D. J. Donaldson is distinguished as one of the first authors to use a forensic scientist as a primary character in a mystery series. Despite the attention he pays to forensic detail in his works, they are not grotesque and include just enough violence and criminal intent to have some of the elements of a hard-boiled detective novel. In addition, the main characters, Andy Broussard and Kit Franklyn—the traditional, experienced forensic scientist and the younger, more expressive psychologist—are accessible to a broad audience.
Donaldson’s Broussard and Franklyn series is notable for its setting of New Orleans; he makes the city virtually a character in and of itself. The incidents in the novels take place all over the city, in front of its singular urban backdrops and in the bayous with alligators and fishing shacks. Donaldson liberally peppers his novels with details about the city’s history and culture to lend credence to the milieu, which is also enhanced by recurring characters who have a strong cultural flavor right down to their accents.
After writing six novels in the Broussard and Franklyn series, Donaldson began to write psychological/medical thrillers, employing his expertise in neurology and anatomy. Written as Don Donaldson and David Best, these works all take place in medical or psychological settings and have the same underlying theme of scientific discovery taking precedence over ethical concerns such as patients’ rights. Oddly enough, another prevalent theme is the struggle of the primary character, who is always a woman, to achieve confidence and recognition in her chosen, usually male-dominated profession.