ONE DROP OF BLOOD by Thomas Holland

One Drop of Blood – Thomas Holland

As I was thinking back about how I happened on to Thomas Holland’s debut novel, my foggy memory tells me that I received a promotional email from Barnes and Noble…or maybe Borders. It’s not really important. But I received the email for the second book in his Kel McKelvy series, K.I.A. At the time I still had the luxury of starting all new-to-me series at the very beginning, so I went back and got my hands on One Drop of Blood.

Simon & Schuster published the forensic thriller the previous year, 2006, introducing the world to Robert Dean “Kel” McKelvy, the director of the Department of the Army’s Central Identification Laboratory. McKelvy is a civilian who works to identify the remains of U.S. soldiers killed on battlefields around the world. One Drop of Blood involves the case of a Vietnam War hero’s remains. The identification isn’t an easy one, though, because it links the soldier to a 40-year-old unsolved racial killing in Arkansas and McKelvy has to team up with a rather prickly FBI agent, Michael Levine, in order to unravel the mystery.

The forensic premise of the novel initially attracted me to the book. I enjoyed the likes of Kathy Reichs and Jefferson Bass so this seemed right up that alley. As I dug into the story, some personal connections to the Arkansas area Kel hails from brought additional interest for me. But in the end, it was the fascinating plot, the fully flushed out characters, Kel’s unique position, strong science and a great sense of humor that made this a standout read for me. I devoured both books from Holland in a matter of days.

Sadly no more has come from Holland in this series. There was talk of a third book, but it never materialized. I’m glad I didn’t miss out on these two gems, and I still hold out a glimmer of hope that maybe one day that third book will come to fruition.

Holland was able to write so convincingly about McKelvy because he himself holds a similar job. The name of his department is a tad different: the Scientific Director of the Department of Defense Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command, but it’s the same role. He’s worked with Kathy Reichs, served as a consultant in high profile legal cases and led forensic investigations around the world, so it’s not surprising his science is so authentic.

For my fellow audiobook fans, this series is also available on CD. Patrick Lawlor recorded One Drop of Blood and George Guidall gave voice to K.I.A.

Jen Forbus