Old Bones by Aaron Elkins. Mysterious Press, 1989. (Originally published 1987)
1988 Edgar Award Winner for Best Novel
Old Bones is the fourth in Elkins’ Gideon Oliver series. Gideon Oliver, the “Skeleton Detective of America,” is in France for a forensics conference when he gets called in to investigate a skeleton found buried in the cellar of a wealthy family. This is the second death to engulf the du Rocher family within a week. The patriarch of the family, Guillaume du Rocher, drowned during an incoming tide he couldn’t escape. In addition to determining the identity of the skeleton, Oliver is determined to solve the entire mystery. As events unfold, he is convinced that Guillaume’s death wasn’t an accident. There is a deeply held secret in the du Rocher family, and the answer lies in the old bones.
I haven’t read any of the previous Gideon Oliver mysteries, and Old Bones stands on its own. I found it engaging and humorous. It’s a great mystery, and the repartee between Oliver and his sidekick, FBI agent John Lau, made it a fun read. I won’t be sticking to most of the series I’ve read as part of the Edgar Award Reading Challenge, but the Gideon Oliver series is an exception. I’m looking forward to going back to the beginning with this one and reading through it. If you aren’t familiar with this series, I encourage you to give it a try.