Friday, May 22, 2009

Less than Dead – Tim Downs

© 2008, Thomas Nelson, Nashville

It is no secret that I am a Tim Downs fan. I’ve read all of the novels that he has produced since introducing the Bug Man, Nick Polchak, in
Shoo Fly Pie in 2003. I find his writing to be witty, thoughtful, suspenseful, and engaging . . . all good qualities for a mystery writer.

The Bug Man series follows forensic entomologist Nick Polchak as he hires out to a variety of national organizations as a consultant when he’s not working as a professor at NC State. The tedium of learning all about blow-flies in their variety and in their desire to seek out fresh dead bodies has been one of the drawbacks to the series. There are only so many ways to tell how insects seek out and destroy dead bodies before it gets boring.

In Less than Dead Downs has found a way to circumvent that tedium by introducing something new, the cadaver dog! Nick is working with the FBI on a case of uncovered graveyard during construction excavation. Why is the FBI on this case? Two of the uncovered graves have bodies buried above the original inhabitant of the old graves – with the probability of more. The construction project is for a new mall and tourism center near the town of
Endor, Virginia. The search dog that the FBI has engaged seems to be having a difficult time finding any graves besides the four unearthed by the excavation crew. So Nick decides to find the Witch of Endor. Alena Savard turns out to be no witch at all, just a very talented dog trainer with an even more talented cadaver dog.

Between them they discover other bodies, most of the “upper berth” occupants of the graves are between 20 and 50 years old, one is 200 years old, and they all share the same DNA ancestry.

This is by far the best of the Bug Man novels with all the intrigue of FBI, presidential politics and small town superstition wrapped up together. The characters are well-rounded and the plot moves quickly from page to page. Just try to put this one down. 5 out of 5 reading glasses.

Benjamin Potter, May 22, 2009

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