Déjà Dead: Or A Bit of Déjà Vu

Well, it took me nearly a year, but I finished it. I have now officially read Kathy Reichs’ first novel, Déjà Dead.

I have definite mixed feelings about Déjà Dead. I had originally picked up the book because the series had been recommended to me as “books that have their facts straight” (in case you haven’t noticed, I routinely hate on cop shows because there are so. many. inaccuracies.) and because I have weirdly grown to love the TV personalities of Booth and Brennan, the main characters of Bones. They did, after all, help me get through school, so it might be appropriate to read the books that inspired the series. Thus, with my expectations set high, I ordered a copy off Amazon. It arrived shortly before I went to visit a relative, so I decided to make it my travel reading. I got about two-thirds of the way through before I couldn’t handle it anymore and just wanted to pitch the book across the plane (which is frowned upon by most societies). I gave up, and when I returned home, I put it on a high shelf where I could ignore it as it mocked me. Due to my most recent travels, I went ahead and picked it up again, determined to slog it out and finish.

The book, unlike the show, is set in Montréal, not in the D.C. area. Dr. Brennan is a divorcee in her late forties, not a young, unmarried, childless woman in her early thirties. She is a career forensic anthropologist, not an osteoarchaeologist with a penchant for being an expert in all things anthropological. Essentially, Temperance Brennan suffered the same fate that Sherlock Holmes suffered many years ago: popular television changed both from observant humans with a few weird quirks to genius misanthropes who abhor the common man, yet are in need of a companion to tend to them to see that they remember the basic things like eating and saying hello and not insulting people to their faces.

This all would bode well for the series, except Brennan also seems to have lost the common sense that comes with adulthood and picked up the common sense of Nancy Drew. While I definitely spent many hours reading the adventures of everyone’s favorite redheaded detective as a child, as an adult, her lack of common sense (you know this man is kidnapping people! Don’t follow him onto a deserted island!) tends to irk me. Dr. Brennan seems to be weak in the same department. Which leads to what frustrated me and made me put down the book: Brennan kept doing stupid things.

The only sort of horror/thriller movies that I enjoy are psychological thrillers. This is because I cannot stand when people do dumb things. For example: if a homicidal maniac is chasing you, you do not do things like willingly split up or try to figure out which room in the house he’s in. You definitely don’t wander the halls going “Hello? Hello? Who’s there? Anybody?” Brennan tends to do that, albeit with a bit more finesse. But really. If you know a serial killer has left a head in your garden, killed people just to spite you, left objects for you to find so you know he killed them, and then you come home to find your daughter’s backpack left at your doorstep, you totally go inside, make some orange juice, and do a bit more research to figure out if that might possibly be his handiwork or not without calling any of your cop coworkers.

That sort of thing happens repeatedly, and each time I found myself setting the book aside and choosing to read something else. Yet, just as I had with the show (Cait, this is all your fault), I kept circling back to find out what happened. The second time, too, was after I had been in Montréal, and I was quite familiar with a number of the metro stations that feature in the book, as those were quite frequently my stops. For some reason, you become a bit more invested in the resolution of the story when you happen to travel the routes in question. So I dove back in, ignored the fact that SHE’S DOING THE STUPID AGAIN, and finished the story.

The last third of the book was, admittedly, well written. There was more of the investigative work that I had begun reading the book for, although not as much as I would have liked. Really, between her initial analysis in the lab (which happens early on) and the last bits of dental work, not much else is done in the realm of the bone world. Actually, the writing itself was well done. It was the Nancy Drew-ness of the plot that frustrated me and made me put the book down again and again.

All that said, I will probably get the second book and (attempt) to read it. I enjoyed the characters (I even think I know which one is Booth and which one is Sully!). Claudel is so grumpy it’s cute. It’s funny to watch people live through the prehistoric era of the beginning of the internet again. Montréal is nice. It is, too, Kathy Reichs’ first published fiction, so I feel the need to be forgiving of some usage of tropes and stereotyping. Her science sciences well, which makes me happy.

Final Thoughts: 3/5 stars. Will probably read the ending again. Probably won’t reread the book. Probably will buy the next one. Good enough.

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