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Death du Jour

My first book for the R.I.P. X challenge is Death du Jour by Kathy Reichs.

The story begins with forensic anthropologist, Dr. Temperance Brennan, exhuming the remains of a nun buried at the end of the 19th. century, in the remains of an old church in Montreal. She returns home exhausted but there's no rest for the wicked as not many hours later she's called out to help investigate an arson attack. A family, parents and two babies, have been murdered and Tempe also discovers the charred remains of an elderly woman in the basement. It proves impossible to discover who they all are as the neighbours don't know them and clues in the remains of the house are non-existant.

Tempe returns to her other job in the university in Charlotte, North Carolina, but it's not long before a colleague from Montreal, Andrew Ryan, calls about the arson case. He's travelling south to pick up the trail of the dead family. Phone calls have been traced to a town on the South Carolina coast where a cult has taken up residence and Ryan wants Tempe to go with him to investigate. Tempe has a lot going on, plus is fighting an attraction to Ryan, so is reluctant to go. She's eventually persuaded though and travels south for a few days with her daughter. They eventually track the cult's remote residence to an island off the coast. Oddly it seems orderly and well-run but Tempe feels they're hiding something. It takes more deaths and all her ingenuity and bravery to discover what that thing is.

I thought this second book in the series was even better than the first. I liked the Montreal setting of the first book and this one is partly set there too... but when it moves south to The Carolinas it becomes rivetting and more psychologically frightening in my opinion. It's the cult thing that creates that fear and there's a lot about the issue in the story. How do they recruit people? Why do people believe their nonsense and get sucked in? How do they hang on to their recruits and what can sometimes be the tragic outcome? (Think Waco.) I found it fascinating and not a little scary.

It wouldn't be any exaggeration to call the pace of the plot 'relentless'. It's one thing after another with dead bodies all over the place and poor Tempe being required to be in a dozen places at once, permanently exhausted and drained from the horror of what's going on and what she has to do. I felt for her and wished she would occasionally say, 'No' to people.

Towards the end the action moves back to Montreal and final scenes take place during the famous ice-storm of 1998. This was brilliantly done and is one of the best parts of the book. Edge of the seat stuff really. Kathy Reichs really does do 'place' very well indeed and this book illustrates that well whether she's describing the heat and humidity of South Carolina or the frigidity of winter-time Quebec.

This is not your normal ghostly R.I.P. read. But for me the very real background to this crime story made it just as frightening as any supernatural yarn and a good book for the challenge.


Sounds interesting. And isn't it odd how things seem to be more frightening when set in the South?

I haven't read any of this series, mostly because I'm not a big mystery reader, but this one may have piqued my interest enough that I give it a go.
Yes... I'm not at sure why the south should add to the scariness of a book! LOL

I didn't think I would like the series because if its popularity. I often don't like books that are popular with the masses, so I was a bit prejudiced I must confess. But it turned out it's not bad at all, though book 1 is rather littered with metaphors. I found the main character, Tempe Brennan, interesting enough to want to read more... I always like brainy women taking centre stage in books. :-)
I'm thinking someone is going to make it into a movie if it's that good.

The thing about cults is that there are a lot of emotionally lost and needy people in the world, and the cult leaders are exceptionally good at taking psychological control and advantage of them. They provide acceptance, a sense of belonging and "love" — as long as the target follows their rules unquestioningly. The "Church" of Scientology is a horrific example: they are all about money, and they organize to harass anyone who is critical of them, and teach their members to take advantage of others all the while the higher-ups are doing the exact same thing to them.
It has actually been made in to a TV series called 'Bones'... which I've not seen but one of my daughters tells me the two are quite different.

You hit the nail on the head. I find it frightening too that they apparently target new students at universities because of course they're feeling alone and vulnerable. One of the benefits of reading is that it tells you stuff you might not, in the normal course of things, think much about and I really had not thought that much about this issue. Aware of it of course, just didn't know heaps about it.