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Mississippi Valley Archaeology Center

Fatal Voyage by Kathy Reichs

September 1, 2001

Scribner, New York
July 2001

In her first novel, Deja Dead, Kathy Reichs introduced the mystery-reading public to her heroine and protagonist, Dr. Temperance Brennan, and to herself!  For Brennan is a fictional professor anthropology at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte and “moonlights” as a consulting forensic anthropologist for the Laboratoire de Sciences Judiciares et de Medecine Legale for Quebec.  Coincidentally, Dr. Kathy Reichs is a professor of anthropology at UNC-Charlotte and consults for the same Quebec forensic laboratory.  She is also forensic anthropologist for the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner for the State of North Carolina, as well as one of fifty forensic anthropologists certified by the American Board of Forensic Anthropology and is on the Executive Committee of the Board of Directors of the American Academy of Forensic Sciences.  In other words, she knows what she’s writing about and she does write a mean mystery!

In this fourth Temperance Brennan novel, the reader is introduced in very graphic detail to the investigatory methodologies and procedures that follow an airplane crash.  Tempe Brennan is called in to aid in the recovery and identification of victims at a crash site in rural North Carolina.  The descriptions are not for the faint of heart or the squeamish, but they are thoroughly fascinating. Not long into the investigation, questions begin to surface regarding the nature of the crash itself—was it an accident or was it sabotage, and if the latter, was it because of the presence of a certain passenger or passengers on the flight?  The mystery deepens as Tempe Brennan also discovers within the crash context a body part that does not seem to belong to any of the crash victims!  Kathy Reichs strews red herrings all over the landscape as her heroine doggedly searches for answers to this horrific disaster, risking both her career and her very life in the pursuit of the truth.

It should be obvious by now that I am a big fan of Kathy Reichs and her gritty heroine.  All four of the Tempe Brennan mysteries are taut, gut-wrenching thrillers that will likely keep the reader reading until late into the night.  I am greatly impressed with Dr. Reich’s ability to spin a thrilling tale, but I also feel at the end of a Tempe Brennan novel that I’ve learned a great deal, not only about the science of forensic anthropology, but also about its practitioners.