Monday, July 12, 2010

Ends of the Earth – Tim Downs

© 2009, Thomas Nelson, Nashville

Tim Downs can tell a story. He can even get me interested in the details (which usually put me to sleep). The reason: Downs has a sense of humor that bursts forth—especially in the details. He makes this perfectly clear in his Bug Man series featuring Nick Polchak. In the Bug Man novels, forensic entomologist, Polchak, goes into minute detail when describing what happens to blowflies and beetles when they encounter a fresh dead body.

Ends of the Earth has Polchak called in to develop a postmortem interval (PMI), determining as closely as possible when a person died. Nick arrives on the scene to find a dead tomato farmer who may or may not be involved in drug trafficking. He suggests that the police might make use of a good drug dog, and recommends Alena Savard (see Less than Dead to meet the “Witch of Endor”). As he begins collecting larval evidence, he discovers that the widow of the dead farmer (who asked that he be brought in on the case) is none other than Kathryn Guilford (see the Bug Man’s first outing in Shoofly Pie for background on the connection here). Now the mother of an autistic child, Kathryn wants to know who killed her deadbeat husband and why.

Nick’s investigation leads him to call in other characters from past stories—Nathan Donovan (Plague Maker and Less than Dead) and his new wife Macy (First the Dead). He finds that he is chasing after an international agriterrorist. Among the details found in the story are some about corn farming (including some interesting information on ethanol), organic farming, and autism spectrum disorders. As always Downs has done a great deal of research to marry these concepts.

The story moves smoothly from beginning to end, with lots of dry humor along the way. In an effort to overcome his desire to make a decision about Nick’s future, Downs leaves the last chapter blank. Writing two separate endings, he offers them online at his author website for readers to vote. (Don’t click on the link to read the options for resolving the cliff-hanger unless you want to have the ending of the conflict to be spoiled.) This element angered my blushing bride—I’d given her the book for her birthday. So much so that she threw the book across the room. Then she refused to vote for either of the optional online endings arguing anti-climax for both.

I found the options to be satisfactory (regardless of the choice), but that’s just me. I think you’ll enjoy the story regardless of the cliff-hanger ending. Pick up a copy at your favorite online or brick and mortar bookstore today.

You should enjoy the story at 4½ out of 5 reading glasses.

Benjamin Potter, June 12, 2010

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