Friday, July 22, 2011
Tom Downs' "Nick of Time"
The “Bug Man” novels by Tim Downs have been around for a few years, but it’s the most recent one I’ve read first: Nick of Time. It’s not quite like any detective mystery I’ve read before.
Dr. Nick Polchak is a forensic entomologist, the so-called “Bug Man,” who helps crime investigations by studying the bugs that, uh, tend to hang around dead bodies. He acts as odd as his passion for insect things might suggest – aggressive, in your face, bulldoze your way through and mislead or outright lie if you have to. One of his closest friends is dead, and Polchak is going to find out what happened.
One minor problem is that he’s getting married the same week he’s investigating the death. And his fiancée is not impressed with his leaving right before the wedding. Alena Savard has some oddities of her own. She trains dogs, but that’s not the oddity. One of her dogs is a cadaver dog, trained to sniff out and find where dead bodies have been.
She might be a good match for the Bug Man. But he might be having doubts, or perhaps he’s so focused on finding out what happened to his friend that it looks like he’s having doubts.
Nick’s investigation takes him to a small town in the Poconos in Pennsylvania, where he finds a suspicious hunting death of the sheriff’s deputy, the deputy’s widow who is anything but grief-stricken, the suspicious death of an elderly man, a sheriff who turns out to be more than meets the eye, and bugs, or the husks left behind of emerged bugs.
Downs tells his fast-paced story with detail so practices and well done it seems effortless, odd but oddly believable characters, and a story line that keeps pulling the reader deeper into the story. And he uses humor – unexpected in a mystery novel with lots of dead bodies and bugs around dead bodies but it’s done in exactly the right way. And it fits the personalities of Nick and Alena.
Nick of Time is a fast read and a well-told mystery. And you get an education about blow flies and a lot of other insects.