Deja Dead… And Bones

book2screen the book

Deja Dead

Author: Kathy Reichs | Publisher: Arrow

Bagged and discarded, the dismembered body of a woman is discovered in the grounds of an abandoned monastery.

Dr Temperance Brennan, Director of Forensic Anthropology for the province of Quebec, has been researching recent disappearances in the city.

Soon she is convinced that a serial killer is at work. But when no one else seems to care, her anger forces her to take matters into her own hands. Her determined probing has placed those closest to her in mortal danger, however.

Can Tempe make her crucial breakthrough before the killer strikes again?

I decided I would start my Book2Screen Challenge with an easy one. A nice, comfortable re-read.

I remember reading the Temperance Brennan books yonks ago, when they first came out. I absolutely loved them. Devoured every single one. But it had been a while… I think I stopped reading Kathy Reichs right around the time she started writing YA… It just wasn’t for me. Though I get what she was going for, and I applaud it.

I picked up Deja Dead expecting it to be a gentle trip-trap down memory lane. Only to realise, either I never read this book before (I must have, surely?), or I’d forgotten it completely. If anything, that made it better. I was enthralled all over again.

I loved the way the science was made understandable for us mere mortals and used as a device to create tension, slowing down the plot and delivering the genre-defining suspense of a classic whodunnit. It also gives the mystery a pleasing ring of truth.

The characters are wonderful. Are they slightly autobiographical? I’m not sure. But I love them. Temperance is definitely smart, a determined and strong-minded woman, but with plenty of flaws and frustrations to make her relatable. These are characters that feel intensely “real”. And Temperance’s running internal dialogue adds to the sense of “knowing” for the reader, it helps give her substance. As I suspect we all are, in her own head she’s both smart and stupid, funny and dull, kind and selfish, a little random. The reader begins to feel we understand her, and the way she thinks.

I love the slightly competitive tension between Temperance and Claudel in this book. I think that tapers off and they reach a mutual understanding and level of respect in later books, but at the beginning he’s a real arseface. The reader doesn’t know why, which adds a frisson to all the relationships, an edge, and makes for entertaining sub-plot. His behaviour towards the other characters might have been unpleasant, but I actually found him strangely lovable… Like a grumpy old bear, missing an eye, a bit grubby from being dragged around the garden, that you still want to hug.

I remember feeling exasperated in later books by the romance between Temperance and Ryan, but that was less of an issue in the first book as they are just getting to know one another. Still, the chemistry was there between them from the first and added a layer of intrigue and interest to the plot.

In so many books billed as “thrillers” (which I would debate whether the Temperance Brennan books are thrillers, but anyway), the backstory and dimensionality of the characters simply isn’t there. I think I what I liked most about Deja Dead was the complexity and humanness of the characters, and their challenging and developing relationships with one another. It was interesting to go back and see that from the very beginning.

The contextualisation of the mystery in the sense of place was lovely. The details of the city, the setting, brought the action to life. It made the gory details… Gorier. Gave the characters a stage, and the mystery itself a sense of reality. A sense that these things could happen, because they were contextualised within reality. The descriptive language is not only effective, but accomplished.

The mystery itself is gripping, fast-paced, and gritty. It got my heart racing, and kept the pages turning. It kept my guessing till the end.

Deja Dead is not a book which adheres to genre-defining rules. Most crime and mystery books, to a greater or lesser degree, still adhere to Ronald Knox’s Ten Commandments. Of course, rules are there to be broken when it comes to literature… I’m thinking in particular of the rule that says the killer must be introduced early on, thus allowing the reader a sense of fair play in that they have the chance to guess “whodunnit”. I did feel slightly cheated with Deja Dead because the killer wasn’t a character we had met before, and wasn’t even identified as a character until more than two thirds of the way through the book. Half the fun of a good mystery is the internal Cluedo of guessing who, what, and why. It’s a minor point, but one I hope was addressed in later books (I can’t remember).

All in all, I loved Deja Dead. It was a pleasure to revisit Temperance Brennan’s world and Kathy Reich’s writing. I’m definitely going to go back and read the rest of the series now!


book2screen the show

Bones

bones 2

I also watched Bones when it first came out. Fresh off my adolescent Angel crush, I think I turned it on at first mainly out of a sense of curiosity… And it’s a great show. One I’ve ended up re-watching many times over the years. It ended in 2017, after a run of 12 seasons on Fox.

The show and the books are deliberately different. There is a Temperance Brennan, but she’s a very different kind character than the Temperance Brennan of the books. Younger, kick-ass, and more socially awkward. No less brilliant or engaging, just different. There is no Andrew Ryan – instead, we have Seeley Booth. And there’s a whole collection of madcap scientists to round out a team which simply doesn’t exist in the books. The setting is a high-tech lab in the Jeffersonian, rather than Montreal.

In short, while the show is loosely based on the books, and Kathy Reich’s life, the similarities are limited. I personally don’t mind that. I think it was a smart call. It’s difficult to make an adaptation which matches up to the imagination of the reader; better not to try.

Bones is your typical procedural crime drama, with the gory and slapstick-style Americanised humour that the more mainstream of those shows have, and the undercurrent of personal tensions and relationships which gives them their human appeal. It’s also funny, smart, and interesting, and the cases in each episode are suitably weird and science-y to keep the viewer entertained. Apparently, Kathy Reichs wrote some of the episodes, so that doesn’t surprise me.

Chances are, if you liked the books, you’ll like the TV show. And, even if you didn’t like the books, you may well like the show – because they’re not really the same thing. Smart…

4 Comments

  1. Awesome that you were enthralled by Deja all over again. The mystery sounds very intriguing and it’s good it doesn’t conform to genre defining rules. Bones sounds good too- I like the fact they’re not the same thing as well- it’s good when shows do that. Wonderful reviews!

    Liked by 1 person

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