Fatal Voyage, by Kathy Reichs

>> Monday, November 28, 2005

I got hold of Fatal Voyage (excerpt), by Kathy Reichs almost by accident. I'd read about the next book in the series (Grave Secrets) somewhere and I thought it sounded interesting: a forensic anthropologist working on identifying the remains in a mass grave in Guatemala.

So I bought it and sent it to my friend's house to await the departure of my latest M-Bag. When it arrived, my friend emailed me to tell me she had two more in the series she could send me if I wanted, so I thought: why not?

Oh, and BTW, this book is # 4 in the Temperance Brennan series

Temperance Brennan hears the news on her car radio. An Air TransSouth flight has gone down in the mountains of western North Carolina, taking with it eighty-eight passengers and crew. As a forensic anthropologist and a member of the regional DMORT team, Tempe rushes to the scene to assist in body recovery and identification.

Tempe joins colleagues from the FBI, the NTSB, and other agencies to search for explanations. Was the plane brought down by a bomb, an insurance plot, a political assassination, or simple mechanical failure? And what about the prisoner on the plane who was being extradited to Canada? Did someone want him silenced forever?

Even more puzzling for Tempe is a disembodied foot found near the debris field. Tempe's microscopic analysis suggests it could not have belonged to any passenger. Whose foot is it, and where is the rest of the body? And what about the disturbing evidence Tempe discovers in the soil outside a remote mountain enclave? What secrets lie hidden there, and why are certain people eager to stop Tempe's investigation? Is she learning too much? Coming too close?
I enjoyed this surprisingly well, considering the high body count and the incredibly gory gruesomeness. It's just that both Tempe Brennan's work in general and this case in particular are so fascinating! And the author obviously knows her stuff (obviously, given her bio), and every single detail rings true. A B.

Tempe is a very interesting character in her own right. While the focus here is on the case she's working on (and later, trying to solve in spite of her boss' forbidding her to work on it), we never lose sight of the fact that Tempe has a life outside of her job and that this life needs some tending, too. And a very complicated, interesting life it is. I look forward to reading more and finding out what happens with Tempe and her daughter, her estranged husband and her new love interest.

As for the case itself, it really was one big head-scratcher. It was only about half-way through the book that I began to have an inkling of what might be going on, and especially what the relationship between the plane crash and that mysterious foot might be.

I think it was my love of romance novels that gave me a very good idea of what might have been going on in that creepy cabin. There's a certain historical personage who's mentioned a couple of times, and who every reader of historical romance will recognize immediately, even while the characters here don't. Of course, in one of those mentions, it was actually a bit problematic that the character doing the mentioning didn't . I really don't want to give any spoilers here, but Tempe's friend who's telling her about this somehow visits this person's weird old castle and goes out not knowing anything about the guy, even when it's obvious that her husband, who took her there, did know. That scene was completely unbelievable.

Anyway, moving on. What I enjoyed best was seeing Tempe work, understanding exactly what it was she was doing. We get a lot of detail into the different procedures... the different steps taken when a plane goes down, the analysis that might be done on a set of remains in order to identify them, all kinds of things.

I must say, though, that sometimes it seemed that Reichs didn't know where to stop with the details. I don't mean excessive gruesomeness, which didn't bother me much (I went into the book expecting gruesomeness, and simply took care not to eat while reading it). I mean that some sections were so very heavy on the useless detail, that they became boring. For instance, I don't think that many readers will really be interested in exactly between which streets a certain building is situated, in a tiny little North Carolina city no one has ever heard of! That kind of thing, and it happened a bit too often.

Other than that, though, everything was going well, things were truly scary and creepy, and then came the resolution. It didn't ruin the book, far from it, but I'm afraid it was so over-the-top that some of those creepy feelings evaporated. It's hard to make over-the-top scary, basically because it means things have crossed the line between what might possibly have been (which makes them scarier) and "oh, give me a break"... not scary at all. Again, I don't want to write any spoilers, but things were more than horrible enough without some of those extras thrown in.

I'm definitely going to be reading the other Reichs books I have and looking for the earlier ones, but I think I'll wait a while. While I enjoyed reading this, I don't think a steady diet of it would agree with me!


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