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Where There's a Will (Gideon Oliver Mysteries) Hardcover – April 5, 2005

4.2 out of 5 stars 32 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In Edgar-winner Elkins's solid 12th whodunit to feature forensic anthropologist Gideon Oliver (after 2004's acclaimed Good Blood), Oliver's Hawaiian vacation turns into a busman's holiday, as he and close friend John Lau, an FBI agent who's also enjoying some downtime, get involved in a decade-old mystery surrounding the deaths of two elderly Swedish brothers who owned a huge cattle ranch. One night in 1994, hit men acting for an unknown client murdered Torkel Torkelsson, then attempted to conceal the corpse with an act of arson; that same night, Magnus Torklesson and a pilot took off in a small plane, never to be heard from again. Now divers have discovered the wreckage of the long-lost plane in a lagoon, with some skeletal remains. Soon learning that none of the original police investigation's conclusions may be valid, Oliver and Lau find themselves intrigued and frustrated by the lies and evasions pitched rapidly at them by the Torkelssons' heirs, all of whom have different motives for obscuring the truth. Oliver's deductions will remind classic mystery readers of archetypal scientific sleuth Dr. Thorndyke, and his three-dimensional personality and humor will continue to attract first-timers.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Elkins' writing skills are superb, his research impeccable, and his plots intriguing. We get two out of three in this new entry in his series featuring forensic detective Gideon Oliver, as Elkins provides well-crafted, tantalizing descriptions of lesser-known parts of Hawaii. After a conference in Honolulu, Gideon and his FBI agent friend John Lau travel to the Big Island^B to stay on the Torkelsson family cattle ranch. Old friends of John, the Torkelssons quickly warm to Gideon and ask for his help in identifying bones found in a sunken plane. Could it be the long-missing Uncle Magnus? Unfortunately, this story is missing the compelling plot that is usually a hallmark of Elkins' works. Gideon plays a very peripheral role in identifying the body, and readers don't have much reason to care who it is. That said, Gideon is a likable protagonist, and spending time in his company is always pleasant. Elkins has established himself as a master craftsman both in the Oliver series and in his stand-alone thrillers. Jenny McLarin
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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Product Details

  • Series: Gideon Oliver Mysteries
  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Berkley Hardcover (April 5, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0425200264
  • ISBN-13: 978-0425200261
  • Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 1.2 x 9.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (32 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,761,882 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

I'm a former anthropologist who has been writing mysteries and thrillers since 1982, having won an Edgar for Old Bones, as well as a subsequent Agatha (with my wife Charlotte), and a Nero Wolfe Award. My major continuing series features forensic anthropologist-detective Gideon Oliver, "the Skeleton Detective."

Lately, I've seen myself referred to as "the father of the modern forensic mystery," and, by gosh, I think I am! Before "Fellowship of Fear," the first Gideon Oliver, published in 1982, you'd have to go back 70 years and more to Austin Freeman and his Dr. Thorndyke series. Between the two good doctors (Thorndyke and Oliver), there was only Jack Klugman's "Quincy," so far as I know, and he was a TV character.

The Gideon Oliver books have been (roughly) translated into a major ABC-TV series and have been selections of the Book-of-the-Month Club, the Literary Guild, and the Readers Digest Condensed Mystery Series. My work has been published in a dozen languages. Charlotte and I live on Washington's Olympic Peninsula, our marriage having survived (more or less intact) our collaboration on novels and short stories.

Although I've been a full-time writer for some time now, I also remain active in real-life forensics by serving as the forensic anthropologist on the Olympic Peninsula Cold Case Task Force.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Mass Market Paperback
It's always fun to have another Gideon Oliver novel to read, and this one is no exception. While it's not a great book, it's a good book: a fun read, with the snappy dialogue one expects from Elkins. I personally like the Gideon Oliver series better than Elkins' other series.

Since much of the plot has been discussed in other reviews, I'll just point out a few things I particularly liked about this volume:

*the details of the family ranching business in Hawaii - including the reference to using Japanese quarter horses. (I'll let you discover that breed :D)

*the resemblance of the family of Swedish sailors-turned-ranchers to the "Norwegian bachelor farmers" that Garrison Keillor talks about on his radio show

*the running jokes about the terrible coffee one gets in police stations

One of the things that people look for, in mystery series, is whether there is continuity in the background lives of the characters. This is one of the series where there is such continuity; however, it's not real-time. Our protagonist and his family and friends have aged about a decade, in the nearly 25 years that the series has been running. This is a reasonable pace, that allows us to follow their lives. Even though this is a series, though, this particular book could be read and enjoyed without having read other books in the series - there are no points here where a reader would be bewildered because they didn't have some background knowledge. It's more fun, though, if you do read the whole series, so you can get more enjoyment out of the exchanges between Oliver and Lau, and you know more about Oliver's wife, and so on. So go ahead and get this one and read it, but get a couple of the older books, too - I promise you'll enjoy them.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
One of the things I like best about Elkins, is the things I learn from his books and this was no exception. The Torkelsson family dynamics added richness to the story but there was very little dimension to the other characters and some were stereotypical. Beyond that, I found this an enjoyable story, with plenty of twists and turns. It is definitely a traditional mystery that is interesting, light reading but not a "wow" book.
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Format: Hardcover
The book opens in 1994 with a female pilot, Claudia, and an oldish man, a Torkelsson brother, fleeing Hawaii in the night. The plane gently glides down to the ocean from 10,500 feet ("A light plane that has run out of fuel at an altitude of 10,500 feet does not plummet to earth like a safe falling out of a window"), a wing hits the water, and its all over for that flight.

Jump forward 10 years and some swimmers from a cruise ship spot the plane and investigate it (despite what may have been implied, there are not two complete skeletons in the plane). Going by the plane's registration number, the Torkelsson family is informed of the find.

The Torkelsson family lost two brothers on the same day in 1994, one apparently murdered by hitmen, and the other apparently fleeing for his life. Now that they know that plane went down, they have to reopen old wounds (three years after having the second brother declared legally dead). And, the family worries about their future. Dagmar, the sister, and the two brothers Magnus and Torkel lived together and built a large cattle ranch in Hawaii (an older brother also was involved, Andreas, but was long out of the picture in 1994-2004, though it is his children that fill out the Torkelsson next generation). As far as the family is concerned, Torkel died first in 1994, and then Magnus was declared dead in 2001 (I might have that last date wrong). If Torkel's will had been in effect, the nephews and nieces would have received a small amount of money. Since Magnus' will was in effect, as he was declared dead second, the nephews and nieces received very valuable pieces of the huge cattle ranch.
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Format: Hardcover
I've read the whole Gideon Oliver series. The books within the series are uneven, and this one is only average, not up to the best, but certainly not the worst. The characterization was rather strange. The behaviors in the beginning of the story did not hold true throughout the book, so it almost seemed like different people. The story was somewhat suspenseful, but not very compelling. The ending left a vaguely unsatisfying feeling...everything was nicely wrapped up with a big bright bow, but no substance to the package. I did like the atmospheric feel the author created by using Hawaii as the backdrop.
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Format: Hardcover
I thought Aaron Elkins kind of dialed this one in. There just wasn't the depth of character or plot development that characterized earlier books in the Gideon Oliver series. In fact, the scenario regarding how Gideon Oliver got involved with the case (bones found in the remains of a plane crash--can he confirm they are the missing family members from ten years before) was remarkably like the device used in a previous book.

Nevertheless, it was a diverting and pleasant read. Just not particularly riveting, and not up to the early novels in the series.
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