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Kathy Reichs is forensic anthropologist for the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, State of North Carolina, and for the Laboratoire de Sciences Judiciaires et de Médecine Légale for the province of Quebec. She is one of only fifty forensic anthropologists certified by the American Board of Forensic Anthropology. A professor of anthropology at UNC-Charlotte, Dr. Reichs is a native of Chicago, where she received her Ph.D. at Northwestern. She now divides her time between Charlotte and Montreal and is a frequent expert witness at criminal trials. Her first novel, Déjà Dead, brought Dr. Reichs fame when it became a New York Times bestseller and won the 1997 Ellis Award for Best First Novel. Grave Secrets is her fifth novel featuring Temperance Brennan.
Deja Dead (1998)
Death Du Jour (2000 - 2002)
Deadly Decisions (2001)
Deadly Voyage (2002)
Fatal Voyage (2001)
Grave Secrets (2002)
From Grave Secret
published by Scribner
"I am dead. They killed me as well."
The old woman's words cut straight to my heart.
"Please tell me what happened that day." Maria spoke so softly I had to
strain to catch the Spanish.
"I kissed the little ones and left for market." Eyes down, voice toneless.
"I did not know that I would never see them again."
K'akchiquel to Spanish, then reversing the linguistic loop, reversing
again as answers followed questions. The translation did nothing to blunt
the horror of the recitation.
"When did you return home, Señora Ch'i'p?"
"A que hora regreso usted a su casa, Señora Ch'i'p?"
"Chike ramaj xatzalij pa awachoch, Ixoq Ch'i'p?"
"Late afternoon. I'd sold my beans."
"The house was burning?"
"Your family was inside?"
I watched the speakers. An ancient Mayan woman, her middle-aged son, the
young cultural anthropologist Maria Paiz, calling up a memory too terrible
for words. I felt anger and sorrow clash inside me like the thunderheads
building on the horizon.
"What did you do?"
"We buried them in the well. Quickly, before the soldiers came back."
I studied the old woman. Her face was brown corduroy. Her hands were
calloused, her long braid more gray than black. Fabric lay folded atop her
head, bright reds, pinks, yellows, and blues, woven into patterns older
than the mountains around us. One corner rose and fell with the wind.
The woman did not smile. She did not frown. Her eyes met no one's, to my
relief. I knew if they lingered on mine even briefly, the transfer of pain
would be brutal. Maybe she understood that and averted her gaze to avoid
drawing others into the hell those eyes concealed.
Or perhaps it was distrust. Perhaps the things she had seen made her
unwilling to look frankly into unknown faces.
Feeling dizzy, I upended a bucket, sat, and took in my surroundings.
I was six thousand feet up in the western highlands of Guatemala, at the
bottom of a steep-sided gorge. The village of Chupan Ya. Between the
Mountains. About one hundred and twenty-five kilometers northwest of
Around me flowed a wide river of green, lush forest interspersed with
small fields and garden plots, like islands. Here and there rows of
man-made terraces burst through the giant checkerboard, cascading downward
like playful waterfalls. Mist clung to the highest peaks, blurring their
contours into Monet softness.
I'd rarely seen surroundings so beautiful. The Great Smoky Mountains. The
Gatineau, Quebec, under northern lights. The barrier islands off the
Carolina coast. Haleakula volcano at dawn. The loveliness of the backdrop
made the task at hand even more heartbreaking.
As a forensic anthropologist, it is my job to unearth and study the dead.
I identify the burned, the mummified, the decomposed, and the skeletonized
who might otherwise go to anonymous graves. Sometimes the identifications
are generic, Caucasoid female, mid-twenties. Other times I can confirm a
suspected ID. In some cases, I figure out how these people died. Or how
their corpses were mutilated.
I am used to the aftermath of death. I am familiar with the smell of it,
the sight of it, the idea of it. I have learned to steel myself
emotionally in order to practice my profession.
But the old woman was breaking through my determined detachment.