Book Review

Fatal Voyage

Fatal Voyage

  • Author: Kathy Reichs
  • Genre: Mystery/Thriller
  • Publication Date: July 17, 2001
  • Publisher: Scribner Book Company
  • Series: Temperance Brennan #4

Rating: 4 out of 5.

CONTENT WARNING: gore, blood, murder, violence

Temperance Brennan hears the news on her car radio. An Air TransSouth flight has gone down in the mountains of western North Carolina, taking with it eighty-eight passengers and crew. As a forensic anthropologist and a member of the regional DMORT team, Tempe rushes to the scene to assist in body recovery and identification.

Tempe has seen death many times, working with the medical examiners in North Carolina and Montreal, but never has tragedy struck with such devastation. She finds a field of carnage: torsos in trees, limbs strewn among bursting suitcases and smoldering debris. Many of the dead are members of a university soccer team. Is Tempe’s daughter, Katy, among them?

Frantic with worry, Tempe joins colleagues from the FBI, the NTSB, and other agencies to search for explanations. Was the plane brought down by a bomb, an insurance plot, a political assassination, or simple mechanical failure? And what about the prisoner on the plane who was being extradited to Canada? Did someone want him silenced forever?

Even more puzzling for Tempe is a disembodied foot found near the debris field. Tempe’s microscopic analysis suggests it could not have belonged to any passenger. Whose foot is it, and where is the rest of the body? And what about the disturbing evidence Tempe discovers in the soil outside a remote mountain enclave? What secrets lie hidden there, and why are certain people eager to stop Tempe’s investigation? Is she learning too much? Coming too close?

With help from Montreal detective Andrew Ryan, who has his own sad reason for being at the crash, and a very special dog named Boyd, Tempe calls upon deep reserves of courage and upon her forensic skill to uncover a shocking, multilayered tale of deceit and depravity.

Written with the riveting authenticity that only world-class forensic anthropologist Kathy Reichs can provide, Fatal Voyage pairs witty, elegant prose with pulse-pounding storytelling in a tour de force worthy of crime writing’s new superstar.

This has become a series that I always look forward to reading books from, since I can be assured of the characters I enjoy, intense and fast-paced plots with twists and turns I never see coming, and a story that never gets boring. 

Although this book deals with death, violence, and gore, among other things, it also does a great job of humanizing characters and the victims. It’s a tough line to toe, since I expect that it’s easy to separate living people from the dead that are being examined, but Tempe always keeps her humanity close.

I’ve enjoyed Tempe right from the beginning, and she grows on me even more with each book that I read. She’s brilliant, focused, and a complex character. Although she spends her days with the dead, she also works closely with various agencies in both America and Canada, to solve crimes that seem unsolvable. And she’s in recovery from alcoholism, which is presented plainly during various situations in the series. Often, she’s around alcohol, and identifies that it can be a great escape for her, but like real recovering alcoholics, she’s well aware of the consequences she faces if she were to pick up a drink.

“But I’d learned some things about myself. It had taken years, but I now understood that every double helix in me carries a pledge to Bacchus. Though craving the release, I knew the euphoria would be temporary, the anger and self-loathing would last a long time. I could not drink.”

I think my favorite new character in this book would have to be Boyd. He’s a chow that Tempe winds up having to take care of, but he turns out to be one of the greatest allies that she could have on her side. There’s more going on with Andrew Ryan, now that he and Tempe are in a strange limbo in their … I don’t even know what to call it. They clearly have a professional relationship, but they kind of lean towards a strained personal relationship.

Let’s talk about the plot. When Tempe is called in to investigate wreckage of a nearby plane crash, I already knew it wasn’t going to be that simple. Tempe finds evidence in the form of a foot, that doesn’t match up to any of the passengers on the flight. But looking for more information lands her directly into hot water. She finds herself stonewalled at every opportunity to investigate, but Tempe isn’t a quitter, and is determined to find out who’s foot it is, where it came from, and what happened to the owner of the foot. In doing so, she manages to dig up a massive conspiracy that’s been well hidden. Naturally, this isn’t going to fly with the people covering it up, and Tempe is on the line to face serious consequences. The sheer number of intersecting plots kept me intrigued and unable to stop reading. This is a series that I’m thoroughly enjoying, and definitely plan to read more of. 

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: 10

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