The “shrewd, witty and self-deprecating forensic anthropologist” travels to Tahiti to sniff out crime at a coffee plantation (Publishers Weekly).
The dead man is the manager of Tahiti’s Paradise Coffee Plantation, producer of the most expensive coffee bean in the world, the winey, luscious Blue Devil. Nothing tangible points to foul play behind his fall from a cliff, but FBI agent John Lau, a relative of the coffee‑growing family, has his suspicions. What he needs is evidence, and who better to provide it than his friend, anthropologist Gideon Oliver, the Skeleton Detective? Gideon is willing to help, but surprisingly—and suspiciously—both the police and the other family members refuse to okay an exhumation order. As a result, Gideon, to his surprise and against his better judgment, finds himself sneaking into a graveyard under cover of night with John, a flashlight, and a shovel—not exactly up to the professional standards of the world’s most famous forensic anthropologist, but necessary under the circumstances.
Gideon prefers his bones ancient, dry, and dusty, but the body he must examine had lain in the tropical sun for a week before it was found and then buried native‑style—shallow, with no casket—so it is not exactly his . . . well, cup of tea. But it is not the state of the remains that bothers him the most, it is the deeper human ugliness that his examination uncovers: subtle clues that do indeed point to foul play, to mistaken identity, and to a murderous conspiracy that may have percolated through the family for decades—and brewed a taste for murder.
Twenty Blue Devils is the 9th book in the Gideon Oliver Mysteries, but you may enjoy reading the series in any order.
Gideon Oliver, the shrewd, witty and self-deprecating forensic anthropologist, is at the top of his form in his ninth appearance (after Dead Men's Hearts, 1994). This tale, populated with a memorable and well-defined cast, finds Gideon traveling to Tahiti with friend and FBI agent John Lau to investigate what might have been the murder of Brian Scott, manager of the thriving, family-owned Paradise Coffee Plantation and common-law husband of the owner's daughter Therese. Amid rumors of Mafia retaliation for earlier, unfriendly testimony by plantation owner Nick Druett, Gideon runs into unexpected obstacles. Neither Nick nor Therese wants Brian's body exhumed; Nick's good friend, the pompous head of the local gendarmerie, agrees. Gideon, perceptive as always, notices something extraordinary in the official photographs of Brian and, as the ensuing investigation progresses, the seemingly close-knit family begins to unravel. Therese, who is docile and uncommunicative, her politically correct sister and other, more devious family members are all at odds over a lucrative offer to buy the plantation, a move Brian had opposed. Zipping along at a smooth and rapid clip, the story combines masterfully etched characters and suggestions of lingering aromas of frangipani and coconut palms with the consummate panache of its hero. Elkins rewards his readers with a riveting mystery even while altering forever the way they will view their trendy, upscale coffee. Mystery Guild featured alternate; author tour.