Reichs, Kathleen J (World of Forensic Science)
FORENSIC ANTHROPOLOGIST, WRITER
Kathleen J. Reichs is a professor of anthropology at the University of North Carolina, Charlotte. In addition, she investigates up to 80 cases a year as forensic anthropologist for both the State of North Carolina and the Province of Quebec, Canada, the latter a position offered to her because she is one of the few certified forensic anthropologists fluent in French. Forensic anthropology is the application of the science of physical anthropology to the legal process. In her professional capacity, Reichs identifies bones and analyzes fracture patterns, bullet wounds, and stab marks in cases where she is called in by a pathologist. Reichs is also the author of a series of bestselling novels featuring protagonist Temperance Brennan, a female forensic anthropologist.
Reichs was born in Chicago, Illinois. She received her Ph.D. from Northwestern University. An internationally recognized forensic anthropologist, in the capacity of her work she has testified at the United Nations Tribunal on Genocide in Rwanda, helped identify remains from mass graves in Guatemala, and performed forensic investigations at Ground Zero in New York. She has also examined the remains from the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Additionally, she has taught FBI agents at the Federal Bureau of Investigation laboratories in Quantico, Virginia how to detect and recover human remains.
Writing under the name Kathy Reichs, she draws on her experience as a forensic scientist to create her forensic thrillers, which began with Deja Dead in 1997. Protagonist Temperance "Tempe" Brennan's work parallels that of her creator. The fictional stories spend a great deal of time explaining the processes used in forensics.
"The hard part was interweaving the science, making it brief enough so that it isn't boring, and doing it totally without jargon," Reich related in an interview. "I tried to make it accurate," the author also explained, "not just grisly or sensational. I wrote it to give people the feel of what it's like to do this kind of work." Reichs described the difference between her own work and the investigation undertaken by Tempe, saying, "While I do go out to exhumations if we get a tip, I would never pursue the investigation in the way that she does. I stay in the lab."
Reichs has published seven forensic novels and three technical books.
SEE ALSO Anthropology; Literature, forensic science in.