A trip to Gibraltar brings Dr. Gideon Oliver, the Skeleton Detective (Little Tiny Teeth, 2007, etc.), up against old bones and new.
The Europa Point dig’s discovery of the First Family—Gibraltar Woman, a Homo sapiens skeleton, and Gibraltar Boy, the Neanderthal skeleton cradled in her arms—raised the heady possibility that Neanderthals and humans lived in peaceful coexistence with each others’ communities some time thousands of years ago. Unfortunately, Gideon, who’s headed to a conference commemorating Europa Point, hasn’t been equally successful at keeping the peace. He didn’t keep a tight enough lid on his sense of humor when he was talking to a newspaper reporter covering his trip, and now headlines scream that he’s going to unmask the biggest anthropological fraud since Piltdown Man. What Gideon finds instead is evidence of far more recent violence: the suspicious cave-in that buried Europa Point area supervisor Sheila Chan three years ago; the fiery death of wealthy amateur archeologist/TV personality Ivan Gunderson; and two nearly fatal attacks on Gideon’s own august person. Which of the eminent conferees—Gibraltar museum director Rowley Boyd, tippling Europa Point director Adrian Vanderwater, schoomarmish archeologist Audrey Godwin-Pope, Gideon’s old student Pru McGinnis—has been responsible for the carnage, and why?
Beyond the sawdust exposition—Elkins catalogs his characters’ professional credentials and physical appearance as conscientiously as any field anthropologist—lies a neatly turned puzzle with a didactic but painless use of the forensic expertise that’s the Skeleton Detective’s stock in trade.