When forensic entomologist Nick Polchak is called to the scene of a murder on a small organic farm in North Carolina he is astonished to find that the victim’s estranged wife is an old friend, a woman he once worked with, a woman he once had feelings for.
When she asks Nick to investigate her husband’s drug-related murder, Nick seeks the assistance of Alena Savard, the reclusive dog trainer known to the people of northern Virginia as the Witch of Endor.Alena jumps at the chance to renew her relationship with Nick, but when she arrives in North Carolina she discovers that she’s not the only woman who has her eye on the Bug Man.
Soon Nick finds his usually analytical mind clouded by thoughts of a strangely human nature. These two women have stirred feelings that he can’t quite fathom, feelings of lost opportunities and future possibilities . . .Now Nick must navigate the unexplored territory of his own heart while he solves an agroterrorist’s plot to ignite an environmental holocaust that could spread to the ends of the earth.
I’ve read a good number of Bug Man books ever since Shoofly Pie, which I still think was perhaps the best one in the series. I’ve always enjoyed the books in this series about a forensic entomologist. This installment, I’m afraid, isn’t the strongest in the series. Though this plot offered good potential (I was puzzled for a while), the suspense was lacking until the last quarter of the book, and sometimes scientific explanations went on for paragraphs (a little too long).
Downs, however, does a good job with each novel. He excels at making Nick geeky but also likable, and the writing is topnotch, especially the clever, witty dialogue. How Downs does it, I don’t know. Humor is difficult to write, but he always pulls it off. Sometimes I laughed out loud.
Downs also excels at educating the reader in an entertaining way. (For example, I didn’t know that Henry Ford’s first car ran on ethanol.) His characters are always colorful and well developed. I especially enjoyed meeting the autistic little girl and learning more about the struggles of parenting a special-needs child.
In my opinion, too much of the plot centered on two women friends in his life and which one he should ask to marry him. When the women realized they were in a virtual contest, the story introduced a good bit of conflict, which of course is the life blood of any good plot. Well done! The novel’s biggest flaw, in my opinion, was when the romance plot thread came to a nonending. [Spoiler alert] After the last period, readers were invited to go to his website and vote on which woman Nick should marry. This may seem like a clever idea, but it doesn’t work for two reasons. First, this technique left the novel feeling unfinished. I wanted to know whom Nick would choose and why after a good bit of relational momentum. Second, I went to the website cited to see whom Nick had chosen. The website apparently no longer exists! I’ll have to read the next book in the series to discover his choice.
Nitpicks aside, this is a good, clean, sometimes funny read with a mild suspense level. You won’t find any objectionable content (bad language, crude humor, or stomach-twisting violence), but the faith elements are also very minimal. If you like a good mystery with a scientific explanation involving bugs and time of death, you’ll find this novel fascinating. The Bug Man novels are always worth reading. Be sure to check this one out!
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