Contribution

(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.