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Mississippi Valley Archaeology Center

Monday Mourning by Kathy Reichs

August 1, 2004

Scribner, New York
2004 (hc)

I found Kathy Reichs’ previous bestseller, Bare Bones, to be a confusing and rather ill matched hodgepodge of coincidences and happenstances in search of a plot. I had enjoyed her previous five Temperance Brennan mysteries so much that was almost reluctant to read her latest entry, Monday Mourning, for fear that she had, in fact, lost her touch. I quickly found my fears to be groundless. Monday Mourning is once again Kathy Reichs at her best!

The novel opens with Tempe Brennan, professor of forensic anthropology at the University of North Carolina-Charlotte and forensic anthropologist for the province of Quebec, excavating the skeletal remains of what appear to be three young women left in the basement of a pizza parlor. It’s a bone-chilling Monday morning in a frigid Montreal and Tempe finds herself caught in a maze of intrigue and emotions as she vows to discover the secrets buried with these lost girls.

There are three elements to the Brennan mysteries that I have come to expect and Monday Mourning delivers on all three: First is insight into the science of forensic anthropology. Kathy Reichs has proved to be a master of describing and explaining very complex processes and procedures in terms comprehensible to the layperson; in this case her explanations of carbon-14 dating and strontium-87 analysis as they pertain to recent corpses are wonderfully done.

Second, I’ve come to expect complex plots, interesting and complicated characters both central and tangential to the plot, and a completely unanticipated revelation of “whodunit” at the denouement.

Third, the truly great Tempe Brennan mysteries will have an action sequence that puts the heroine in harm’s way and almost literally leaves the reader gasping for air. More often than not these sequences, so eloquently described by Kathy Reichs, will put Tempe in a deadly and claustrophobic situation.

Monday Mourning delivers on all three of these elements and this satisfying entry in the Tempe Brennan series makes me anxiously anticipate the next volume a year from now.