Edgar® Award–winning author Aaron Elkins’s creation—forensics professor Gideon Oliver—has been hailed by the Chicago Tribune as “a likable, down-to-earth, cerebral sleuth.” Now, the celebrated Skeleton Detective is visiting friends at a vineyard in Tuscany when murder leaves a bitter aftertaste...
It was the unwavering custom of Pietro Cubbiddu, patriarch of Tuscany’s Villa Antica wine empire, to take a solitary month-long sabbatical at the end of the early grape harvest, leaving the winery in the trusted hands of his three sons. His wife, Nola, would drive him to an isolated mountain cabin in the Apennines and return for him a month later, bringing him back to his family and business.
So it went for almost a decade—until the year came when neither of them returned. Months later, a hiker in the Apennines stumbles on their skeletal remains. The carabinieri investigate and release their findings: they are dealing with a murder-suicide. The evidence makes it clear that Pietro Cubbiddu shot and killed his wife and then himself. The likely motive: his discovery that Nola had been having an affair.
Not long afterwards, Gideon Oliver and his wife, Julie, are in Tuscany visiting their friends, the Cubbiddu offspring. The renowned Skeleton Detective is asked to reexamine the bones. When he does, he reluctantly concludes that the carabinieri, competent though they may be, have gotten almost everything wrong. Whatever it was that happened in the mountains, a murder-suicide it was not.
Soon Gideon finds himself in a morass of family antipathies, conflicts, and mistrust, to say nothing of the local carabinieri’s resentment. And when yet another Cubbiddu relation meets an unlikely end, it becomes bone-chillingly clear that the killer is far from finished...
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Aaron Elkins is the author of the Edgar® Award–winning Gideon Oliver Mysteries as well as his most recent novel, The Worst Thing.From Booklist:
*Starred Review* The latest in Elkins’ Edgar-winning Gideon Oliver series delivers another delicious blend of forensic science and a to-die-for setting. Part of Elkins’ appeal is the way he gives intriguing facts and travel tips for exotic or romantic settings. This time it’s Florence and the vineyards of Val d’Arno. When Oliver, a forensic anthropologist and professor at the University of Washington, gives a lecture at an international symposium in Florence on how skeletal remains can help solve murders, the local cops offer to take the class to view a set of bones, remnants from a murder-homicide solved the preceding year. Or was it? As usual in this series, the bones speak to Gideon Oliver in ways that the cops missed, and in ways the reader will find both compelling and convincing. The bones belong to the wife of another victim, her husband, whose body was cremated. This husband and wife (here comes the plot stretch) were the heads of a wine-making clan that Oliver and his wife were scheduled to visit. Oliver’s intensive forensic exam, plus his questioning of the relatives after he and his wife are ensconced in the family home, totally upends the police conclusions. The family turns out to be as tricky as the Borgias, and the motives for murder elbow each other for precedence. Much about wine, Florence, forensics, and evil. Great bouquet. --Connie Fletcher
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