Authors: Beverly Connor
Tags: #Fiction, #General, #Horror, #Suspense, #Mystery & Detective, #Women Sleuths, #Mystery, #Police Procedural, #Detective, #Fiction - Mystery, #Mystery & Detective - General, #Mystery & Detective - Police Procedural, #Fallon, #Women forensic anthropologists, #Georgia, #Diane (Fictitious character)
to mind the forensic mysteries of Aaron Elkins
and Patricia Cornwell. . . . Chases, murder attempts,
. . . Connor grabs the reader with her
end. . . . The story satisﬁes both as a mystery and as
an entre´e into the fascinating world of bones. . . . Add
sional mystery that deserves comparison with the best
of Patricia Cornwell.’’
Connor’s latest multifaceted tale, the plot is ser
pentine, the solution ingenious, the academic politics
vicious . . . entertaining... chock-full of engrossing
anthropological and archeological detail.’’
books are a smart blend of Patricia Cornwell, Aaron Elkins, and Elizabeth Peters, with some
good, deep-South atmosphere to make it authentic.’’
dialogue, interesting characters, fascinating tid
When I started reading, I couldn’t stop. What more
could you ask for? Enjoy.’’
Connor has taken the dry bones of scientiﬁc
characters. I couldn’t put [it] down until I was finished,
even though I wanted to savor the story. I predict that
field of mystery writing.’’
forensic anthropology with some pretty
sharp antagonists. There is something about ancestors
and bones that adds unspeakable excitement and fore
boding to a mystery story. . . . Connor’s style is origi
nal and fresh.’’
Midwest Book Review
GRAVE TOO MANY*
DRESSED TO DIE
A RUMOR OF BONES
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This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are
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I’d known she was so afraid of snakes, I wouldn’t
have hired her,’’ Diane Fallon muttered as she parked
her car behind a patrol car on the hard shoulder of
screams of her museum assistant director still ringing
and climbed out.
guys and four young women dressed in cutoffs
and tanktops stood in a knot talking to each other on
pickup and a Jeep. A blonde, cell phone to her ear,
stretched up on her toes, as if that would give her a
better view into the woods. The words ‘‘See anything’’
leaped out of the crowd.
Diane’s side of the road, two men, tanned and
athletic, stood next to a patrol car with what looked
like surveying equipment in a pile at their feet. One
of them appeared restless. He started to light a ciga
onlookers turned their attention to Diane as a
patrolman approached her, spawning a minicloud of
dust with each step. He was a young freckled redhead,
and he squinted at the sun though his dark glasses,
his khaki shirt wet with spots of perspiration around
his collar and under his arms.
to see here, lady. Get back in your car.’’
He motioned with his hand as though he was direct
anthropologist.’’ Diane held out identiﬁ
pointed to the woods. ‘‘You have to work your way
through the woods there. It’s dense at first, but you’ll
come to a deer trail. Follow it about a quarter of a
his features as he nodded toward the two men next
to his car. ‘‘They say it’s not normal.’’
normal. The kind of death they called her out
for usually wasn’t. ‘‘My crime scene crew will be here
soon. Send them down when they arrive.’’
thing. Spray yourself down good. Lot of deer
ticks in these woods.’’
She thanked him, retrieved a can of bug repellent
from her case and sprayed herself from head to toe
before ducking through the underbrush. She followed
found the deer trail.
About four hundred yards into the woods, a breeze
brought a brief shot of relief from the heat but carried
with it the aroma of death. Pushing her way through
a thicket of wild shrubs, she saw the sheriff through
the leaves. He and several deputies stood in an open
ing under large spreading trees, staring at the crime
direction and nodded as she came into the clearing—
obviously glad to see her arrive.
At the familiar yellow-and-black tape she stopped
to take in details of the scene. Like a grotesque image
Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland,
hung by their necks from ropes in the copse of trees.
The sheriff approached her, shaking his head, wip
ing his face with a blue bandana and fanning himself
with his wide-brimmed hat. He was a tall, thin man
with a round face and thick, wavy dark hair that was
just beginning to gray at the sides.
‘‘I don’t know what they could have done to these
people to make them like that,’’ he said, motioning in
the direction of the three hanging bodies. ‘‘When word
of this gets out...’’
crime scene. What had upset the sheriff and his depu
their necks stretched from one to three feet in length.
The bodies looked very much alike, the way dead
do. The kinship of the dead—skin black with decay,
vacant eye sockets, exposed bones, mouths open and
askew. They were each dressed in similar if not identi
cal coveralls—navy blue, maybe dark gray, it was hard
with strands blowing gently in the breeze. The other
All had their hands tied behind their backs.
Without warning, the farthest body fell as the neck
skin ripped apart. The head bounced on the ground
and rolled a dozen feet from the torso, trailing a long
piece of neck with it.
Diane watched the fall with interest. To her it was
bodies after death is to understand pieces to a puzzle
of great consequence that she had to solve. The direc
tion and distance a head rolls when it pops out of the
noose is useful information for finding a missing skull.
Knowing how long it takes for the head to separate
from the torso in a decomposing hanging victim under
interested in taphonomy.
watching that this information was not of interest to
them. She glanced at her watch.
mopped his brow again. ‘‘What do you make of this,
‘‘We’ve been having a long dry spell,’’ Diane said. He
gave her a sideways glance. She crumpled leaves from
a nearby bush in her hand and nodded toward the vic
tims. ‘‘The dry air aids in this rather peculiar effect.’’
‘‘You saying this is natural?’’ He said, ‘‘I’ve seen a
few hanging victims, and I know the body stretches,
but jeez... I’ve never seen anything like this.’’
‘‘You just haven’t seen them at the right time, or
under the right conditions. The pull of gravity makes
the bodies stretch, making them taller than they were
in life. Sometimes you get this effect.’’ Diane gestured
toward the long neck of the victim closest to them.
‘‘Well, I’ll have to say that’s a relief. We couldn’t
maniac—you know, as opposed to our normal maniacs
we have running around.’’
Diane laughed with him, glad for any comic relief,
no matter how mild.
many maggots on the corpses. But she didn’t expect
there would be. She turned her attention to the drip
zone—an area underneath the bodies where liquiﬁed
decay and bits of flesh dropped to the ground. Hun
dreds of maggots and their beetle predators made the
surface of the ground move with a writhing motion.
alone they and other late arrivals would strip it bare.
‘‘This is just disgusting,’’ said one of the deputies.
Diane didn’t recognize him. She didn’t know all the
deputies in this county to the north of Rosewood. He
must be new. If he stayed with this job, he’d see things
far more disgusting.
Hang ’em high.
The words flitted through Diane’s
brain as she looked at the two bodies suspended from
the leafy canopy. Even stretched long as they were,
their shoes were still three feet from the ground. How
had they been hung so high?
The killer—or killers—had to scout out a place with
enough strong limbs for three hangings. Even in heav
ily wooded areas, hanging trees weren’t that easy to
come by. She glanced at the deputies milling around.
‘‘Ask everyone to move back,’’ she said to the sher
iff. ‘‘There have to be vehicle tracks here somewhere.’’
But looking at the underbrush and ground cover, she
didn’t see where a vehicle could have passed.
ground as though the tracks might be under his feet.
‘‘The perp had to use a winch or something.’’ He mo
move back, and watch where you step. We don’t need
to be trampling the crime scene.’’
‘‘Those guys with the surveying equipment . . . did
they find the bodies?’’ asked Diane.
‘‘Then the two men are familiar with the lay of the
land around here.’’
‘‘I’m sure.’’ He turned to speak to a young deputy
when he saw him spit out a chew of tobacco. ‘‘Dam
mit, Ricky, what the hell do you think you’re doing?
Pick that up.’’
‘‘What?’’ The deputy looked around at the others,
who shook their heads and tried not to laugh.
‘‘That wad of tobacco you just spit out. Pick it up.
This is a crime scene, not a sidewalk.’’
‘‘Pick it up and do what with it?’’
‘‘Put it back in your mouth—I don’t care, just don’t
throw it away here.’’
handed it to the sheriff.
The sheriff poked the deputy with it. ‘‘Here. Put it
in this and take it back to your car. And while you’re
up there, talk to them timber fellas and see if there’s
make sure he don’t screw up.’’
with a wad of leaves and stuffed the whole thing in
the brown paper bag.
woods on the way back.’’ He turned back to Diane.
‘‘I tell you, sometimes I wonder how he gets through
‘‘It’s not Sam Malone?’’
‘‘No. He retired. Moved to Florida. Lynn Webber’s
the coroner. She’s a medical examiner at the hospital
too. Smart little girl. Real smart.’’
‘‘Do I hear you talking about me, Mick Braden?’’
young woman dressed in designer jeans and a white
lab coat. ‘‘Nothing but good things,’’ he said. ‘‘Lynn,
this is Diane Fallon...’’
Lynn Webber was several inches shorter than Di
ane’s five feet, eight inches, and her short, shiny black
much more neatly
Diane a smile that flashed bright bleached white teeth.
‘‘I just love the museum. I took my parents there while
they were visiting. It kept them from thinking about
what I do for a living for a whole day.’’ Her dark eyes
twinkled as she laughed.
picked out for you,’’ replied Diane, shaking her hand.
‘‘They wanted me to be a pediatrician.’’ Lynn Web
ber looked up at the hanging bodies. ‘‘Good heavens.
We’ve got something here, don’t we, Sheriff?’’
though, when Dr. Fallon told me this is natural.’’
them up.’’ She laughed again.
‘‘Something like that,’’ he said. ‘‘Lynn here caught
a murderer that almost slipped by us. We all thought
hear the paramedics talking about the woman’s rigor.
‘‘Sodium monoﬂuoroacetate?’’ said Diane. She saw
a momentary flash of disappointment in Lynn’s eyes
before she nodded.
‘‘I’m impressed,’’ Diane continued. ‘‘That’s a tough
one. I only know about it through my human rights
work. It’s the poison of choice among men in India
Dr. Webber looked at her, speechless for a moment,
pondering, perhaps, the self-centeredness of murder
maybe. But it would’ve been hard to get their cooper
ation to just climb up and stick their head in a noose,
Diane began, then stopped.
Dr. Webber and the sheriff followed her gaze up to
where, among the leafy branches, a fourth noose hung.