Cultures collide as a headstrong
forensic odontologist from North Carolina investigates dental remains hidden on
Maori land in New Zealand.
Even though she’s only visiting the little town of Rotorua to pay her respects at the funeral of a friend, Alexa Glock (“like the gun”) can’t help but stop by the Waiariki Thermal Land of Enchantment to check out the body she hears was found in the mud there. Venturing behind the police line doesn’t endear her to the small-town investigators on the scene, but Alexa knows she brings something special to the case. Her field is forensic odontology, and her expertise in teeth may enable her to identify the remains—at least, that’s the case she makes to the initially standoffish DI Bruce Horne. Reluctant to hire a stranger who’s essentially assigned herself to the case, Bruce agrees to let Alexa join the investigation already underway in his small department because he has no other good options. But Alexa isn’t satisfied with taking orders. Not only does she constantly direct suspicion and critique toward her new colleagues; she does whatever she feels might help, whether or not she runs it by the brass first. In a town like Rotorua, whose largely Maori population shares a culture a tad different from hers, Alexa’s headstrong tactics are more successful in endangering the team than in getting answers. When lab tech Jenny, the team member most sympathetic to Alexa’s strategies, is attacked in the police station, Alexa feels even more justified in poking around among the Maori people and their artifacts, to the consternation of Bruce, who’d evidently hoped he could develop at least a friendship with Alexa, and maybe more.
Johnson’s debut heroine is as hard as the bones she investigates to get a sense of. Her unsatisfying backstory, coupled with a potential romance that fades in and out, makes her hard to root for.