The French police call on the Skeleton Detective when a dog digs up some human bones: “Terrific” —Publishers Weekly
Les‑Eyzies‑de‑Tayac is known for three things: pâté de fois gras, truffles, and prehistoric remains. The little village, in fact, is the headquarters of the prestigious Institute de Préhistoire, which studies the abundant local fossils. But when a pet dog emerges from a nearby cave carrying parts of a human skeleton—by no means a fossilized one—Chief Inspector Lucien Anatole Joly puts in a call to his old friend, Gideon Oliver, the famed “Skeleton Detective.” Once Gideon arrives, murder piles on murder, puzzle on puzzle, and twist follows twist in a series of unexpected events that threaten to tear the once sober, dignified Institut apart. It takes a bizarre and startling forensic breakthrough by Gideon to bring to an end a trail of deception thirty‑five thousand years in the making.
Skeleton Dance is the 10th book in the Gideon Oliver Mysteries, but you may enjoy reading the series in any order.
Academic infighting, at once comically petty and deadly serious, is the subject of Elkins's terrific follow-up to Old Bones, winner of the 1988 Edgar Award for best novel. This time, celebrated Seattle "skeleton detective" Gideon Oliver travels to the quaint French village of Les Eyzies to aid police in the identification of some human bones. At first, the bones were thought to be prehistoric fossils, common enough in a town famous for its Paleolithic caves and the world-class Institut de Pr histoire. But closer examination reveals the deceased to have been murdered sometime within the past five years, possibly by someone linked to the institute. Gideon, now on sabbatical leave from his professorship to write a book on scientific bloopers, begins interviewing the institute's five French and American members about a notorious archeological hoax perpetrated by the former director, elusive American Ely Carpenter. The more Gideon learns about the hoax, the more he's convinced of a connection to the unidentified bones. When Gideon is attacked and the bones stolen, it's clear that one of the five scientists is responsible--probably for murder, as well. Every suspect is a full-blown comic creation capable of surprise, from the absent-minded Jacques Beaupierre, who crosses the street "somewhat in the manner of a soft-bodied sea creature undulating over the ocean floor," to the pompous mile Grize, who affects bow ties depicting "egg yolks exploding in a microwave oven." Mischievous wit, fascinating erudition, juicy (but never mean-spirited) academic gossip and a gorgeous setting redolent with Gitanes and goose liver combine to make this mystery an especially delectable treat.