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KIA: A Dr. Kel McKelvey Novel Hardcover – January 1, 2008

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

As the scientific director of the Department of Defense's central identification laboratory, Holland is responsible for identifying unknown U.S. war dead. In this strong sequel to One Drop of Blood (2006), Kel McKelvey has similar duties, though he's in the professional doldrums thanks to an officious and procedure-bound superior. Then McKelvey gets the chance to leave his Hawaii laboratory to help sort out the mystery surrounding Jimmy Tenkiller, a Native American who went missing shortly before his tour of duty in Vietnam was scheduled to end and whose remains the Vietnamese may have just turned over to present-day American authorities. As McKelvey searches for evidence to establish the dead man's identity, he becomes involved in a cross-country search for a murderer with possible ties to Tenkiller and a corrupt cabal of former South Vietnamese officers. Holland skillfully portrays the complexities of the U.S. relationship with its South Vietnamese allies during the war, while keeping readers guessing the killer's identity to the end. (Jan.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

About the Author

Thomas Holland is presently the Scientific Director of the Department of Defense's Central Identification Laboratory, the largest skeletal identification laboratory in the world. In this position he has led forensic recoveries around the world, from the barren deserts of Iraq to the steamy jungles of Vietnam to the snow-covered mountains of North Korea. In 1993, while conducting a recovery near the Killing Fields of Cambodia, his team came under a Khmer Rouge rocket attack and was forced to withdraw from its base camp under fire.

In the relative quiet of the Central Identification Laboratory, Holland holds the awesome responsibility for approving the identifications of all U.S. military personnel from past military conflicts. During his tenure this has included over 1000 soldiers from World War I, World War II, the Korean War, the Cold War, and the Vietnam War -- including the Vietnam Unknown Soldier from Arlington National Cemetery.

Holland received a bachelor's degree in fine art from the University of Missouri and a Master's degree and a Doctorate degree in anthropology from the same institution. He worked as an archaeologist and museum curator before taking a position with the Department of Defense. He is one of less than 80 Diplomates of the American Board of Forensic Anthropology, is a Fellow of the American Academy of Forensic Sciences, a member of the American Society of Crime Laboratory Directors, a member of the Council of Federal Forensic Laboratory Directors, and a consultant to the New York State Police. He routinely briefs high-ranking military and government officials including the secretaries of State and Defense, and has served in scientific advisory roles to the National Institute of Justice and the International Commission on Missing Persons.

Holland and his laboratory are frequently featured on such programs as Discovery, Nightline, 60 Minutes, National Public Radio, and Nova.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster; 1 edition (January 1, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0743280016
  • ISBN-13: 978-0743280013
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 1.1 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,449,776 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Dr. Lowell J. Levine on February 4, 2008
Format: Hardcover
A great read. It is a must for any person that served in the military or who has any interest in forensic science. There is the usual disclaimer that the characters do not resemble living persons. They are the most realistic characters I have found in a work of fiction. The plot has to be based on actual events it is so striking. Leave an adequete amount of time to read this because I went cover to cover, not being able to put it down. The ending is a shocker and superb.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By J. Forbus on August 19, 2008
Format: Hardcover
I have one word to share with you about this book - WOW! Thomas Holland sure does have a talent when it comes to writing.

An element of Kel's character that I love is his aversion to the telephone. This is represented in both ONE DROP OF BLOOD and K.I.A. I love this characteristic because I share this aversion with him. But the way Holland portrays it is absolutely hilarious. Kel's wittiness is sharp and believable!

The plot in this story is absolutely phenomenal. It's tight, concise; no unnecessary fluff. Each character, each event plays an essential part in the overall story. And the plot twists are stellar. I like Holland's effect of ending a chapter leaving the reader knowing that what he/she initially thought was going to happen, isn't really the direction the plot is going after all, and at the same time, the reader doesn't know now what IS going to happen. You find yourself saying, "just one more chapter" so many times because you have to find out just where Holland is taking you next.

The last point I want to mention about K.I.A. is Holland's use of language. There aren't a lot of writers that really WOW me with their use of language, but Holland has made that distinguished list. There is often a stereotype associated with Southern dialect and colloquialisms. But Kel uses both of these in his dialogue and you as the reader, still respect Kel as an intelligent, educated, competent professional. Holland beautifully breaks the stereotype and uses those devices to his benefit.

There doesn't tend to be an overwhelming amount of anthropological science in Holland's books. These are more plot focused, but I do love the way he works science into the framework, even in places you might not expect it to be.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Harriet Klausner #1 HALL OF FAME on December 31, 2007
Format: Hardcover
In Hawaii Dr. Robert Dean Keel McKinley knows his work as the director of the Department of the Army's Central Identification Laboratory can prove gruesome and depressing as he works with human remains identifying who he or she was. However, he also realizes how rewarding it is to provide closure for loved ones.

Currently, he is frustrated with his ignorant bureaucratic supervisor Colonel Boschet who believes regulations and guides are constitutionally binding so when Kel gets a Vietnamese Era case, he jumps at the opportunity to escape from the imbecile "botch it". Native American Jimmy Lee Tenkiller vanished just before his tour of duty in Vietnam was to end; in 1984 he was declared KIA (Killed in Action); however apparently in 2007 his remains have just been handed over to American authorities by Vietnamese officials looking for further cooperation between the nations. Kel is assigned the task of determining if this is in deed Jimmy and if not who is the dead MIA. However, he soon finds much more than just an identification case as he realizes murderer is involved that he connects to a dishonest gang of former South Vietnamese officials who will kill anyone who threatens to expose their avaricious illegal dealings.

KIA, the sequel to ONE DROP OF BLOOD (not read by this reviewer), is an intriguing mystery that focuses on the work of CIL to identify dead soldiers. However the fascination with this fine thriller is the look back at the strange relationship between the Johnson and Nixon administrations and the corrupt South Vietnamese government that echoes in Iraq today. Readers will appreciate Kel's investigation even as the spins into his murder inquiry is a bit over the top, but no one will care as he works one bone at a time.

Harriet Klausner
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Ted Feit VINE VOICE on March 2, 2008
Format: Hardcover
During the Vietnam War, five high-ranking South Vietnam officers, an American Master Sergeant in charge of a large supply depot and a mysterious American formed a brotherhood to steal all sorts of supplies and send them to the north in exchange for free passage of contraband drugs across the Laotian border. The supply NCO finally "chickened out" on an extraordinary request and "disappeared." First listed as Missing in Action, his case was later reviewed and changed to "presumed Killed in Action."

Many years later the Asians have relocated to the United States and started successful businesses. Meanwhile a body is recovered and Dr. Kel McKelvey, forensic anthropologist in charge of the Army's Central Identification Laboratory, gets the task of determining whether the remains are those of the supply NCO. At the same time a series of murders takes place on or near various Army bases, bringing in Chief Warrant Officer Tom "Shuck" Deveroux as the CID investigator.

The two men combine to run down clues and facts to bring about a conclusion both as to murders as well as the identity of the remains, which appear to be linked. It is an ex citing, well-constructed chase, leading to a most unexpected denouement. Switching from the 1970s to more than a decade later, back and forth, keeps the reader enthralled. An excellent read.
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