Nick Polchak is one of the best literary characters ever.
Had to say it.
I’ve talked about Tim Downs before, and he is one of my favorite authors. He produces suspense fiction with wit and humor, along with some nice gory details about decomposing bodies.
This is because the protaganist of most of his novels is Dr. Nick Polchak, also known as the “Bug Man.” He’s a forensic entomologist, meaning he studies the insects that are drawn to corpses. It is a niche that Downs ably uses to give just enough tecnical jargon to help the reader really buy it.
Polchak also has one of the lowest social IQ’s ever seen. He has a minimal filter – he says what he wants and has a great wit. The result is he is funnier than all get-out, and makes each Bug Man novel a joy to read, but a challenge to read in public (didn’t want my recent airplane neighbor freaking out over my chuckling.)
In Nick of Time, it leads off of events of the Bug Man books Less the Dead and Ends of the Earth. Spoilers for those who haven’t read those books – Nick is getting married! Even the clueless Dr. Polchak may have a soul mate in Alena Savard, a woman who grew up on a mountain alone with dozens of dogs that she trains.
With his wedding a week away, he is invited to a forensics conference by an old friend for a consult on a cold case. Over Alena’s protests, Nick heads there only to find his friend dead.
Now he is off to find out what was happening with the cold case to see if there’s a connection. Meanwhile, Alena is panicking over the lack of a groom, and with the happy date approaching, she sets off to find him – along with three of her best tracking dogs.
Nick’s going to learn if he wants to be married, if it doesn’t kill him first…
Downs continues a strong run in the Bug Man series. Fans will find their favorite points intact: humor, suspense, mysteries for Nick to solve, and some big twists along the way. First time readers should pick the book up just fine, despite it building off of older novels. If you can read the others first then it will make more sense, but he writes in such a way that it isn’t necessary.
The plot is a little incredible at times, but Downs has this character, um, down. Nick is very enjoyable as he says the things we could never get away with, and the plot moves quickly without any slow points. Alena is a strong counterpoint to Nick, although sometimes she sounds too much like him (sarcastic, not caring what people think). Nick even has an epiphany of sorts, and it will be interesting to see where it takes him.
Nick of Time was a great read, comfortable as a well-worn pair of jeans. Prior readers won’t be disappointed, and new readers should fit right in to Nick’s insect world. Fans of suspense and CSI-type shows will be well-served with Tim Downs latest.