Kathy Reichs. Scribner, $27 (416pp) ISBN 978-0-684-84117-5
With this assured and intelligent debut, Reichs introduces herself as a prodigious new talent in the crime game. Someone is murdering and dismembering women in Montreal, and forensic anthropologist Temperance ""Tempe"" Brennan, a middle-aged North Carolina transplant, is having a tough time convincing the Canadian version of the old boy network that the grizzly slayings are the work of a single killer. Since no one believes her theories, Tempe is left pretty much on her own to track the killer, following a trail that leads through demimondes of prostitution, religion and animal research. When a spreadsheet listing past victims--and including Tempe's name--is discovered in the home of a suspect, even the dyspeptic Constable Claudel is forced to admit that Tempe might be on the right track. Reichs handles the tension between Tempe and the men deftly, allowing the reader to despise their unfair treatment of her while understanding that an expert in such a field can be intimidating. A master of nimble phrasing, Reichs herself entertains readers even as she educates them in some of the finer points of forensics. Tempe is as comfortable negotiating the meaner streets of Montreal as she is talking about the myriadtypes of saws available to those with a penchant for dismembering their fellow human beings. The final confrontation scene is as gripping as anything in recent suspense fiction, and it is impossible not to like the vulnerable, observant and competent Tempe, who refreshingly admits to never having ""gotten used to"" the maggots that abandon corpses on the cutting table: ""the seething blanket of pale yellow... dropping from the body to the table to the floor, in a slow but steady drizzle."" Major ad/promo; simultaneous audio; foreign rights sold in 12 countries; BOMC main selection; author tour. (Sept.) FYI: Reichs, like her heroine, is a forensic anthropologist in North Carolina and Canada, and a professor.
Reviewed on: 09/01/1997