Internet blurb: Assaulted by the bitter cold of a Montreal winter, the American-born Dr. Temperance Breman, Forensic Anthropologist for the Province of Quebec, digs for a corpse where Sister Elisabeth Nicolet, dead over a century and now a candidate for sainthood, should lie in her grave. A strange, small coffin, buried in the recesses of a decaying church, holds the first clue to the cloistered nun’s fate. The puzzle surrounding Sister Elisabeth’s life and death provides a welcome contrast to discoveries at a burning chalet, where scorched and twisted bodies await Tempe’s professional expertise. Who were these people? What brought them to this gruesome fate? Homicide Detective Andrew Ryan, with whom Tempe has a combustive history, joins her in the arson investigation. From the fire scene they are drawn into the worlds of an enigmatic and controversial professor, a mysterious commune, and a primate colony on a Carolina island.
My review: I liked this one a helluva lot more than the first book, Déjà Dead, though I’m not totally sure why. Part of it, of course, is the relative absence of Detective Claudel, who is one of the least pleasant characters I’ve ever run across in any genre. For the most part, Reichs’ prose flows much more smoothly here than in its predecessor, which I had found rather choppy. The plot is a bit contrived in places, but, ya know, despite the protestations of some reviewers, coincidences do happen; sometimes similar events follow one another bang, bang, bang, bang, then totally stop. In any case, I thought the plotting was pretty logical and consistent, with a nice mix of the suspenseful and the quotidien. Tempe is a likable character and I particularly enjoyed the scenes with her daughter, and wish we’d seen more of her. Tempe’s sister, on the other hand…
So, a lot of things I liked. But…
While not as prominent as in the opening book of the series, Reichs still absolutely lurrrves her some metaphors, so much so, I thought for a minute I was reading Jim Butcher. Still, that tendency is a more under control, here, and, for me, more of the similes worked than in the first volume, though there were still a few clunkers.
And…while I’m a great admirer of detail in the interest of realism, once again, it feels overdone. We don’t need to know exactly how Tempe fills out the top of a case form, or every turn on every freakin’ road she and Katy take on the way to the beach. That the pathologists use color-coded folders is an interesting detail, but we don’t need them listed individually. The details of Tempe’s work are often fascinating, but, I’m not sure every chemical needs to be named.
The “romance”? Well, I could take it or leave it. Probably, leave it. It didn’t affect my rating, however.
In conclusion, a very enjoyable mystery, technically well-written, but with a few annoyances held-over from the first book. Definitely recommended.