Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Uneasy Relations - Aaron Elkins


Uneasy Relations
Aaron Elkins
Berkley Prime Crime

Mystery

Forensic anthropologist Gideon Oliver, known as the Skeleton Detective – is headed to Gibraltar with his wife, Julie, for an academic conference. He’s to give a speech while there. Unfortunately for him, he gave a brief interview to a less-than-honest newspaper stringer, who made it sound like Gideon will be making an earthshaking pronouncement. Gideon isn’t too happy about this, but his publisher is gearing up for an updated version of Gideon’s book on scientific errors and hoaxes, and is thrilled about it.

Years ago, a scientific dig found a Neanderthal gravesite. Buried there, in a clearly ritualized way, lay the partial skeletons of a woman with a young child in her arms. The popular press immediately dubbed them Gibraltar Woman and Gibraltar Boy. A team of experts, including Gideon, examined both skeletons. The female was clearly human. The report was indeterminate about the child, but the popular press took speculation about a human/Neanderthal hybrid and ran with it. There is still a lively scientific debate as to whether humans and Neanderthals could/did interbreed. At one conference, the speakers actually came to blows over it.

Arriving in Gibraltar, Gideon is very interested in seeing the actual site. And, having written a book about scientific hoaxes, he’s keenly aware that the popular press assumes the child was a hybrid, even though his studies of the incomplete skeleton proved nothing one way or the other. Clearly, someone else at the conference is aware of this, too. One death might be an accident, but two are clearly murder. Once again, Gideon must put on his detective hat to pick out the killer before he becomes the next targets.

Any Gideon Oliver mystery (LITTLE TINY TEETH) is cause for celebration. There’s plenty of science and history provided; and it’s all presented in an intelligent, yet very accessible way. The cast of characters is rather eccentric, as one would expect from a group of scientists. It’s always a pleasure to watch Gideon weave his theories and tease out the clues. If you’re looking for a smart mystery, you can’t go wrong with Gideon Oliver.

Rating: 8 ½
July 2008
ISBN# 978-0-425-22176-1 (hardcover)

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