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Aaron Elkins

Where There’s A Will

Where There’s a Will (Gideon Oliver Series #12) by Aaron Elkins

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Acclaimed for a mischievous wit and his intriguing mixture of forensic anthropology and real skull-duggery, Aaron Elkins is one of the best in the business and getting better all the time. Now, the author of Good Blood returns, and so does Gideon Oliver, professor of forensics, who uncovers a deadly family plot of greed and murder in the northern uplands of Hawaii.

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Dead Men’s Hearts

My review of Aaron Elkins’ novel Dead Men’s Hearts

DEAD MEN'S HEARTS

An ancient skeleton tossed in a garbage dump is the first conundrum to rattle Gideon Oliver when he arrives in Egypt. There to appear in a documentary film, he expects an undemanding week of movie star treatment and a luxurious cruise up the Nile with his wife, Julie. But when Gideon discovers a tantalizing secret in the discarded bones—and violence claims a famous Egyptologist’s life—he is thrust into a spotlight of a different kind. Plying his calipers as the world’s foremost forensic anthropologist, Gideon’s investigation of the goings‑on leads him through the back alleys and bazaars of Cairo and deep into the millennia‑old tombs of the Valley of the Kings.

As the puzzle is painstakingly pieced together, Gideon will find that the identifying traits of a cunning killer are the same now as they were in the time of the pyramids: greed without guilt, lies without conscience . . . and murder without remorse.

Dead Men’s Hearts is the 8th book in the Gideon Oliver Mysteries, but you may enjoy reading the series in any order.

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Curses!

My review of Aaron Elkins story in the Gideon Oliver series, Curses!

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Mayan ruins in the Yucatán . . . a secret room in a tomb . . . age‑old skeletons. To anthropologist Gideon Oliver, the renowned Skeleton Detective, the invitation to join the archaeological excavation of Tlaloc promises two months of paradise on Earth.

That is, until an ancient series of Mayan curses against desecrators of the site is unearthed. When the first one comes to pass (“The bloodsucking kinkajou will come freely among them”), it is taken by all as a practical joke. But by the time the fourth one is apparently consummated (“The one called Xecotcavach will pierce their skulls so that their brains spill onto the earth”), nerves have begun to fray and suspicions and discord are mounting.

The steamy jungles weigh down on the band of eccentric anthropologists as one by one the curses continue to materialize. It takes Gideon’s special talents for deduction—along with the enigmatic insights of Mexico’s one and only Mayan Indian inspector of the state judicial police—to resolve an ancient riddle and a modern, murderous mystery.

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Skeleton Dance

My review of Aaron Elkins’ Skeleton Dance

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Les‑Eyzies‑de‑Tayac is known for three things: pâté de fois gras, truffles, and prehistoric remains. The little village, in fact, is the headquarters of the prestigious Institute de Préhistoire, which studies the abundant local fossils. But when a pet dog emerges from a nearby cave carrying parts of a human skeleton—by no means a fossilized one—Chief Inspector Lucien Anatole Joly puts in a call to his old friend, Gideon Oliver, the famed “Skeleton Detective.”
Once Gideon arrives, murder piles on murder, puzzle on puzzle, and twist follows twist in a series of unexpected events that threaten to tear the once sober, dignified Institut apart. It takes a bizarre and startling forensic breakthrough by Gideon to bring to an end a trail of deception thirty‑five thousand years in the making.


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Twenty Blue Devils

My review of Aaron Elkins’ Twenty Blue Devils

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The dead man is the manager of Tahiti’s Paradise Coffee Plantation, producer of the most expensive coffee bean in the world, the winey, luscious Blue Devil. Nothing tangible points to foul play behind his fall from a cliff, but FBI agent John Lau, a relative of the coffee-growing family, has his suspicions. What he needs is evidence, and who better to provide it than his friend, anthropologist Gideon Oliver, the Skeleton Detective? Gideon is willing to help, but surprisingly—and suspiciously—both the police and the other family members refuse to okay an exhumation order. As a result, Gideon, to his surprise and against his better judgment, finds himself sneaking into a graveyard under cover of night with John, a flashlight, and a shovel—not exactly up to the professional standards of the world’s most famous forensic anthropologist, but necessary under the circumstances.

Gideon prefers his bones ancient, dry, and dusty, but the body he must examine had lain in the tropical sun for a week before it was found and then buried native-style—shallow, with no casket—so it is not exactly his . . . well, cup of tea. But it is not the state of the remains that bothers him the most, it is the deeper human ugliness that his examination uncovers: subtle clues that do indeed point to foul play, to mistaken identity, and to a murderous conspiracy that may have percolated through the family for decades—and brewed a taste for murder


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Make No Bones

My review of Aaron Elkins’ Make No Bones

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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.


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Icy Clutches

My review of Aaron Elkins’ Icy Clutches

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Gideon Oliver expects to be amicably bored when he takes on the role of “accompanying spouse” at a lodge in the magnificent wild country of Glacier Bay, Alaska, where his forest ranger wife, Julie, is attending a conference. But it turns out to be exactly his cup of tea. There is another group at the lodge: six scientists on a memorial journey to the site of a thirty-year-old glacial avalanche that killed three of their colleagues. Their leader is TV’s most popular science personality, the unctuous M. Audley Tremaine, who is the sole survivor of the fatal avalanche. But he does not survive long and is soon found hanged in his room. If that is not upsetting enough, shocked hikers discover human bones emerging from the foot of the glacier—are they the shattered remains of the three who died, finally seeing daylight after their two-mile, three-decade journey within the glacial flow?

When the FBI seeks expert help, everyone agrees how fortunate it is that Dr. Oliver, the famed Skeleton Detective, is on the scene. Everybody, that is, but the person who wants ancient history to stay that way—and who believes that murder is the surest way to keep the past buried.


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Old Bones

My review of Aaron Elkin’s Old Bones

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Winner of the Edgar Allan Poe Award for best mystery novel of the year.

With the roar of thunder and the speed of a galloping horse comes the tide to Mont St. Michel goes the old nursery song. So when the aged patriarch of the du Rocher family falls victim to the perilous tide, even the old man’s family accepts the verdict of accidental drowning. But too quickly, this “accident” is followed by a bizarre discovery in the ancient du Rocher chateau: a human skeleton, wrapped in butcher paper, beneath the old stone flooring. Professor Gideon Oliver, lecturing on forensic anthropology at nearby St. Malo, is asked to examine the bones. He quickly demonstrates why he is known as the “Skeleton Detective,” providing the police with forensic details that lead them to conclude that these are the remains of a Nazi officer believed to have been murdered in the area during the Occupation. Or are they? Gideon himself has his doubts. Then, when another of the current du Rochers dies—this time via cyanide poisoning—his doubts solidify into a single certainty: someone wants old secrets to stay buried . . . and is perfectly willing to eradicate the meddlesome American to make that happen.


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Murder In the Queen’s Armes

My review of Aaron Elkins’ Murder In the Queen’s Armes

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Anthropology professor Gideon Oliver would prefer to keep his mind on his beautiful new bride Julie during their English honeymoon, but one intrusive question will not stop nagging at him: Who would want to steal a thirty-thousand-year-old parieto-occipital calvarial fragment?

Yet someone has lifted this chunk of prehistoric human skull from a musty museum in Dorchester. Then, thirty miles away, an archaeology student is murdered, increasing tension and suspicion at a dig that had already seethed with suspicion, rivalry, and mistrust. Could there be a connection between a hot bone and a cold-blooded murder? Gideon is called on by the police to apply the unique skills for which the media have named him “the Skeleton Detective,” and he reluctantly agrees. Before he is done, his sleuthing will lead him to another murder and will—in the most literal and terrifying manner imaginable—sic the dogs on him, putting Gideon himself, and Julie as well, in mortal danger . . .


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