This month Dying on the Vine, the 17th Gideon Oliver "Skeleton Detective" mystery by Aaron Elkins is published, and the author says it is the last in the series.
"I love the guy," Elkins said this week. "[But] I'm running out of things to say without repeating myself."
Though Gideon may be retiring, the author is not, having just finished the second in mystery in the "Alix London" series that he co-writes with his wife, Charlotte.
Dying on the Vine — more details below — is set in Tuscany, where Gideon is visiting friends. For Elkins, Tuscany was, of course, a lovely place to conduct a couple of weeks of research.
"Your notebook and camera are never out of your hands, and you're jotting, jotting, jotting endlessly," he said. "Still, for me, the best part of Dying on the Vine was the same as it's been for every other book: the writing. [L]ike every other novelist I've ever met, there's nothing I'd rather be doing. I guess it's because every now and then, you do get it right, and what a pleasure that is."
(Related article: PeninsulaDailyNews.com, which states the book is the 18th in the series, but we're reasonably sure it is the 17th!)
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Dying on the Vine
A Gideon Oliver Mystery (17th in series)
The celebrated Skeleton Detective is visiting friends at a vineyard in Tuscany when murder leaves a bitter aftertaste …
It was the unwavering custom of Pietro Cubbiddu, patriarch of Tuscany's Villa Antica wine empire, to take a solitary month-long sabbatical at the end of the early grape harvest, leaving the winery in the trusted hands of his three sons. His wife, Nola, would drive him to an isolated mountain cabin in the Apennines and return for him a month later, bringing him back to his family and business.
So it went for almost a decade — until the year came when neither of them returned. Months later, a hiker in the Apennines stumbles on their skeletal remains. The carabinieri investigate and release their findings: they are dealing with a murder-suicide. The evidence makes it clear that Pietro Cubbiddu shot and killed his wife and then himself. The likely motive: his discovery that Nola had been having an affair.
Not long afterwards, Gideon Oliver and his wife, Julie, are in Tuscany visiting their friends, the Cubbiddu offspring. The renowned Skeleton Detective is asked to reexamine the bones. When he does, he reluctantly concludes that the carabinieri, competent though they may be, have gotten almost everything wrong. Whatever it was that happened in the mountains, a murder-suicide it was not.
Soon Gideon finds himself in a morass of family antipathies, conflicts, and mistrust, to say nothing of the local carabinieri's resentment. And when yet another Cubbiddu relation meets an unlikely end, it becomes bone-chillingly clear that the killer is far from finished …