Author: D.J. Donaldson

Publisher: Astor + Blue Editions, 2013


Cases handled by Andy Broussard, New Orleans medical examiner, and Kit Franklyn, criminal psychologist, illuminate for avid mystery fans a part of investigation that usually gets buried in plots – no pun intended. A good tag might be: anomalies in anatomy. Medical realism seems to be the point here, and in LOUISIANA FEVER, a much-feared infection, similar to Ebola fever, arrives at the port in an illegal transaction. The first victim to come to the attention of the two experts drops dead while offering Kit a bouquet of roses. The man’s identity is a mystery. In handling the deteriorating body, a colleague is infected. Desperate to find the source of the virus, Andy and Kit search the docks and board a Russian ship where Kit picks up a souvenir that later is a helpful lead. (Donaldson cleverly weaves small threads into a believable cloth.) After two more bodies turn up at the morgue with similar pathologies, Kit fails to show up for work. She’s not at home, either, and Andy begins a search for her on a seemingly impossible deadline. In alternating scenes, we witness Kit’s horrendous treatment at the hands of sadists -- in great detail.

Though not for the faint-of-heart, the forensic thriller has a cast of endearing characters that will stay in your memory. Andy is a corpulent man whose energy is mainly mental; he collects 1957 Thunderbirds. He admits to a professional grudge, but in this case works alongside his nemesis to find Kit. Kit is the requisite gorgeous, but she has amazing control of her own strength and a mind of her own. Her boyfriend, Teddy LaBiche, keeps an alligator farm. Then there is Grandma O, the round, wise woman in a black taffeta skirt who owns the pair’s favorite restaurant and oozes Cajun culture. She and her son Bubba Oustalette add warmth to a novel that is 90 per cent cold terror.

The author is a retired professor of anatomy and neurobiology; his specialty was wound-healing. He’s carved out a successful second career writing medical thrillers. This is the second novel in his New Orleans series, first published in the late 1990s. In a new introduction Donaldson explains that he prefers not to tamper with the anachronisms, such as no one having a cell phone. This is to his credit. The suspended time lends atmosphere that is wonderfully pungent. That said, the New Orleans in Donaldson’s eye is not what we usually get in Big Easy fiction; it is rough, back streets – except for the fabulous mansion where Kit is staying behind locked gates. Not that the locks helped.

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