My review of Aaron Elkins’ Make No Bones


There is not much left of the irascible Albert Evan Jasper, “dean of American forensic anthropologists,” after his demise in a fiery car crash. But in accord with his wishes, his remains—a few charred bits of bone—are installed in an Oregon museum to create a fascinating if macabre exhibit. All agree that it is a fitting end for a great forensic scientist—until what is left of him disappears in the midst of the biannual meeting (a.k.a., the “bone bash and weenie roast”) of the august WAFA—the Western Association of Forensic Anthropologists—in nearby Bend, Oregon.

Like his fellow attendees, Gideon Oliver—the Skeleton Detective—is baffled. Only the WAFA attendees could possibly have made off with the remains, but who in the world would steal something like that? And why? All had an opportunity, but who had a motive?

Soon enough, the discovery of another body in a nearby shallow grave will bring to the fore a deeper, more urgent mystery, and when one of the current attendees is found dead in his cabin, all hell breaks loose.
Gideon Oliver is now faced with the most difficult challenge of his career—unmasking a dangerous, brilliant killer who knows every bit as much about forensic science as he does. Or almost.

4 Stars

Before Kathy Reichs, before Jefferson Bass, there was Aaron Elkins. Another stupendous installment in the Gideon Oliver series. The more I read of it the better it gets. The series has certainly solidified as it has gone on. The author has definitely improved his craft over the years.

Of course Gideon, Julie and John are all wonderful. And the story specific characters are all pretty well done as well. I did tend to get Les and Leland confused with each other, and they probably could have been combined into one character as neither one brought much to the table. And I thought Callie was a little too touchy-feely for the time, but certainly would fit in with today’s academia, so perhaps she was just a portrayal of the sort of persons that Dr. Elkins saw coming up through the ranks at the time. Callie was certainly someone that I think of as a bane to good education. It took about half, maybe two thirds, of the book before I felt I knew who the culprit was. I was initially a little confused over who the actual victims were. And the motive seemed a little fuzzy to me.

The story was paced well. Unlike the some of the other novels (The Dark Place and Icy Clutches specifically) the setting didn’t play much of a role, it was much more character driven.

The eBook had some formatting issues, but they may be Nook specific. There were several odd line/paragraph breaks, and most of the dashes came up either as a blank box or a box with a “?” inside it, depending on which font setting was chosen. When viewing the eBook through other eReader programs like Calibre, ADE, Sigil or online it didn’t have these rendering problems.