Monday, October 6, 2014

Bad Karma In The Big Easy Brings Back Favorite ME, Andy Broussard! Have You Met Him Yet?!

 The devastation of Katrina still holds people and the town captive as continued work to return homes and businesses to some semblance of normal living continues. Many were saved, rescued by the many volunteers and emergency personnel who worked diligently...

None worked more diligently than those who worked in the ME Offices there...
This novel recognizes those efforts and tells the possible inside story for those who were not working to save and protect... they were working to bring dignity and honor to the dead...

Played by William Conrad
Andy Broussard, Chief Medical Examiner for Orleans Parish, rubbed the back of his stiff neck. Cots must have been invented by the Marquis de Sade. There couldn‘t be any other explanation for the existence of such a wretched object. 

Fortified with a surprisingly decent cup of coffee and two hastily -consumed sausage biscuits, he stepped out of the abandoned schoolhouse where most of the area’s FEMA workers slept in former classrooms. Without pause, he 
set his stubby, tired legs moving, heading as fast as he could toward the makeshift mortuary next door. 

In most of the state, people who still had beds were in them. But here, though the sun had not yet made an appearance, the morning shift in the morgue was already well underway. And Broussard was late. 

Never mind that he’d worked most of the night shift. This was the day he could turn to the task that had been picking at his sense of order for weeks, so he was upset at having overslept. Broussard had lived with death daily for over forty years. It was as much a part of him as his bow ties and the lanyard that tethered his glasses to his neck when he looked through a microscope. It enveloped him as completely as each of his six 1957 T-Birds cradled his 
massive body . He could feel its touch as surely as the steering wheels of those cars, which rubbed against the buttons on his shirt when he turned a corner. It was in his gray hair and beard and the leather of the shoes with perforated uppers he wore to keep his feet from sweating. 

He did not fear death. He simply viewed it as a respected adversary that came in many guises, a cunning opponent with endless tricks to mislead those who would document and understand its handiwork, an antagonist capable of challenging his intellect at the highest level, especially when one human arranged for it to take another. But this easy familiarity with the dark eternal did not lessen the burden he had carried for weeks as the body count from Hurricane Katrina mounted.



D.J. Donaldson

This is my third novel meeting Andy Broussard and I discovered I enjoyed him even more in this latest story. Andy is in the midst of working in support of the Katrina devastation, having performed hundreds of autopsies, as required, for those who were killed. Even though you couldn't blame him for a slip up during that time, he had moved the bodies of three women on, knowing that he was missing something, but not able to pinpoint what it was... He was now able to get back to them since they had just a little more time...

Actually, it was the young woman working with him that finally pinpointed what was wrong. Each of the women had tattooed eye liner! They knew now it was definitely murder... Kit Franklin is an interesting side-kick for Broussard. She is mostly involved with investigations, so was immediately wondering why Broussard had become so concerned about the three women.
Franks, also a colleague, explained he thought that, given the many deaths which were by natural causes, and for which he could do only the minimal work in getting them ready to move on, he actually needed to feel useful again, on top of his game--working for the city that he so loved...

But this easy familiarity with the dark eternal did not lessen the
 burden he had carried for weeks as the body count from Hurricane
Katrina mounted. The corpses had been flowing at a shocking rate
into the row of refrigerated trucks he could already see through the
chain link fence surrounding his brightly lit destination. Over eight
hundred souls lost at last count... mostly from failure of the levees.
It was still incomprehensible to him that such a catastrophe could
have happened. His beloved New Orleans... much of it destroyed...
It was almost too much for the old pathologist to take. But he owed
it to the dead to make sure every one of them was identified, and
none had been murdered under cover of the storm. That, he would
not tolerate. But Lord, it was hard to keep going...
Broussard is experiencing some light-headedness--no wonder! But he was taking the time to be much more involved with these three women than he'd ever been before. This, too, however, was a sign of the heavy workload and stress and as the story goes on, he not only surprised his colleagues, but himself, in getting into and helping physically in helping solve the case! Andy is known as somewhat of a know-it-all, but he was beginning to feel the pressure and wondering whether he was getting to old...but, thankfully, for readers, by the time the case was solved, Andy is back to himself! Great!
Corpse 427 had not died from drowning.
Broussard was certain of that, because the
lungs were normal in size and shape. When
sectioned, they had contained no foam.
As he had expected even more opening the
abdomen, the intestines had been extremely
distended with decomposition gases. As he
looked now at the uterus, he saw that it, too,
appeared swollen so its fundus sat well above
the pubic symphysis, the line where the two
hipbones are fused at the front...
He removed the organ from the scales and
placed it on the counter. With a long, thin
knife shaped like the slim jim thieves used to
open locked cars, he divided the organ.
And sure enough... "Myometrium thickened."
There was absolutely no doubt now...
Around three weeks before her death, this
woman had given birth...

The three women who had been found had been nude, wearing no jewelry and had no repaired fractures. But just the fact that they were nude was enough to have them question what had happened, especially since there was also no clothing around the bodies. One of the bodies, however, had a silicone chin implant that, hopefully, would have been identified in any missing person report.

But now they had the opportunity, if anything more could be discovered, of investigating the location where the bodies were found. They knew the bodies might have been carried by the water so their search included a fairly large area. Then they found the freezer with the top torn off... With nothing inside...

They started talking with anybody who was still living in the area, plus at the same time, they identified one of the bodies...

And then Kit was pulled into another investigation where a head from a body was found--the neck ragged and torn. The body was still sitting in his car...Was it accident...suicide...or...

The potential suicide led Kit to a group called Organogenesis, Inc. who worked to provide needed body parts to children. Apparently, they made them artificially... The man who was dead was one of two brothers who ran the business...

Got to say, that this book gets gory! So be prepared for some squeamish moments... especially when this critter gets involved...

There is enough to hint at what is going on but the final reality was surprising...and horrendous! Of the three I've read and loved, this brought me to the edge of my seat, amazed at the ways potential good activities are turned, for greed, into criminal actions that are beyond the imagination of those, like me, who live quite ordinary lives...

One lighter side to the story is the local eatery, Grandma O's in the book, which just may be this one on Poydras Street which had been in the right location to avoid the damage.  There are many warm scenes there, so it seemed an appropriate way to close our visit to the Big Easy...  And then stay for as much of the Jazz Festival as you Can!

Hey! I love this series. If you haven't read any of the books by D. J. Donaldson--and love forensics crime stories, you're really missing one of the best writers in this field. And, of course, enjoy the famous food and music while you visit!


D.J. Donaldson is a retired professor of anatomy and neurobiology. His entire academic career was spent at the University of Tennessee, Health Science Center, where he published dozens of papers on wound-healing and taught microscopic anatomy to thousands of medical and dental students. He is also the author of seven published forensic mysteries and five medical thrillers. He lives in Memphis, Tennessee, with his wife and two West Highland terriers. In the spring of most years, he simply cannot stop buying new flowers and other plants for the couple's prized backyard garden.

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