Review: “Fatal Voyage” by Kathy Reichs

fatalvoyage_kathyreichsFinal Rating: 3 1/2 cups of tea which kept changing temperature as I drank them.

Oh, Fatal Voyage. Was it you? Was it me? I can’t tell. All I know is that I’m just not sure where this relationship is at anymore.

Fair warning: There are going to be a lot of “buts” in this review. Hold onto yours.

Like a lot of people, I found out about Temperance Brennan because of the TV show Bones. Initially I avoided the experience, because I have a low tolerance for gore, but eventually the super-intelligent, emotionally challenged forensic anthropologist won me over. A few months later, I discovered the show was based on a book series, and I’ve been reading Ms. Reich’s work on and off ever since.

Obviously, there are huge differences between TV Temperance and Book Temperance. So much so, in fact, that reading Deja Dead led to me completely reevaluating my stance on enjoying TV/movie adaptations. Needless to say, that put these books (and their author) into a special category in my mind.

But after reading Fatal Voyage, I’m no longer sure how I feel about this series. It’s been quite awhile since I last picked up a Kathy Reichs novel, and I get the odd feeling I may have outgrown her work during the interim. The start of the book is gruesomely gripping, so much so it actually made me slightly nauseous. (In a good way?) But…not long after that, I began feeling lost in an absolute sea of unfamiliar names and new characters that I found it difficult to keep track of. (Really, the only one which stood out to me was the female sheriff, Lucy Crowe.) That sea only deepened as the book went on, and it got to the point where I just kind of ended up skimming and hoped the book would explain who did what to me later on. Bright side? It did. Down side? Reichs chose to use the “As You Know, Bob” method to do so…a trope which has set my teeth on edge for years, thanks to being raised on a lot of bargain Sci-Fi.

Fatal Voyage also holds within it absolute butt-tons of exposition, and in-depth explanations of forensic techniques. This includes everything from pages-long descriptions of how certain types of fire cause certain types of smoke patterns, to how scientists discovered and refined their techniques for figuring out whether or not your bones are Native American.

I’m really torn, reading through this stuff. Because on the one hand, these things are fascinating and amazing and make me proud of humanity. But on the other hand, it’s late at night and I’m a little bit tired, and I really want to know who the killer is. I want to know whether or not Temperance is going to go back to her husband or shack up with that detective she’s got a crush on. I want to know who’s behind this smear campaign against her. But all of these characters just won’t shut up about smoke patterns.

Worse yet, it’s very clear that Reichs has created scenes which serve no other purpose other than to explain–in depth–the scientific methods behind various conclusions throughout the book were reached. And as I start to speed-read, or even skip entire pages of the book, I start to wonder: Is this because she’s written this poorly? Or is it my fault for being so easily bored?

And that feeling of confusion mixed with slight irritation describes pretty much my entire experience with this book. Dragging myself through the midsection of this novel felt like actual work. I put it down far too easily, and it took me weeks to read something that should’ve only taken me days. I actually finished reading other books while I was still reading this one. At the same time, I can’t call this a bad book! Reichs is still vastly intelligent, more so than I probably ever will be. Temperance is still a compelling character that I care about. The ending still managed to surprise me, and to grip me/frighten me so thoroughly that I lost track of an entire hour just to read through to the end.

It’s like the start, middle, and end of this book are all siblings; except the middle child looks absolutely nothing like the others and turns out to be adopted. Middle is definitely still part of the family, but I had trouble getting along with it.

Then again, Reichs has never been stingy with her exposition. The entire series has been full of it, and it’s partly why I had such trouble getting through her last novel, too. (I think it was the one with the biker gangs, which unfortunately dated the story quite badly imo and caused me to find it a bit funnier than I probably should have.) All of which brings me back to being confused. Is this just something I no longer have a taste for? Has years of internet usage removed my ability to be patient? Is it just dated writing? Something else?

I just don’t know. That’s my final verdict on Fatal Voyage. I just don’t friggin’ know.

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