Forensic anthropologist Gideon Oliver steams down the Amazon and into intrigue, violence and unbearable humidity.
Thirty years after Arden Scofield abandoned his two grad-school friends to the poisoned darts of Peru’s Chayacuro tribe and scrambled off with the rubber-tree seeds that would make his fortune, Professor Scofield is sitting pretty. He’s a highly regarded ethnobotanist, a nationally known author and a perennial leader of research expeditions in the Amazon basin. His companions on this trip include his junior colleague Maggie Gray, his hapless student Tim Loeffler, his ghostwriter Mel Pulaski, Department of Agriculture ethnoentomologist Duayne V. Osterhout and a trio of nonprofessional passengers: raffish tour guide Phil Boyajian and his friends John Lau of the FBI and Gideon Oliver, the “Skeleton Detective” (Unnatural Selection, 2006, etc.). Unbeknownst to Gideon, he and his buddies aren’t the only unofficial cargo; Scofield has bribed Capt. Vargas to smuggle a large quantity of coca paste in the coffee beans. Except for the oppressive weather, some huge bugs that delight Osterhout and disgust everyone else, not to mention the odd spear tossed through a window, all goes well, if sluggishly, until Gideon’s wakened by a splash in the night and finds two of his shipmates missing and a third thrashing in the river. Are the perps avenging local tribesmen, territorial drug lords or someone closer to home?
More dank travelogue than mystery, though Gideon manages a nice display of erudite deduction toward the end.