such are dark and horrible subject.

Of course the recovery work is only the background for the main murders and mystery, and the mystery in Grave Secrets was very good. I think this may be the strongest book in the series so far.

About the only thing that bothered me was Tempe’s relationship with Andrew Ryan. Every book seems to end with her making a decision to involve herself with Ryan, and then at the start of the next book she’s back to confusion and not knowing what the heck she’s doing. Grrr…

I get the feeling that Kathy Reichs simply likes Tempe being single, which is understandable, but after a reading binge on Tempe books, I’m getting frustrated by her vacillation.

Aside from that, this was an excellent book, and perhaps one of the strongest books in the series so far. I liked the seriousness of addressing the Guatemalan Disappeared, and I thought the mystery was very well done.

You should also be able to read Grave Secrets without having read any of the previous books in the series.

Rating: 8/10

Bare Bones (2003)

bare_bonesThe story starts with Tempe identifying bones found in a wood stove as those of a newborn, and taking upon herself the unfortunate task of going to identify the grandfather of the probable identity of child.

Although Tempe is hoping to leave for her long delayed vacation with Andrew Ryan (finally she’s stopped vacillating about Ryan!) but the discovery of another set of bones sets those plans awry.

As usual, the mystery was complex and interesting, and Tempe works with the police to find the killer. The weakest part of the stories for me is the amount of danger that Tempe keeps getting herself into. Kathy Reichs does a good job of supplying the reasons for Tempe to end up in danger, but it does lead you to think that at the very least, Tempe is one of the most unlucky women on the planet.

I particularly liked the twists of identifying one of the corpses as Melungeon. I actually know about the Melungeons, but was interested in the details Kathy Reichs discussed. And to be honest, that one of my favorite parts of this series, the science she discusses and explains over the course of every book. My guess is that Kathy Reichs was a very good teacher, as she manages to make her explanations clear and concise and correct.

There was a big negative about this book, and that was the last chapter, which felt like a tacked on rant. I really could have done without that. I thought the subject was covered very well in the story, and didn’t need the added lecture at the end.

If you have not read a Tempe Brennan book before you should be able to start here without any difficulty.

Rating: 7/10

Monday Mourning (2004)

monday_mourningTempe is back in Montreal, and back to having problems with Andrew Ryan. (sigh)

Bones are discovered under a pizza parlor, and although Tempe thinks they may be recent, she’ll have to prove they aren’t a century old before the police will investigate how three very young women ended up buried in a basement, on atop the other. Tempe’s feeling that the bones are from more recent murders is bolstered by a phone call from an elderly woman wanting to tell her something she saw happening at the restaurant.

First, I sincerely hope that this will be the end of the issues between Tempe and Ryan. I am sorely tired of the melodrama. Every book ends with things going well, and then the following books starts with confusion and problems. There’s plenty of intrigue with the mysteries, thank you.

Second, although the mystery was good, there were a couple times when I thought Tempe was being oblivious. It may have been the way things were set up, but I had a definite moment of, "Oh you really aren’t going to… she did. Of course she did," that was a bit frustrating.

A warning, this mystery was rather disturbing. Not that murder mysteries aren’t disturbing in general, but some of the details in this story were particularly distressing. So you may want to be aware of that when reading this book.

You should easily be able to read this book if you haven’t read previous books in the series, although I don’t think this is the strongest book in the series, and am not sure I’d recommend starting here.

Rating: 7/10

Cross Bones (2005)

cross_bonesThere’s been a strange convergence of events that Cross Bones seems to have finished off. I finished reading A Short History of Myth and write my review, and then a group of friends starts discussing Easter and the events and the celebration and the meaning etc.

Then I read the next Kathy Reichs book, where Temperance Brennan gets pulled into a mystery involving bones that may have been found in Jerusalem and may date back to the first century.

Tempe is asked to assist in the autopsy of a shooting victim found in a closet. The wounds had been disturbed by animals, so Tempe was needed to help determine whether the shooting was a suicide or murder. Meanwhile, Tempe is given a photograph that may be somehow linked to the man’s death, which starts off a chain of events that leads her to Jerusalem.

What I particularly liked about Cross Bones is that the archeological events Tempe is drawn into come directly from the experiences of a friend of Kathy Reichs. Sometimes the truth truly is stranger than fiction, and knowing that the bones of this story come from actual events made me like this story better than I might have otherwise.

One thing about this book I strongly dislike–it’s the new "tall" mass market paperback. I hate it. Who thought this format up, and can I give them a swift kick in the shins? The next two books in the series are the same format, and I’m not particularly looking forward to the physical experience of reading these books–the taller format makes it more difficult than usual for me to hold the book open, which hurts my hands more than normal. So a boo hiss to Pocket Star Books for thinking this is a good idea.

Rating: 7/10

Break No Bones (2006)

break_no_bonesTempe Brennan is teaching a special summer anthropology course and running a dig in Charleston, South Carolina when her students discover bones that are not ancient, but are instead relatively fresh–a corpse that’s appeared in the last decade instead of the last millennium.

Things get even more complex when the coroner–who is a friend–asks Tempe to help with the autopsy as the forensic anthropologist. Even worse, Tempe’s ex-husband is headed to town for a case he’s working on.

First and foremost: Good GRIEF is this woman EVER going to get her love life settled?! GAH! I’m really tired of her relationship with Andrew Ryan–not because of him, but because she can’t make up her freaking mind. ENOUGH ALREADY! Poo or get off the pot already!


OK. Moving right along to the rest of the book.

Aside from her abysmal love life, I really like Tempe and I really like these mysteries. There were plenty of twists and turns, and I thought the thread with Emma was very well done. I like how things developed, not just how Tempe was convinced to stay in town and help with the bodies, but how their relationship developed.

If only we could have gotten past the whole Ryan versus Pete bit.

The forensics were also interesting, and although we didn’t get much of a new lesson in dead people this book, I do like the subjects she wanders into with her books. (I shan’t tell you what that subject is, since that would give away the story.)

So the story was good, but would have been a lot better without the ridiculous love triangle. Gag.

Rating: 7/10

Bones to Ashes (2007)

bones_to_ashesTempe Brennan is back in Montreal for the summer. But almost as soon as arrives she’s called about a case waiting for her.

First things first, I have had it with Tempe and Ryan. Really, I would just as soon not read another word about the relationship.

Aside from that niggling little detail, however, I quite liked Bones to Ashes. I enjoyed the complexities of the various mysteries that ran through the story, and although I’m not that fond of Harry, it’s good to see one stable relationship in Tempe’s life.

If you have not read a previous Tempe Brennan book, you should be fine jumping in the middle of the series here. In fact, you’ll probably be far less annoyed at Tempe and her relationship with Ryan than I am at this point.

But aside from Tempe and Ryan, I’m looking forward to the next Tempe Book.

Rating: 7/10

Devil Bones (2008)

devil_bonesTempe is back in Charlotte NC, teaching and working for the local medical examiner. The discovery of a human skull in the basement of a house being renovated leads to rumors about satanic cults. Unfortunately for everyone involved, events spiral out of control from there.

First things first. I am beginning to feel like the Ryan Tempe saga WILL NEVER END. The only good thing I have to say on that front is that I didn’t have to listen to endless descriptions of how good looking Ryan is this book. Unfortunately, that’s the only good thing I have to say about it.

I’m beginning to think they deserve each other, since neither of them seems to have an ability to commit. Or even have a clue what they really want, for that matter.


Regarding the mystery, it was interesting, though not her best.

There was, however, one thing I particularly liked.


I thought the Tempe going on a bender and the consequences thereof was very well done. She royally screwed up, and she paid the consequences for it. Her fall was completely unexpected, yet also completely understandable.

About the only complaint I have is that she didn’t tell Ryan about her downfall. They were being all honest and shit, yet she managed to keep that one secret? No wonder they can’t sort their relationship out. Additionally, her ability to admit her bender to Ryan didn’t seem to bode well for her future sobriety.

I’m not saying I see the story going in that direction in the future, I’m just saying that if Tempe was a real person, I’d be worried about her continued sobriety.


So although the story was in some ways disappointing, I did like other parts very well.

But I’m really sick of her inability to make up her mind about her love life.

Rating: 6/10