ICY CLUTCHES by Aaron Elkins

Yippee.  I just discovered another very nice detective mystery series.  It features Gideon Oliver, a  forensic anthropologist,  whom his friends and colleagues call the skeleton detective.  In this sixth volume of an 18-volume series,  Dr. Oliver is in the far reaches of Alaska, Glacier Bay,  with his wife, an annoying creature I must admit, accompanying her while she attends a search and rescue course for park rangers.  It is the site of an avalanche something like 30 years ago, which killed all but two members of a botany research team working on the site.

Coincidentally,  the one survivor of the avalanche, the team’s leader who was found unconscious in a crevasse and rescued, and has since become a well known TV figure presenting a popular nature show, is there, too.  He has written a recounting of the incident, but has some tough things to say about his team, and his publisher wants him to go over it with the family members of the dead members, and with the surviving  team member who actually never made it to the site due to illness.   They are to also go to the site and place a memorial plaque.

Well, this guy is just condescendingly annoying, and in fact, all of the people there with him are annoying.  Well, while they are out there on the site for the plaque, they find some bones (glaciers move and flow. Bet ya didn’t know that, did ya.)  They bring the bones back to the hotel, and golly gee, how convenient that the skeleton detective is there to examine them.  He decides to go out to the site with some help and see if he can find more bones, which he does.

The question becomes to which of the three dead members do the bones belong, and — holy patoly! — it is clear that one of them has been murdered by an ice ax in his head.

This was written in 1990, and was a good mystery, intriguing and clever, and as an added bonus, the descriptions of this part of Alaska were wonderful.  It is the Juneau area, remote and dang cold!   Also interesting were the descriptions of how an  forensic anthropologist goes about examining bones, and how judgments are made about its age and sex.  Think I will dig up (see what I did there?) some more of this series.  I really enjoyed it.


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