Simon & Schuster, Jan 2008, $25.00
In Hawaii Dr. Robert Dean Keel McKinley knows his work as the director of the Department of the Army's Central Identification Laboratory can prove gruesome and depressing as he works with human remains identifying who he or she was. However, he also realizes how rewarding it is to provide closure for loved ones.
Currently, he is frustrated with his ignorant bureaucratic supervisor Colonel Boschet who believes regulations and guides are constitutionally binding so when Kel gets a Vietnamese Era case, he jumps at the opportunity to escape from the imbecile “botch it”. Native American Jimmy Lee Tenkiller vanished just before his tour of duty in Vietnam was to end; in 1984 he was declared KIA (Killed in Action); however apparently in 2007 his remains have just been handed over to American authorities by Vietnamese officials looking for further cooperation between the nations. Kel is assigned the task of determining if this is in deed Jimmy and if not who is the dead MIA. However, he soon finds much more than just an identification case as he realizes murderer is involved that he connects to a dishonest gang of former South Vietnamese officials who will kill anyone who threatens to expose their avaricious illegal dealings.
KIA, the sequel to ONE DROP OF BLOOD (not read by this reviewer), is an intriguing mystery that focuses on the work of CIL to identify dead soldiers. However the fascination with this fine thriller is the look back at the strange relationship between the Johnson and Nixon administrations and the corrupt South Vietnamese government that echoes in Iraq today. Readers will appreciate Kel’s investigation even as the spins into his murder inquiry is a bit over the top, but no one will care as he works one bone at a time.