Rating - ⭐⭐⭐
"Her life is devoted to justice; for those she never even knew. In the year since Temperance Brennan left behind a shaky marriage in North Carolina, work has often preempted her weekend plans to explore Quebec. When a female corpse is discovered meticulously dismembered and stashed in trash bags, Temperance detects an alarming pattern and she plunges into a harrowing search for a killer. But her investigation is about to place those closest to her, her best friend and her own daughter, in mortal danger."
Déjà Dead is the first novel in the mystery Temperance Brennan series by Kathy Reichs.
My expectations of this book were 100% based on the fact that I have previously watched a good amount of the TV show and thus, I was ultimately disappointed by what I read. This wasn't bad enough to warrant a rating under three stars, but it firmly sits in my 'meh' rating, and here's why.
I don't know if it was because of the time this was written, but I found that there were a lot of weird descriptions for women. Sentences such as 'her arms were the size of number 2 pencils,' and 'she was as thin as soup in a homeless shelter.' While this might be a minor detail, it just really struck me as strange and took me right out of the story.
Another minor detail that bothered me was the use of the French language. I am not a big fan of books throwing in random words in a different language to drive home the fact that it was set in a non-English speaking place (although Quebec is a bilingual province). I get the motive behind doing so, but what is the reader supposed to do with it? You read it, have no idea what it says, and then move on. It adds nothing to the reader's experience besides confusion. The only case where I am fine with this is when it is a fantasy book that has an original language. On the bright side though, I knew enough French to get by.
The final issue I have is with the formatting of the text. I found that there was a lot of wasted page space due to the amount of quoted dialogue. Each sentence of a conversation between two characters would have its own line which made it a bit difficult to read. On the bright side though, it really made you fly the book because it wasn't dense. I was also not a fan of the paragraphs just full of questions. I found myself glazing over those paragraphs since I didn't really care for her internal conflicts.
This book wastes no time diving right into the plot with a body being discovered right at the beginning. You continue to hit the ground running with the amount of detail that is told when Brennan is examining the body. Now, excessive detail isn't always a bad thing, but in this case, I found myself skimming over these sections which is sad because the examinations were the one detail I wanted more of. Sometimes as well, it would give you details that you really didn't to know. For example, it went into too much detail at one point about they way some lady was eating her spring roll.
Moving back to the plot, you know from the synopsis that Brennan's best friend, Gabby, is put in danger, and it is very obvious in which direction that plot-line was going to go in. The general handling of that plot-line made no sense to me. When Gabby was first introduced, you are made aware that something is bothering her, but both of them push it aside. Now, it makes more sense for Gabby to push it aside as paranoai, but as someone who deals with the victims of murder, Brennan should have been way more cautious than she was acting.
The most shocking thing about the novel was the manner of the murders, but other than that, I felt no tension or sense of urgency whatsoever. The only real sense of urgency you get is through Brennan's entire character arc, which is comprised of her being completely scattered brained and running around trying to find leads to solve the murders. I found that the be a major flaw of the book, and one I will get into in the characters section.
Back to the lack of urgency, this could be seen as well in the ending of the book. There wasn't any build-up to the final conflict. You know that the story is escalating because you are close to finishing the book, but there was no increase in tension or suspense. The conflict itself was resolved in about three pages, and then it proceeded to go on a longwind explanation about the murders that would have been better placed before the end.
To go into something that might seem minor, and further ties into what I am going to say in the characters section, the logistics of this didn't make sense to me. I don't know how procedure went at the time in Quebec, but I would think that once a case gets personal, you would be removed from it because you are now too involved and can no longer think properly. I know that that is never made the case for most crime shows and books, but its the little details that bother me.
Finally, I wanted to get into any possible trigger warnings. The focus of the novel are murders that involve the sexually charged mutilation of women. If you don't like reading books where women are targeted for being women, or one that involves mutilation, you might want to pass on this one.
I went into this with the image of Brennan's character from the show ingrained in my head. To my surprise (and disappointment), her character was completely different from the logical Brennan I knew. Brennan in the book was a lot more emotional, and a lot less put together. By itself, if I hadn't seen the show before, I wouldn't say that her personality was a bad thing, but alas, I couldn't help but compare the two. Other than her emotional outbursts and her not so great friendship with Gabby, the other aspect of her character that bothered me was her job.
Brennan is a forensic anthropologist, and for someone whose job it is to deal with bones, there was a whole lack of that and whole lot of her running around trying to solve the murder. Again, I do not know how these jobs work and what jurisdiction she would have, but in my head it does not seem like a part of her job description to be chasing down leads like she does. I read this because I was interested in the forensic anthropology, so I was extremely disappointed when what I got instead was every other general crime novel. It would have been better if other characters were introduced, like the show, that would cover the appropriate jobs.
A good amount of the book hinges on Brennan and Gabby's friendship, which is a shame because we don't really get to see them interact much. Due to that fact, that entire plotline had no impact on me whatsoever. This was made worse when after something would happen, Brennan would be emotional for a couple pages, and then it would jump to her being completely fine. You don't really get to see the impact Gabby's arc had on her as no time was made to let it all sink in. To top the cherry on top of the sundae, I found that Brennan wasn't a very good friend in the first place. She wouldn't take Gabby seriously and would often blow up on her even though it was very clear that something wasn't right with her.
Came for the bones and was left in the dust. This was not as exciting as I thought it would be, which was disappointing. There wasn't enough forensic anthropology for me and when it was included, it just didn't work very well in a written format. If you are interested in the subject matter, I would suggest that you watch the show instead. It is much more engaging as a show and the character changes were for the better.