Skeleton Dance: A Novel (Gideon Oliver Mysteries)

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9780688159283: Skeleton Dance: A Novel (Gideon Oliver Mysteries)

"Many people-villagers, campers, tourists-explore these caves. People have died in them before. They slip and fall, they are crushed by loosened rocks, they die of natural causes--"

Joly looked at him, only barely managing to keep from shaking his head at the man's never-ending obtuseness.

"And do they bury themselves as well?" he asked.-- From Skeleton Dance

Les Eyzies-de-Tayac is known for three things: paté de foie gras, truffles, and ancient bones. This small French village is home to the largest concentration of prehistoric fossils in Europe and headquarters of the prestigious Institut de Préhistoire, which studies them. So when the local police inspector, Lucien Anatole Joly, finds reason to suspect foul play, he places a call to his old friend Gideon Oliver, the famed "Skeleton Detective," hailed by Publishers Weekly as "shrewd, witty, and self- deprecating, " and by the Chicago Tribune as a "likeable, down-to-earth, cerebral sleuth."

Once Gideon arrives, murder piles on murder, puzzle on puzzle, and electrifying surprise on surprise, in a series of unexpected events that threaten to tear the once sober, dignified institute apart. It takes a bizarre and startling forensic breakthrough by Gideon to bring an end to a trail of deception almost forty thousand years in the making.The Edgar Award-winning author of Loot offers a spine-tingling tale of suspicion, intrigue, and murder.

Les Eyzies-de-Tayac is known for three things: pate de fois gras, truffles, and ancient bones. This small French village is home to the largest concentration of prehistoric fossils in Europe and headquarters of the prestigious Institut de Prehistoire, which studies them. So when a local dog drags a few bones into its backyard, no one thinks twice. But when the village's chief inspector finds reason to suspect foul play he places a call to his old friend Gideon Oliver, the famed "Skeleton Detective" hailed by Publishers Weekly (starred review) as "shrewd, witty, and self-deprecating," and by the Chicago Tribune as a "likeable, down-to-earth, cerebral sleuth."

Once Gideon arrives, murder piles on murder, puzzle on puzzle, and electrifying surprise on surprise, in a series of unexpected events that threaten to tear the once-sober, dignified institute apart. It takes a bizarre and startling forensic breakthrough by Gideon to bring to an end a trail of deception, jealousy, frustration, and homicide almost forty millennia in the making.

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Review:

Forensic anthropologist Gideon Oliver and his wife Julie have planned a relaxing four-week European jaunt that will allow Gideon to collect material for his upcoming book. But when a local dog digs up some very tasty--and very modern--human bones at a prehistoric site in the French Dordogne, Gideon gets a call for deductive assistance from old friend Inspector Lucien Joly. It appears that the bones are connected to the Institut de Préhistoire, epicenter of the academic debate on the proper place of Neanderthals in the progression of human evolution.

Years ago, the Institut's director, Ely Carpenter, found startling archaeological evidence that Neanderthal Man was a sensitive being with an appreciation of beauty and art: when that evidence was exposed as a fraud, Carpenter committed suicide. Or did he? These days, the remaining members of the Institut are still at dagger's (or perhaps Middle Paleolithic Acheulian cordiform hand ax's) edge. Half of them argue for the Neanderthals as card-carrying Homo sapiens, and the other half want to fling them from the family tree altogether. The academic debate is vicious, indeed--but when more bodies start to appear, Gideon must dig deep into layers of personal animosity and professional rivalry to determine which of his anthropological colleagues has more than a monograph at stake.

Aaron Elkins is the author of a number of Gideon Oliver mysteries, including the Edgar Award-winning Old Bones. It is a tribute to his skill that the dusty fragments of bone at the heart of this latest outing will capture his readers' interest, and that the ramifications of a scientific dispute seem the perfect motive for murder. Skeleton Dance carries as well all the touches that have made his previous novels successful: a genial protagonist who wavers between sharp-eyed precision and absent-minded obliviousness; an assortment of well-drawn minor characters (though their foibles may be sketched a bit too broadly, as Elkins stretches for a touch of humor); and a cozy evocation of local atmosphere. If the music of Skeleton Dance is a tune we've heard before, and the steps are a trifle well-worn, it doesn't really matter; Elkins is such a skilled partner that we'll find ourselves tapping our feet and turning the pages in easy rhythm. --Kelly Flynn

About the Author:

Aaron Elkins is a former anthropologist and professor who has been writing mysteries and thrillers since 1982. His major continuing series features forensic anthropologist-detective Gideon Oliver, “the Skeleton Detective.” There are fifteen published titles to date in the series. The Gideon Oliver books have been (roughly) translated into a major ABC-TV series and have been selections of the Book-of-the-Month Club, the Literary Guild, and the Readers Digest Condensed Mystery Series. His work has been published in a dozen languages.
 Mr. Elkins won the 1988 Edgar Award for best mystery of the year for Old Bones, the fourth book in the Gideon Oliver Series. He and his cowriter and wife, Charlotte, also won an Agatha Award, and he has also won a Nero Wolfe Award. Mr. Elkins lives on Washington’s Olympic Peninsula with Charlotte.

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