What was supposed to be an Italian vacation for forensic anthropologist Gideon Oliver and his wife turns into a busman's holiday when their hosts' only child goes missing--and nearby construction workers unearth human bones. The family awaits Oliver's conclusions with both dread and cautious hope. But along the way, he'll expose some extraordinary deceptions that lay bare the long-hidden secrets at the dark heart of a highborn family.
Set in the charming village of Stresa on Italy's Lake Maggiore, Elkins's 11th mystery to feature Gideon Oliver (after 2000's Edgar-winning Skeleton Dance) shows the forensic anthropologist in fine form. Oliver's half-Italian friend Phil Boyajian decides to combine a visit to relatives with a tour he's organizing, and invites Oliver and his wife to come along. As fate would have it--and Elkins is so good at acknowledging mystery conventions, often tongue-in-cheek--Phil's cousin, the bratty Achille de Grazia, has just been kidnapped. The local official, Colonnello Tullio Caravale, doesn't welcome Oliver's advice until an old set of bones turns up. Caravale, in a gently presented but highly amusing detail, admits that he once spent six hours classifying bones only to be told they were not human but rabbit. He's willing, therefore, to accept Oliver's expert help, and their evolving relationship is nicely evoked. The bones are identified as belonging to the kidnapped boy's grandfather, who was presumed dead in a sailing accident 10 years earlier. Clearly the two crimes are related, and the most likely suspects are the eccentric members of the de Grazia family, who live on a private island in a life of supreme physical ease but excruciating psychological discomfort. The distinct personalities of the de Grazias and other characters are sketched with great efficiency and precision. That alone would keep a reader's interest, but the forensic facts Elkins chooses to include and the brisk pace of the plot make for a total success.
Copyright (c) Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title
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January 31, 2005
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