Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Little Tiny Teeth - Aaron Elkins



Little Tiny Teeth
Aaron Elkins
Berkley Prime Crime

Mystery

After thirteen books, where in the world is there left for Gideon Oliver, forensic anthropologist to go? Why, down the Amazon in a not-quite-ready-for-prime-time boat, of course. Accompanying Gideon on this trip are his friends John Lau and Phil Boyajian. They have Phil, a travel agent for the budget-conscious, to thank for the accommodations. Their guide, Cisco, is an obviously sketchy character who is just as obviously on drugs a good part of the time.

Ethnobotanist Arden Scofield, known throughout the world for his work, a ghostwriter, and entomologist Duane Osterhaut are also on board, on a research mission. The first day out, a spear lands on the deck, adorned with a shrunken human skull. While keeping a lookout for a rarely seen tribe of headhunters, it quickly becomes clear that, professionals or not, there’s plenty of tension among the researchers. Deep in the jungle, one of the researchers is killed, apparently by a passenger who then leaps from the boat. And while accusations and long-held resentments boil over, human bones, picked clean by the titular little tiny teeth of piranhas, appears out of the river. It’s certainly not the relaxing vacation Gideon had in mind.

It’s pretty much a given that a Gideon Oliver mystery is a good, and engaging mystery. This one is no exception. Perhaps my experience was made more realistic by the fact that I read this novel during a heat wave, but I felt like I was right there with them. The first part of the novel is a bit slow, if you’re looking for action, since it centers on the trip down (up?) the river, and describes the exotic flora and fauna to be found there. I enjoyed that, really, and felt that it helped build the atmosphere. Gideon is always a delight, and it’s fun to watch him work with his friend, John Lau. The real downside is the wait between novels; but it’s always worth it.

Rating: 8 ½
June 2007
ISBN# 978-0-425-21530-2 (hardcover)

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