Kathy Reichs Analysis


(Masterpieces of Fiction, Detective and Mystery Edition)

Sometimes dubbed the “next Patricia Cornwell,” Kathy Reichs writes books that are as much about the science of forensics as the fiction of mystery. Her efforts as a mystery writer are an extension of her successful career as a forensic anthropologist. The immediate popular appeal of her first novel, Déjà Dead (1997), was based on a fascinating character being placed in menacing, primitive situations. There is no doubt that timing was also a factor—the successes of mystery writer Patricia Cornwell and later CSI (began in 2000) and other mystery and television series dealing with forensic science showed a growing interest in this subject among members of the public.

Reichs had written extensively before penning Déjà Dead, but only articles in scientific journals and forensic science textbooks. Her first serious venture into fiction, Déjà Dead was immediately recognized by the publishing community as a success, earning a $1.2 million two-book deal with Scribner after a bidding war at the Frankfurt Book Fair and later winning the Arthur Ellis Award for best first novel.

USA Today suggested that Reichs was making more money writing about what she did as a forensic anthropologist than actually doing her job. Two years later, her second novel was also well received, and she began writing books at the rate of one per year. Her books have been translated into more than thirty languages and consistently make The New York Times best-seller list.


(Masterpieces of Fiction, Detective and Mystery Edition)

Firrincili, Dan. “Kathy Reichs.” Current Biography 67, no. 10 (October, 2006): 42-48. Contains an extensive analysis of the body of Reichs’s novels. Also examines her work as a forensic anthropologist, including the more sensational aspects, and its impact on her writing.

Genge, Ngaire. The Forensic Casebook: The Science of Crime Scene Investigation. New York: Ballantine Books, 2002. Deals with all aspects of forensic science as it pertains to investigation crime. Draws on interviews with forensic experts and police and contains many true-crime stories. Helps put Reichs’s writings in context.

Houde, John. Crime Lab: A Guide for Nonscientists. 2d ed. Rollingbay, Wash.: Calico Press, 2006. A guide to forensics designed to be understood by the average nonscientist. Provides insight into Reichs’s real-life world and that of her fictional character Tempe.

Reichs, Kathy. “Reichs’s Literary Skullduggery: Forensic Anthropologist Digs into Mysteries with Déjà Dead.” Interview by Bob Minzesheimer. USA Today, August 28, 1997, p. 06D. Interview with the author on her first novel and how her work informs her writing.

Reichs, Kathy. The World of Kathy Reichs. http://www .kathyreichs.com Author’s Web site includes brief biographical information, a curriculum vitae, a list of her fiction (with plot summaries and first chapters), and an overview of forensic science.

Stanford, Peter. “Ice Queen of Crime.” The Independent, July 21, 2006, p. 20. A comparison and discussion of Kathy Reichs and Patricia Cornwell.

Wayman, E. R. “Forensic Anthropology.” Current Anthropology 47, no. 4 (August, 2006): 567. Profile of Reichs that looks at her career and how she uses her knowledge in her writing.

Wecht, Cyril H., and John T. Rago, eds. Forensic Science and Law: Investigative Applications in Criminal, Civil, and Family Justice. Boca Raton, La.: CRC/Taylor & Francis, 2006. An explanation by a leading forensic expert of how the science is used in the legal system. Provides a perspective on the real-life world of forensic science and also on Reichs’s work.