Aaron Elkins has authored an incredible novel, one that reveals the inner sanctum of the people who spend decades educating themselves and others on where Neanderthals stand in the tree of life,.with Skeleton Dance, published by HarperCollins Publishers, copyright 2000.
Paleontologists love to argue. Mostly about whether there should be an “h” in the name of the bipedal species Neanderthal. Many contend that homo-sapiens annihilated the species for the availability of grains, fruit, and meat. Others contend that there is genetic proof of cross-breeding with the species and that many were murdered with weapons more sophisticated than those we believe Neanderthals had developed at the time.
When a man’s always faithful dog starts bringing home bones that appear to be human, he goes to the police. He lives in northern France and it is not so unusual to find human bones left from two world wars, a revolution, and the many caves early man inhabited, in the surrounding area. Local police inspector Lucien Anatole Joly suspects that these are not old bones and has one of his officers follow the dog to the source. He discovers that the dog is removing these bones from a cave not far from its home.
In the interest of verifying that these are more recent remnants Joly asks an old friend, detective Gideon Oliver, who happens to have several degrees in forensics and paleontology, to weigh in on the case. Oliver confirms these are recent remains of a human carcass and the man they belong to was murdered. The fact they were found in a known prehistoric cave brings all the paleolithic staff of the local college to question the authenticity of Gideon’s findings. They cite numerous instances of tourists and locals dying in the caves due to rock falls, cavernous drops, and other natural hazards. Joly isn’t so easily convinced; it’s one thing to have people die of accidents in a cave, it’s quite another for them to be buried in one.
Elkins takes us on a journey through the scholarly world of a french college’s professors and brings a wide variety of the aspects of a policeman’s investigation into a murder that is more than a few years old.
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