Book Review

Deadly Décisions

Deadly Décisions 

  • Author: Kathy Reichs
  • Genre: Mystery/Thriller
  • Publication Date: July 25, 2000
  • Publisher: Scribner Book Company
  • Series: Temperance Brennan #3

CONTENT WARNING: death of a child, gun violence, gore, violence, mention of domestic violence, mention of child abuse, murder, blood

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Nobody tells a chilling story like international bestselling author Kathy Reichs, whose “most valuable tool is her expertise … she’s the real thing” (New York Newsday). Drawing on her years as a top forensic anthropologist, Reichs brings her cutting-edge scientific know-how to this poignant, terrifying new tour de force.

Nine-year-old Emily Anne Toussaint is shot dead on a Montreal street. A North Carolina teenager disappears from her home and parts of what may be her skeleton are found hundreds of miles away. For Dr. Temperance Brennan, a forensic anthropologist in both Montreal and North Carolina, the deaths kindle deep emotions that propel her on a harrowing journey into the world of outlaw motorcycle gangs.

As a scientist, Tempe should remain dispassionate. As a caring individual, she years to take the killers off the streets. Emily Anne was cut down in a biker crossfire. The North Carolina victim, Savannah Osprey, was last seen hitching a ride with a transient biker. Tempe’s nephew, Kit, is intrigued by motorcycles. Does he understand the difference between legitimate riders and gangs, or is he too mesmerized to comprehend that outlaw bikers are big trouble?

With her boss Pierre LaManche in the hospital, and her friend Andrew Ryan disturbingly unavailable, Tempe begins a perilous investigation into a culture where evil often wears a mask. From blood-spatter patterns and ground-penetrating radar to bone-sample analysis, Deadly Décisions triumphantly combines the authenticity of a world-class forensic professional with the narrative power of a brilliant new crime-writing star. This richly nuanced thriller is sure to catapult a uniquely gifted author to even greater heights.

After reading the first two books in this series, I have reconciled it to the fact that it is incredibly different from the TV show. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, because both are good, but in very different ways. Rather than focusing on humor like the show does, this focuses more on the victims and the efforts to catch the perpetrators. 

Temperance is a serious, focused character, although flashes of a sarcastic, dry humor pop up occasionally throughout the text. And rather than focusing simply on the case, we get flashes into Tempe’s family life, social life, and inner struggle to gain entry into the good old boys club that is law enforcement. 

The bulk of the novel is taken up by Tempe working multiple murder cases. But the one that really gets her on an emotional level is the fact that a young girl has been caught in the crossfire of a gang war between two different outlaw motorcycle clubs. And she is determined to do everything in her power to solve this crime. 

“Violent death is the final intrusion, and those who investigate it are the ultimate voyeurs. Though I participate, I am never comfortable with the indifference with which the system approaches the deceased and the death investigation. Even though a sense of detachment is a must to maintain emotional equilibrium, I always have the feeling that the victim deserves something more passionate, more personal.”

Along the way, Tempe’s got some family drama appear on her doorstep—literally. When her nephew arrives, it adds a new level of tension to her life, both personal and professional. And her drama doesn’t stop there—it’s present in all of her relationships. While she had a budding romance with Andrew Ryan in the last book, in this book he’s basically disappeared. But her concerns take a back seat, because things hit the fan pretty quickly. And naturally, she’s made to team up with a new colleague who consistently gives her the cold shoulder, and her least favorite detective ever: Luc Claudel. And nothing that she does seems to thaw them.

“While I hated to admit it, Claudel still intimidated me. And I still sought his approval. Though I thought I’d gained ground in the past, the man obviously continued to regard me with disdain. And it mattered. And that irked me.”

Tempe is a recovering alcoholic, and I enjoyed how they portray her as more of a complex character than what I’m used to from the show. She faces temptation on a regular basis, even at a place that we think is harmless—a dinner party with her good friend. And it talks about the pressures that people in recovery experience, such as another guest forcefully pushing alcohol on her, brushing aside the fact that she isn’t drinking at the dinner:

“… picked up the Chardonnay and reached for my empty glass. I shook my head, but he continued. When I placed my hand over the rim, he laughed, lifted it off, and filled the goblet. Seething, I pulled my hand free from his and leaned back in my chair. I cannot tolerate people pressing liquor on those who don’t want it.”

The story is fast-paced, as always. I got so wrapped up in all the different threads of the plot that I didn’t even realize how quickly I was flying through this book. As always, it picks up speed as it goes along, revealing one clue after another yet still making it basically impossible to put all the pieces together. I had some suspicions that were played out after I had figured it out, but others caught me by surprise. The writing was great, and while the technology is outdated by more than 2 decades, it was still fascinating to see how things change through the course of this series. I learned a lot about the forensic anthropology aspect, as well as the legal process of solving crimes, through the author’s extensive experience in this field. This lent an authentic feel to the story, and combined with the beautiful way in which Reichs writes, had me completely unable to put this book down. 

“Each told the story of a chance encounter, a random intersection of the ordinary and the dark. Kodak moments of fascination and fear.”

I’m already looking forward to the next book.

People who have sat around with me while I’m reading, especially when there’s a surprising reveal, a shocking plot twist, or an unexpected event often look up in alarm when I gasp audibly. The gasp factor is directly related to the number of times I audibly gasp during a reading, and there isn’t an upper limit.

Gasp Factor: 8

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