- Paperback : 216 pages
- ISBN-10 : 1497643155
- ISBN-13 : 978-1497643154
- #4 in the Gideon Oliver series
Winner of the Edgar Allan Poe Award for best mystery novel of the year. 1988
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.
Members of the du Rocher family have been "summoned" to a meeting at which it's oldest member Guillame intends to make an important announcement. But before they can all get together he is dead, accidentally drowned on the flats of Mont St. Michel, caught by the galloping tide. Guillame's nephew claims to have been in his confidence, and to know what the meeting was about, but he is an unlovely character, and at least one other has a different idea about why they have been brought together.
Then the discovery of a skeleton in the cellar of the chateau, one that has apparently been there for over 40 years, calls for the involvement of the police and a bones expert, an American who is lecturing at a forensic science conference.
This is the first in this series that I have read, and it certainly won't be the last - there are plenty to choose from.
This is a many stranded plot, lots of red herrings, with engaging and interesting characters.
My rating: 4.6
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.