Prime Crime, 2004 (2004)
Reviewed by G. Hall
t's been too long since we've had a new Aaron Elkins mystery about forensic sleuth Gideon Oliver. Elkins pioneered the forensics field (long before the popularity of
) when he started writing about the adventures of the '
', physical anthropologist Oliver. The books won many awards including a prestigious
from Mystery Writers of America. After ten Oliver mysteries, Elkins took a break to write other books including several stand-alone thrillers. Now Gideon Oliver's return is welcome news to fans.
liver is an engaging character who teaches physical anthropology at a university in the Northwest U. S.. Luckily for us, he travels frequently and seems to keep stumbling on bones that need to be analyzed. This time he is in the Lake District of Italy, having accompanied his wife Julie who is helping their friend Phil to run a guided outdoors tour. It turns out that Phil was originally from this area, and when they all arrive a couple of days early for the tour, he takes Gideon and Julie to meet his very wealthy local relatives. The eccentric extended family all live (not very harmoniously) together on an island in the middle of Lake Maggiore. When the Olivers visit, the quarrelsome family is even more difficult than usual, since the teenage son and heir, Achille, has been kidnapped.
hen bones are discovered nearby, Gideon eagerly volunteers to identify them - to help fill his time while his more outdoorsy companions, Julie and Phil, lead their tour. The bones don't turn out to be Achille's, but rather those of a family member who disappeared mysteriously ten years before. Oliver continues to dig into the mystery, getting into several dangerous situations before he solves it. As always with his books, Elkins includes enough fascinating forensic tidbits to satisfy our appetites. However, this episode is weak in plot. After reading the early section (which starts in 1960) some of the later plot twists are fairly predictable. In addition, parts of the book read more like a travelogue of the Lake District - well-written for a travel book, but a distraction from the mystery.
hough any time spent with Oliver - seeing how he uses his knowledge of bones to solve a mystery - is time well-spent,
is unfortunately not as strong as earlier episodes in the series.
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