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by Aaron Elkins

Pub Date: Jan. 15th, 1997
ISBN: 0-89296-467-7

There must be trouble brewing at Nick Druett's Paradise Coffee Plantation. Nick's daughter ThÇräse has sent back the lava samples she swiped from Hawaii, returning them in hopes of propitiating the volcano goddess Pele, who she can only hope has been responsible for the wave of infernal accidents (a worker maimed by new equipment, tons of coffee beans ruined by improper storage, two near-fatalities for ThÇräse's unofficial husband Brian Scott) in her parents' Tahitian paradise. But Pele, or whoever, is undeterred. When a third accident leaves Brian dead, ThÇräse's cousin, FBI agent John Lau, brings in forensic anthropologist Gideon Oliver to examine Brian's corpse and see if he wasn't dispatched by a less divine agency. Nick, who'd originally requested an exhumation order, begins to waffle, and the police commandant won't let Oliver dig up the corpse. He must have read the Skeleton Detective's eight previous adventures (Dead Men's Hearts, 1994, etc.) and remembered what wizardry he can work on the most reluctant bones. But even he can't predict the spectacular deductions Oliver will base on an old head injury of Brian's and on his monster fibulas—or the hilarious home truths about the coffee business that'll follow. Elkins has never gotten his due as a comic Patricia Cornwell. Maybe this tale, which beautifully balances tangy Tahitian backgrounds with a deft and brainy whodunit, will be the wake-up call. (Mystery Guild featured alternate)