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MONDAY MOURNING


By Kathy Reichs

Scribner, June 2004
ISBN: 0-7432-3347-6

Reviewed by Cherie Jung

MONDAY MOURNING is the seventh book featuring forensic anthropologist Temperance Brennan. And much as I usually complain about how quickly series characters become stale these days, this is one of three or four series that are so well written as to keep not only my attention and enjoyment level high, but keep me haunting the bookstores until the next new installment in the series is finally published. It's amazing how long a year can be when you desperately want to read more adventures and cases from a favorite sleuth and a favorite writer. Whew! Is that a run-on sentence? Never mind.

Dr. Kathy Reichs writes what she knows, as the oft quoted adage goes. She is a forensic anthropologist, like her fictional character. And, like her fictional character, divides her time between the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, State of North Carolina, and the Laboratoire de Sciences Judiciaires et de Medecine Legale for the province of Quebec, Canada. "Ripped from the headlines" also aptly applies as Reichs devises crimes based, in part, on her own cases and experiences. Each book explores how a different facet of science unravels a case and leads investigators to the criminal. In MONDAY MOURNING, the discovery of three skeletons in the basement of a pizza parlor requires scientific techniques to determine, first of all, if the bones are fresh or have been buried there for centuries. Once the age of the bones is determined, more tests are needed to find out who the victims were and where they were from. Is it a case of murder, or something else?

In addition to the crime and the science, Reichs rounds out Tempe's life with an inconvenient house guest and a frustrating, for Tempe, on-again, off-again romantic entanglement with the dashing Detective Andrew Ryan. Here again, I must compliment Reichs on getting things "just right." The friends, the cops, the recurring characters, and the sexy detective are interwoven into the plot smoothly, without detracting from the crime solving. Reichs achieves a balance that other writers should emulate. Reichs is a gifted storyteller and knows how to balance the many aspects of a story in such a way as to always draw the reader into the turmoil and danger. No innocent bystanders here. The reader is along for whatever Tempe gets herself into.

If you like Patricia Cornwell (or did at one time), and/or you like Tess Gerritsen and haven't yet read any Kathy Reichs, do yourself a favor and pick one up soon. Unlike some series, you can start anywhere. Each book stands alone quite nicely. If you have the time and patience to start at the beginning, and read your way through the books in order, you'll get a slightly better sense of what has gone on in Tempe's life and career, but as I said, Reichs handles the series so well, that even if you begin with MONDAY MOURNING and pick up other books in the series out of order, you won't be lost or feel frustrated with the characters. And if you've kept up with the series, then it will feel just like you've reconnected with a friend.

(Hint: If you really want to do yourself a favor, you'll pick up copies of all seven books and save yourself the trauma of purchasing only one book and reading the last page at some wee hour in the morning before the bookstores re-open...)

Other titles in this series include: DEJA DEAD, DEATH DU JOUR, DEADLY DECISIONS, FATAL VOYAGE, GRAVE SECRETS, and BARE BONES.

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