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Taking a few potshots at scientific terminology along the way, this deftly plotted mystery features the coldly elegant French inspector Lucien Anatole Joly investigating the mysterious appearance of an aged corpse in the cellar of an old manor belonging to the decidedly odd du Rocher family. Joly is aided by his friends Gideon Oliver, an expert in the analysis of human skeletal remains, and John Lau, an FBI agent, who happen to be in the area attending an international conference on science and detection. The manor, in the best tradition of detective fiction, is filled with eccentric relatives, all at each other's throats. The group has gathered for a family council called by the patriarch, Guillaume, who drowned days before the meeting began. Joly tends to think there is no connection between the body in the cellar and the death of Guillaume until Oliver happens to start analyzing the bones with a surprising set of conclusions. A satisfying puzzler with good characters. SWM. [OCLC] 87-42705
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When revered Resistance-hero Guillaume du Rocher drowns in a rushing flood tide off Mont St. Michel, members of the familysummoned by Guillaume on undisclosed urgent businessare already assembled at the domaine du Rocher, where, instead, they hear his will. The next day in the basement, a partial skeleton is uncovered, and Gideon Oliver, American physical anthropologist known as the ``Skeleton Detective,'' is called from his lectures at an international forensics conference to examine the bones. Gideon confirms the remains, determines that they are those of a young man dead almost 50 years, suggesting a connection to local Resistance actions, including one in which Guillaume's brother Alain was executed after Claude Fougeray, a du Rocher cousin and now Guillaume's principal heir, collaborated with the enemy. While Gideon gleans more and more information from the skeleton, Claude is poisoned and Gideon himself is threatened. An intricate plotmore substantial than it promises initiallyis weighed down by a school of weak red herrings, by too much multisyllabic information about bone structure and by characters more caricatured than lifelike. Elkins (The Dark Place and Fellowship of Fear), is better on the muck and sand below the abbey where the action, especially a thrilling final scene, gallops along as fast and compelling as the tide itself. (December 14) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved