Obsidian: New York, NY
In this, the ninth entry in Beverly Connor’s “Diane Fallon Forensic Investigation” series, the reader is taken back to a story thread established in the very first volume: the disappearance/kidnapping of Diane’s adopted daughter Ariel in the jungles of South America in the wake of a massacre master-minded by local dictator Ivan Santos. The setting for the eight previous mysteries had been the River Trail Museum of Natural History in Rosewood, Georgia, which also houses the Rosewood law enforcement forensic laboratory. Diane is director of both entities and the supposedly “bucolic” nature of the museum was to be a respite for Diane as she sought to escape the nightmares of Ariel’s disappearance while she was working for a human rights NGO, World Accord International, as a forensic anthropologist investigating genocidal events around the world. I put the term bucolic in quotes as the museum has been the site of mayhem beyond imagination in the previous eight thrillers!
One Graves Less hints at the outset that Ariel’s disappearance may present a leading plotline in this latest adventure as Diane ruminates upon her adopted daughter’s fate as she gazes upon the reproduction of a Mayan pyramid, designed to highlight a traveling exhibit of Mesoamerican artifacts from Mexico. She then stumbles upon a bleeding man—a complete stranger—stabbed nearly to death in the exhibit area. A telltale trail of blood leads her to her lab where she discovers another victim—this one very familiar. It is Simone Brooks, a veteran of World Accord International, who Diane has not seen since the dark days of the massacre and Ariel’s disappearance. Before lapsing into a nearly book-length coma, Simone mutters, “one of us, it was one of us. As she tries valiantly to resuscitate Simone, the EMTs who had responded to their 911 call regarding the knife victim prove to be imposters. They spirit the stab victim away and try to set the museum ablaze.
One disaster after another befalls Diane in the days to come. Rumors spread among her museum board members that she was involved in drug trafficking while doing human rights work in South America; Frank, her fiancée and a detective with the Atlanta Fraud and Computer Forensics Unit, tells her he has been receiving phone calls that she has been “seeing other men;” Interpol links her to four murders in Brazil; her e-mail is high jacked and lascivious messages are sent out under her name; and the DEA begins investigating her, based on a bag (presumably left by the museum invaders) laced with an ecstasy-type narcotic. Her world seems to be collapsing around when she begins to receive messages from some of her former World Accord International colleagues that their reputations are also suddenly under attack and scrutiny. It is obvious these veterans of the massacre in the Amazon jungles have serious enemies. But who are they? And what are their motives?
A second plotline is introduced early in the novel as an American archaeologist working on an Inca site is kidnapped by bandits who mistakenly take her to be Diane Fallon. The young American is freed by a little girl who identifies herself as Ariel Fallon—and she wants to go home to her mother! Together the archaeologist and the intrepid little girl work their way back through the jungles, facing wild as well as human predators, until all the protagonists are joined together back in Rosewood and the identity of the “one of us” responsible for the massacre of the innocents years before, as well as many other heinous crimes, is revealed.
This is an entertaining read and continues the solid body of work Beverly Connor has been building up for the last seven years or so. Those familiar with her writing may be delighted by the re-introduction of a character that precedes the Diane Fallon series—a character who, in this reviewers opinion, is a more sympathetic and fully developed personality. Beverly Connor’s novels are always engaging although her narrative style can often be rather plodding and can detract from the fine plots. Two trowels for the ninth Diane Fallon Forensic Investigation.