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Novel Review: The Monday Mourning

Monday Mourning is a crime novel featuring Tempe Brennan as the main character. Brennan is a forensic anthropologist who also doubles as a professor at the University of North Carolina, Charlotte. She also acts as an expert witness in criminal trials.

In the novel, Brennan narrates an unforgettable moment when she's presented with a task of examining bones. Her desire to establish the identities of the bones, and what led to their death draws her nearer to the antagonist who employs various techniques to stop her from gathering more information what led to the death of the young girls.

The novel was first published in the United Kingdom in 2004 by William Heinemann.

Kathy Reichs

Kathy Reichs

Summary of the Novel

Tempe Brennan had arrived on Sunday at Montreal, from Charlotte, to prepare her case files as an expert witness in a court hearing scheduled on Tuesday.

Early in the morning on Monday, Brennan was assigned the task of examining skeletal remains found in the basement of a pizza parlour. Probably, the remains were those of animals, her boss told her. This was after Brennan bringing to her boss' attention she's scheduled to testify as an expert witness at a Pétit trial involving a man accused of killing and dismembering his wife.

Contrary to their expectations, the remains were those of humans. Further inspection of the bones revealed they belonged to teenage girls. Were they murdered? Or, were they hurriedly burried by their family?

Claudel, a detective assigned to the case, dismissed their deaths as irrelevant in pursuing as they occurred in the 19th century. Brennan couldn't take in Claudel's insensitivity to her concerns pertaining to the bones. She worked harder in finding evidence from the bones to prove to Claudel she was right.

On a romantic level, she struggled with her emotions concerning Ryan, her romantic lover, and a detective who would later team up with Claudel and Charbonneau (another detective) in solving the deaths of the young girls.

Her longtime friend, Anne, visited her after breaking up with her partner. Unbeknown to Brennan, at the beginning, her movements were closely monitored by the antagonist. As she pushed to find more about the young girls, and what led to their death, she found herself in the hands of the antagonist, including Anne, and another young victim. Would she be able to save all of them, or would help arrive from the three detectives?


a) About the Author

The author of the novel, Kathy Reichs, is a forensic anthropologist for the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, State of North Carolina, and for the Laboratoire de Sciences Judiciares et de Médecine Légale for the Province of Quebec. Additionally, she is a Professor of Anthropology at the University of North Carolina, Charlotte. She has served in the Executive Committee of the Board of Directors of the American Academy of Forensic Sciences. She's among 68 forensic anthropologists certified by the American Board of Forensic Anthropology. She also serves as an expert witness in criminal trials.

The author has imparted the protagonist, Brennan, with knowledge and professional experience in forensic anthropology. Through the eyes of Brennan, the author takes a reader on a know-basis journey on the process of examining bones. This adds flavour to the novel combined with the twists, romance, suspense and surprise towards the end of the story.

b) Characters

i) Brennan

Tempe Brennan is the protagonist. A forensic anthropologist, and a professor, Brennan is assigned a task of examining bones found in the basement of a pizza parlour to establish their identity.

She is conscientious in the task, not giving in to Claudel's insensitiveness of her judgement pertaining to the bones. She reaches a point whereby she can't tolerate his 'cold' attitude towards her

She is emotional especially in containing her thoughts towards Ryan, her romantic lover. Good-natured, pragmatic, enthusiastic, sensitive, reflective, altruistic and active are some of her other behaviours which makes her likable character.

ii) Claudel

Brennan dislikes Claudel even though they have worked together for many years. Claudel is insensitive and inconsiderate of Brennan's thoughts on the bones. He dismisses the bones as belonging to 19th century. Brennan fights against drawn into discouragement by Claudel's dogmatism and rude behaviours.

iii) Charbonneau

Brennan relates well with this character. He is likable, charming, friendly, concerned and good-natured. He encourages Brennan not to be drawn into the web of discouragement by Claudel's dismissive attitude.

iv) Ryan

A detective, Ryan is Brennan's lover. He is concerned about her safety after her house is invaded by an unknown assailant. He ensures her house is under surveillance.

According to Brennan, he is unpredictable and when she needs him the most, he seems to dissapear into his detective work. Sometimes, he doesn't explain where he was after not being in contact with her for a few days.

He is charming, considerate, protective and handsome.

v) Anne

She is Brennan's longtime friend. Outgoing, talkative, and charming, Anne had called Brennan she'd be visiting her for a few days. Overtime, she became moody, and reserved due to her rocky relationship with her husband. Drowning herself in alcoholic beverages, she retires herself in her room, not in the mood even to talk with Brennan.

She is impulsive but also good-natured.

My Take

I have read the book twice within a period of three months. What got me hooked to the book is the detailed explanation of forensic anthropology, that is, what the procedures undertaken in examining skeletal bones to determine the sex, age and the cause of death.

Additionally, the author has succeeded in creating suspense, and though the twist towards the end of the novel wasn't anticipated, it is believable going by the detective work carried out by the three detectives.

The author has realistically brought out the personality of Brennan. Other than her positive traits, she is bad-tempered.

Monday Mourning is a novel I would read thrice, and so on. It is captivating, and at the same time, educative.

© 2020 Alianess Benny Njuguna