Reviews for First the Dead

Publishers Weekly Reviews 2007 October #5

Downs's third thriller to feature forensic entomologist Nick "Bug Man" Polchak (after 2004's Chop Shop ) stands out from the pack of CSI- inspired mysteries with its quirky hero and creative handling of the Hurricane Katrina disaster. Polchak--an expert in using bugs to deduce the time and circumstances of death--is a member of DMORT, the disaster mortuary operational response team, used by FEMA to assist with mass casualties. As the deadly hurricane nears New Orleans, DMORT is called to the area, and Polchak soon finds himself locking horns with his superiors, who demand DMORT members make search and rescue their priority. After discovering several floating corpses with injuries pointing to deaths prior to Katrina, Polchak suspects that someone is using the disaster to conceal murder. He's aided by J.T. Walker, a young man searching for his father amid the chaos, who manages to get through the emotional barriers Polchak has erected against the outside world. Downs's sensitive evocation of the tragedy, combined with taut writing and well-developed characters, should gain him a wider audience and reward longtime Bug Man fans. (Jan.)

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