Skeleton Dance

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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 ...

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Skeleton Dance

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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.

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Editorial Reviews

Barnes & Noble Guide to New Fiction
When a group of French and American archeologists discovers a "fresh" body at an old dig site, it's up to Gideon Oliver, the Skeleton Detective, to sleuth it out in this "tightly written" mystery. Though most of our reviewers found this an "entertaining" tale of murder in rural France; unfortunately, for some, "You never get the feel of the surroundings." But most agreed, "it holds your attention from the first chapter to the last." "I'll recommend this one."
San Francisco Chronicle
An informative and enjoyable look at our collective family tree, nuts and all.
New York Times Book Review
Breezy....fascinating....(it) dazzles.
Seattle Times
An ancient mystery tied to modern villainy; a castof wacky eccentrics; a sunny protagonist; and more coolfacts about forensic pathology than ... well, than you canshake a bone at.
Pittsburgh Post-Gazzette
Absorbing and fun.
Pittsbutgh Post-Gazette
Absorbing and enjoyable and educational romp.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
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. (Apr.) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.|
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781497643222
  • Publisher: Open Road Integrated Media LLC
  • Publication date: 7/8/2014
  • Series: Gideon Oliver Mysteries Series, #10
  • Pages: 220
  • Sales rank: 1,178,675
  • Product dimensions: 5.40 (w) x 8.40 (h) x 0.50 (d)

Meet the Author

Aaron Elkins

Aaron Elkins is a former anthropologist and professor who has been writing mysteries and thrillers since 1982. His major continuing series features forensic anthropologist-detective Gideon Oliver, “the Skeleton Detective.” There are fifteen published titles to date in the series. The Gideon Oliver books have been (roughly) translated into a major ABC-TV series and have been selections of the Book-of-the-Month Club, the Literary Guild, and the Readers Digest Condensed Mystery Series. His work has been published in a dozen languages.

 Mr. Elkins won the 1988 Edgar Award for best mystery of the year for Old Bones, the fourth book in the Gideon Oliver Series. He and his cowriter and wife, Charlotte, also won an Agatha Award, and he has also won a Nero Wolfe Award. Mr. Elkins lives on Washington’s Olympic Peninsula with Charlotte.

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Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

Once, the thing in the cave had been a man, but that had been long ago. As the years passed it had lain buried in the rich, red-brown humus, slowly decomposing, its nourishing organic wastes feeding successive generations offlatworms and beetle grubs. Then, as the soil settled and fissured, the blowfly larvae had come, followed inevitably by streams of ants and earwigs, and, later still, by the busy rodents of the valley: wood rats, field mice, and squirrels. Over time the protective covering of soil had been largely scratched and worn away, allowing most of the bones to be pulled apart and many of them hustled off to forest dens and lairs, there to be gnawed at leisure.

But now the sounds of deep-chested snuffling and of strong claws scrabblingjust beyond the entrance indicated that something more formidable than field mice or squirrels had found its way to the cave. A moment later a squarish, black head with glistening, excited eyes and a mouth filled with shearing, crushing teeth thrust itself into the entrance, low to the ground. The creature went for one of the largest bones, a partially buried femur, worrying it free of the soil with teeth and claws. It bent its head sideways to get its powerful jaws around the narrow part of the shaft, just below the lesser trochanter, where long ago the Quadriceps femoris had attached, the massive set Of muscles that had once taken the living man striding upright along the valley paths.

With a final jerk of its head to set the bone more firmly in its mouth, the creature turned back to the opening and loped out of the dimness and into the sun. The next day it was back, and the next, and thenext after that....

Dr. Emile Grize, the longtime holder of the Chair of Paleopathology at the Institut de Prehistoire, scanned the meager assemblage of bones with a sniff of disapproval. "You've brought me very little to work with."

"It's all that we have," said Auguste Marielle, prefect of police of the village of Les Eyzies. He said it with a self-deprecating smile, but in truth he didn't care for Grize's attitude at all, for the implication that Marielle himself, or his department, was somehow at fault. What was he supposed to do, bring bones that didn't exist?

"They look like something my dog might bring home," Grize added, in case Marielle had failed to grasp the point.

"That is the case, in fact," said Marielle. "Ha, ha, you've hit the nail on the head there, Professor."

The bones, he explained, with his plump shoulders jiggling in a show of good humor, were from an untended patch of weeds and dirt behind the cottage of a stonemason and his wife, where they had been buried by the family dog, which had been returning with them from its solitary outings for several days. The mason, a reclusive malcontent well known in the village, had belatedly notified the police at the urging of his uneasy wife, and the bones had been dug out of the Peyrauds' backyard by Marielle's people only an hour or two earlier. The dog had watched the unearthing of his treasures with indignation and amazement, and Peyraud himself, beginning to regret that he had done his duty in contacting the police, had threatened legal action unless he was compensated for the ruin of his "vegetable garden," whereupon Marielle had told him in no uncertain terms.

"Yes, very interesting," said Grize. "Now this may take some time. You can wait here if you wish, or I can have you notified."

Marielle chose to wait, drinking wretched coffee from a plastic cup and twiddling his thumbs while Grize fingered the materials, leaning over them like a monkey lost in the mysteries of a length of knotted string or a pair of spectacles. And at last, at long last, he straightened up and delivered his pronouncement.

"Yes, they're human, there's no question about that. Right ulna, right femur, right fibula. . ." He arranged each as he named it, so they lay in a perfect row. ". . . right first and third metacarpals, rib, rib, partial navicular. . ."

Marielle put down his watery coffee while Grize rambled on. If there was no question about it, he thought sourly, what took you all morning to tell me?

"Except for these tiny ones, of course," the paleopathologist concluded, "which I believe to be Apodemus sylvaticus."

"Apo ... Apo ... ?"

"Mouse bones. You see, here is a tibia, here a little scapula, here a—"

"But these others are human-you're positive?"

Grize's chin came up. "If you're not satisfied, you can always get another opinion."

"No, no, sir, I assure you, I'm satisfied extremely satisfied."

"Dr. Beaupierre, perhaps, or Dr. Monort might be-"

"No, Professor, believeme, if you say these bones are human, that's certainly good enough for me, oh, more than good enough."

"Umf," said Dr. Grize.

That's the way it was with Grize, Marielle thought, you were always walking on eggshells with him; Marielle had dealt with him before and had known what to expect. He was a little man, that was his problem. Like Napoleon, it made him quarrelsome. And since he was unmarried, he wasn't used to losing arguments every day, which didn't help either; no doubt it also explained why he was so used to hearing himself talk. Difficult as he might be, however, Grize was a scientist of repute, and he knew his bones.

"And is it possible to say anything about the manner of death?" Marielle asked.

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Table of Contents

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 5 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 5 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 18, 2000

    A wonderful book

    'The Skeleton Dance,' by Aaron Elkins is a wonderfully written book. It follows an American forensic anthropologist in France, Gideon Wells, as he tries to figure out the identity of a body found in a cave and who might have killed him. Gideon Wells is helping a French police inspector named Lucien Joly unravel a crime that happened about three years ago and the investigation involves the scientific community and the argument on whether or not the Neanderthal man is part of the human race or a separate species. The case ends up involving two more murders before it is finally resolved. <P> Aaron Elkins combines knowledge of anatomy plus the knowledge of forensic study of bones and the types of injuries that can result. His style of writing is clear and precise and is a pleasurable experience. This book is superbly written book that should be recommended to all.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 13, 2013

    Firesteel to Shadowwolf

    "I want to fight."

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 10, 2013


    Alright. KAMEHAME

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 11, 2013

    Shadow cat

    The shadowy kit was destroyed. "Next shadow puppet will be at fur 1 result at 9:00 eastern may 10 to 9:00 eastern may 12." A female cats voice boomed over the loud speakers. (Yes you can be a cat.)

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 16, 2013

    No text was provided for this review.

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