Onyx, New American Library, New York
Between 1996 and 2000, Beverly Connor wrote five nicely crafted archaeology mysteries, featuring her protagonist, Lindsay Chamberlain. The series seemed to get better with each new edition, as the characters became more multi-dimensional and the plots grew ever more complex. But then the series stopped abruptly, her publisher’s response, I surmised, to limited sales.
Needless to say, I was delighted when I first read in late 2003 that Beverly Connor was returning with a new mystery, a new heroine, and hopefully a new series. One Grave Too Many is that book, and I do hope the series catches on sufficiently to guarantee more titles in the future.
Diane Fallon is a burned out and psychologically damaged forensic anthropologist. She has investigated one too many killing fields in the political backwaters of the Third and Fourth World, and when her adopted daughter is killed by the murderous supporters of a South American dictator, she turns her back on forensic anthropology and seeks the peace and quiet of the directorship of the RiverTrail Museum of Natural History, located in the sleepy little Georgia town of Rosewood.
She first finds that the world of museum administration is not quite as serene as she had anticipated, as she struggles against well-heeled and unscrupulous members of her Board of Directors, who wish to move the museum to a different (and much less desirable) location. Dirty tricks designed to discredit her character and competence, and ghoulish reminders of her murdered daughter, seem to be a part of the campaign to sell the museum property. At the same time, she is reluctantly drawn back into the world of forensic anthropology when her former lover, police detective Frank Duncan, asks her to analyze a human bone that might provide a clue to solving the disappearance of a dear friend’s missing daughter. She is drawn even deeper into this miasma of mystery when Frank’s friend and his wife and son are found brutally murdered, the former two, literally in their beds—and the missing daughter shows up as the local police’s favorite—and only—suspect. Descriptions of forensic science worthy of Aaron Elkins and Kathy Reichs lend a realistic feel to this novel as Diane and Frank work together to solve the triple murders—even as they themselves become targets of violence—and they, along with the reader, begin to wonder if the murders and the campaign to relocate the museum might not, in fact, be related.
This is a promising beginning of what could become a very entertaining new series and I look forward to the next “Diane Fallon Forensic Investigation.”