Gil Grissom's big thing is bugs, and being a forensic entemologist, he works with them every day. So when the big entemological convention comes to Las Vegas, Gil decides to take a vacation and take in the convention.
The problem comes with the death of a high school football player, found dead in a hotel room. Although it looks as though he might have died from Blunt force trauma to the head or strangulation, the real cause of death is much stranger- millipede poison. The bag over his head contains quite a few millipedes, and it's up to Nick to manage to collect them.
Suspicion revolves around a boy named Lucas Yannick, who is fascinated by insects, and who was a frequent target of bullies from the football team. Millipedes aren't native to Las Vegas, but it would take a trip to the Pacific Northwest to catch some, and Lucas hasn't been on any kind of trip, family or otherwise, to be able to get them. The owner of the shop where he buys his insects is also positive that Lucas didn't buy any.
So, naturally, Grissom is called in from his convention to try and find the true killer. The only problem is that three of his colleagues: Jake Soames, Khem Charong, and Nathan Vanderhoff, are keen to join Grissom on the case, and that usually means that one, or all of them, are in on the crime. The question is, which, if any of them, is behind the death? And when Vanderhoff is killed in another insect-related crime, Grissom can see that the killer is manipulating humans like various species of insects. But can he figure out who is behind the killings when it might be one of the people he considers friends?
Another dead body is found in the desert, and this death is really strange. The dead man is missing fingers on one hand and covered in red wax that resembles lava. Not stone lava, but the lava one finds in lava lamps. And it's been adulterated with some kind of ash, like you'd find in the lava of actual volcanoes.
Without any fingers, and with no ID on him, it takes Catherine Willows and Greg Sanders a while to figure out who he is. He is Hal Kanamu, and he's somewhat famous for winning a great deal of money by making a bet that an otherwise-virginal pop starlet would not only lose her virginity before she was 18, but that she would announce it to the world via the internet. Nobody thought it would happen, but it did, and Kanamu was suddenly rich.
He didn't just keep his money to himself, but he helped out two of his friends, since all three of them were from Hawaii, they hung out together. But then there was a falling-out, and Kanamu went off on his own, to fund an art installation for the upcoming Burning Man celebration. But who would work for a meth addict? And who killed him? Greg and Catherine have to trace Kanamu's path from where he ended up to where he died, and reconstruct the crime to know, and deal with a few meth labs in the process.
I love the original CSI, and this book takes place in that last season, with Grissom as head of the lab, Warrick dead, and Sara Sidle gone. Grissom is still dealing with Sara leaving him and his feelings for her, and perhaps the events in this book are what help him make his decision to leave the lab and go to be with her. Certainly, the book points out a difference between the people in the lab, who are his family, and his fellow scientists, who are his friends.
I like that the author, Donn Cortez (which is actually a pen name for Don DeBrandt), really nails the voices of the characters, both internal and external. There were more than a few points at which I could hear the characters speaking the lines in my head, and it's always nice when the writer captures a character that well. It made reading this book a lot like watching the TV show.
I really enjoyed the book, and there was a palpable sense of sadness when Grissom realizes that someone who he thinks of as a friend is responsible for the deaths in Las Vegas and more planned mayhem, but in all, it put a smile on my face to read it, even though bugs don't thrill me so much. Recommended.