Some ten-year-old remains turn forensic anthropologist Gideon Oliver’s Hawaiian trip into a busman’s holiday.
Magnus Torkelsson’s surviving sister Dagmar and his four nieces and nephews all agree on what happened on the Hoalaha Cattle Ranch back in 1994. Hours after somebody—two somebodies, from the ballistic evidence—shot Magnus’s brother Torkel to death and burned down the house around him, Magnus took off for parts unknown and was never seen again. Now a fortuitous invitation from Magnus’s nephew Axel means that Gideon and his FBI buddy John Lau, Axel’s old college friend, are on hand when Magnus’s airplane turns up with his remains and those of Claudia Albert, a pilot with a past. Gideon (Good Blood, 2003, etc.) can’t imagine a better way to repay the family for their hospitality than examining the bones that have spent a decade in a warm lagoon. But the conclusions that he draws from a single skeletal foot spell trouble for rancher Axel; his brother Felix, a Honolulu land-use lawyer; his sister Inge, who runs a dude ranch on her share of the Hoalaha estate, and his sister Hedwig, who’s turned her spread into a holistic wellness center.
Gideon is too content with the sun to spend much time with the suspects, and the plot is a little too determined to prove wrong absolutely everything you assume about Magnus’s disappearance. But it all adds up to a diverting, mildly mystifying vacation.