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K.I.A (Dr. Kel McKelvey Series #2)

K.I.A (Dr. Kel McKelvey Series #2)

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by Thomas Holland

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The government is calling it a casualty. The Army's Central Identification Lab is calling it a crime.


New from the author of One Drop of Blood.

The remains of a soldier who disappeared in Saigon in 1970 have been discovered. The Status Review Board


The government is calling it a casualty. The Army's Central Identification Lab is calling it a crime.


New from the author of One Drop of Blood.

The remains of a soldier who disappeared in Saigon in 1970 have been discovered. The Status Review Board decision is that he was killed in action. Forensic expert Kel McKelvey of the Army's C.I. Lab has his doubts about the cause of death—especially when he discovers a link to a series of brutal murders being committed on military bases in the American South.

Product Details

Penguin Group (USA)
Publication date:
Dr. Kel McKelvey Series , #2
Edition description:
Product dimensions:
4.10(w) x 6.70(h) x 1.10(d)
Age Range:
18 Years

Read an Excerpt

Chapter 1

Baghdad, Iraq
Thursday, October 18, 2007

"Clear your weapon, sir."

Robert McKelvey shook loose from his heat-dulled thoughts and looked up. He saw a young staff sergeant in desert camo, his Kevlar helmet cocked at an angle in an effort to impart some style to the baggy uniform. The eye contact, even shielded as it was behind dark sunglasses, made it clear that McKelvey had missed something. "What's that, Sergeant?" McKelvey asked. His voice broke from dry heat and disuse.

The staff sergeant nodded at the nine-millimeter holstered on

McKelvey's hip. "Check your weapon, sir." McKelvey was following the sergeant's look to his own hip when someone slapped him on the back of his head, knocking his ball cap over his eyes. "C'mon, Doc. You been out in the desert too long." It was Lieutenant Colonel Dennis Perkins, head of one of the ISG's mobile task forces. "This ain't Dodge City. You're back in civilization now, son — if you get my meaning. Check your weapon, and let's get us some chow. I've been eating goddamn MREs for the last two months." Perkins stepped in front of McKelvey, worked the bolt on his M-16, and dry-fired into a fifty-five-gallon drum half-filled with sand.

"Hey, bubba," McKelvey recovered from his surprise and replied as he pushed his cap up and began fumbling with his holster flap. "Heard you were up north somewhere." The two men had first met six months earlier when McKelvey was searching for a helicopter crash near the Kuwaiti border and the Iraq Support Group had been tapped for support. Perkins and his Mobil Task Force Sixteen had been pulled off their search for WMDs to augment the recovery team.

"Was. Gotback this morning. How 'bout you? Word was that you were out west. Any success?" He watched McKelvey struggle with his holster as long as he could before reaching out and jerking the restraining flap up. "Let me help you there, Sergeant Rock."

"Thanks. Velcro can be tricky."

"Not to a trained professional. C'mon, I hear little Styrofoam bowls of Jell-O calling my name."

"Shit," McKelvey said as he removed the pistol from his holster. As the guard watched, he cocked and dry-fired it into the sand barrel, verifying that it was unloaded. It was always unloaded. They nodded in mutual affirmation, and McKelvey secured his weapon before returning his attention to Perkins. "They got Jell-O here?"

"You bet. Cool little squares of quivering paradise. I'm partial to the ones with banana slices in 'em. I like to suck 'em down in one gulp — kinda like oysters." He was holding several long strips of plastic that hung in front of the door aside with his forearm, suggesting that McKelvey should go first. The cool of the air-conditioned interior filtered past the plastic strips that hung over the mess trailer's doorway. "Unfortunately, they're the first to go — as in you need to get there early — if you get my meaning."

"In that case, you best leave me behind. Every man for himself under the circumstances."

"Negative. Ranger rules. I will not leave a comrade behind even when the Jell-O is in sight. Nothing in the book that says I can't kick you in the ass, though, if you don't hurry up."

"Ranger rules?"

"Ranger rules."

McKelvey smiled and ducked through the doorway. Actually, they were early and the dinner crowd was light. They worked their way through the food line quickly, filling their trays with slabs of grilled steak and dollops of mashed potatoes and colorful mixed vegetables, all served by somber-browed local hires that McKelvey felt sure had been asked to leave their vials of ricin at home.

Perkins detoured past the dessert bar and arrived at the seat next to McKelvey with a tray overloaded with bowls of Jell-O. As McKelvey watched, he slurped down four lime-colored squares as if he were a finalist in a gelatin-eating contest. With a loud satisfied sigh, he looked up. "Man oh man, if that doesn't clean out the dust. I gotta buy stock in Jell-O. Gotta."

"You and me both. And to think they bothered flavoring it."

"They flavor it?"

McKelvey laughed and shifted gears. "So tell me, still lookin' for WMDs?"

Perkins smiled broadly and bobbed his head at McKelvey's waist. "Doc Kel with a sidearm. Shit if that isn't the closest thing to a weapon of mass destruction that I can think of."

"That's why they don't give me bullets. But, hey, if y'all aren't still lookin' for WMDs, then what's the Iraq Support Group up to nowadays, anyhow? In case you haven't heard, Saddam's history."

"Other duties as assigned." Perkins shrugged as he stacked his Jell-O bowls. "Nothing I can talk about — if you get my meaning." He said that a great deal, whether you got his meaning or not.

"Hmmm," McKelvey acknowledged. He said that a great deal, especially when he didn't get the meaning. "Hmmm," he repeated as he forked some peas and carrots into his mouth.

"How about you?" Perkins asked as he began organizing the remaining food on his tray. "You involved in that war crimes shit?"

"I believe I'm innocent until proven guilty."

"Too bad. I was going to ask for your autograph. No, what I meant was that shit up north. Isn't someone digging up some of those mass graves north of here? I'd heard it was some guys from the Park Service or the Forest Service."

"Try Ringling Brothers. Nope, not us. Our folks are giving a wide berth to that tar baby." McKelvey took another bite of peas and carrots.

Perkins readjusted the empty Styrofoam bowls on his tray and squinted at McKelvey. "So what then? Secret squirrel type shit?"

"Not really. Three guys in a Humvee. No radio contact. No visual. Just disappeared."

"Shit to be them — if you know what I mean. Any luck?"

"Let's just say we found the Humvee. More than that, I can't talk about."

"Roger that," Perkins said. "Understood. But tell me, Doc, why the hell you here? You did your time here six months ago. I don't know the details about this case you're working, but if it's not that sensitive, couldn't you have sent someone else? Things can't possibly be so bad at work that you'd volunteer for another trip to this shit show."

McKelvey took a bite of steak and chewed. "You have no idea."

Copyright © 2008 by Thomas Holland

Meet the Author

Thomas Holland is presently the Scientific Director of the Department of Defense's Central Identification Laboratory, the largest skeletal identification laboratory in the world. In this position he has led forensic recoveries around the world, from the barren deserts of Iraq to the steamy jungles of Vietnam to the snow-covered mountains of North Korea. In 1993, while conducting a recovery near the Killing Fields of Cambodia, his team came under a Khmer Rouge rocket attack and was forced to withdraw from its base camp under fire.

In the relative quiet of the Central Identification Laboratory, Holland holds the awesome responsibility for approving the identifications of all U.S. military personnel from past military conflicts. During his tenure this has included over 1000 soldiers from World War I, World War II, the Korean War, the Cold War, and the Vietnam War — including the Vietnam Unknown Soldier from Arlington National Cemetery.

Holland received a bachelor's degree in fine art from the University of Missouri and a Master's degree and a Doctorate degree in anthropology from the same institution. He worked as an archaeologist and museum curator before taking a position with the Department of Defense. He is one of less than 80 Diplomates of the American Board of Forensic Anthropology, is a Fellow of the American Academy of Forensic Sciences, a member of the American Society of Crime Laboratory Directors, a member of the Council of Federal Forensic Laboratory Directors, and a consultant to the New York State Police. He routinely briefs high-ranking military and government officials including the secretaries of State and Defense, and has served in scientific advisory roles to the National Institute of Justice and the International Commission on Missing Persons.

Holland and his laboratory are frequently featured on such programs as Discovery, Nightline, 60 Minutes, National Public Radio, and Nova.

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K.I.A (Dr. Kel McKelvey Series #2) 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
harstan More than 1 year ago
In Hawaii Dr. Robert Dean Keel McKinley knows his work as the director of the Department of the Army's Central Identification Laboratory can prove gruesome and depressing as he works with human remains identifying who he or she was. However, he also realizes how rewarding it is to provide closure for loved ones.-------------- Currently, he is frustrated with his ignorant bureaucratic supervisor Colonel Boschet who believes regulations and guides are constitutionally binding so when Kel gets a Vietnamese Era case, he jumps at the opportunity to escape from the imbecile ¿botch it¿. Native American Jimmy Lee Tenkiller vanished just before his tour of duty in Vietnam was to end in 1984 he was declared KIA (Killed in Action) however apparently in 2007 his remains have just been handed over to American authorities by Vietnamese officials looking for further cooperation between the nations. Kel is assigned the task of determining if this is in deed Jimmy and if not who is the dead MIA. However, he soon finds much more than just an identification case as he realizes murderer is involved that he connects to a dishonest gang of former South Vietnamese officials who will kill anyone who threatens to expose their avaricious illegal dealings.----------------- KIA, the sequel to ONE DROP OF BLOOD (not read by this reviewer), is an intriguing mystery that focuses on the work of CIL to identify dead soldiers. However the fascination with this fine thriller is the look back at the strange relationship between the Johnson and Nixon administrations and the corrupt South Vietnamese government that echoes in Iraq today. Readers will appreciate Kel¿s investigation even as the spins into his murder inquiry is a bit over the top, but no one will care as he works one bone at a time.---------------- Harriet Klausner