Character Interview: forensic anthropologist Mimi Charles

“I can’t truthfully say I’m filled with delight when another writer of anthropological mysteries shows up to join the competition, but I have to say that Bones of Paradise is one terrific debut. A spunky, intelligent protagonist, a gorgeous setting (Hawaii) well described, a clever plot, and foul play notwithstanding, a sunny, funny, upbeat novel. Looking forward to seeing more of Mimi Charles.”
Aaron Elkins, Edgar Award-winning author of the Gideon Oliver series

Even in paradise, people do die. And it’s the job of Mimi Charles, Forensic Anthropologist, to analyze the bodies that aren’t found right away – skeletons, mostly. Mimi and her colleagues at the Medical Examiner’s office are a tightly-knit team that relishes solving the puzzles presented by each case. But outside of the office, their lives in the sweet little town of Hilo, Hawaii, flow in a gentle island rhythm. None of them is prepared for the disappearance of one of their own, right from the building where they work (or the parking lot outside, anyway). Soon a series of notes begins to arrive, supposedly from the missing person. Even though the FBI shows up to join the local police in the search for clues, Mimi and her friends can’t resist doing a little “digging” of their own. Suddenly, there’s a very pesky TV reporter calling Mimi at home and peeking out at her from behind potted plants. And then John, the Death Investigator who works with Mimi, begins to act strangely. Despite the distractions, Mimi begins to piece together odd, seemingly unrelated bits of information in the race to find her missing friend, and she most sincerely hopes that she’s not too late…


Q: Dr. Charles, thanks for coming by Island Confidential. Tell us a little bit about yourself—what is something readers might not already know?

A: I’m a forensic anthropologist today but that’s not what I started out to become. When I went to college, I wanted to work with the great apes. I wanted to join in on the experiments using sign language to communicate with them. And I did get to work with gorillas – at the zoo, my job was to enrich their lives as much as possible within their caged existence. And I did learn sign language. But I never got to work on those signing experiments, like I’d dreamt of doing. And then, through a series of accidents, I got recruited into forensics and went off in a completely different direction. I still miss the gorillas, though.

Q: Who’s the character in Bones of Paradise you get along with the best?

A: That person has to be Becky. She’s the wife of the Chief Medical Examiner (who is also my close friend). She and I have been through life-altering experiences together and survived them. However, I hope that I get along well with all my friends.

Q: Which character do you not get along with so well?

A: Marcus Ortiz is a weasel. He is not my friend so I don’t care about getting along with him. In fact, I doubt that he has any friends. Probably his mother doesn’t even like him – if he has a mother and didn’t just ooze out of a cesspool somewhere. He is a television reporter who is relentlessly invasive. I think I recently found a way to get rid of him…maybe. I slowed him down for a while, anyway.

Q: Just between you and me: What do you really think of your author, Jane Hoff?

A: Well, I like her. And I appreciate that she’s kept some of my secrets. So far, anyway. She can be chatty, though, so she may wind up spilling some beans in the future and we’ll just have to see how I feel about her then. Basically, though, she and I share a lot in common and I think she captures me pretty well. There’s always room for improvement – I’m probably a little more fabulous than she lets on.

Q: Who plays you in the movie?

A: I have to admit that I’ve thought about this before. I asked some of my friends about this question, too. Cyd thinks Julianne Moore would be a good choice. John just stared at me for a while and then shook his head. Lehua suggested Nicole Kidman, but I think she’s too glamorous to play me. I sort of like the idea of dyeing Kristen Wiig’s hair red and letting her loose with my character.

Wiig

Q: What’s next for you?

A: The forensics cases just keep coming in to the Medical Examiner’s Office, so there’s no shortage of stories to tell but, lately, there’s been one case that’s really puzzling me. An old tree fell over on Banyan Drive, here in Hilo, and there was a skull in the root ball. I found the rest of the body, too. I’ve seen bodies under trees before, so that’s nothing new. The thing is, those trees were all planted by famous people visiting Hilo in the past. The more I find out about the trees, the more I want to know whose body it was and how it came to be there…and whether one of those famous people “planted” it.


 

Author 2ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Jane Lasswell Hoff was born in Hollywood, California, and lived most of her childhood in southern California. She went to the University of Hawaii for her undergraduate studies and, there, she fell in love with the Hawaiian Islands. She is a professional forensic anthropologist, a member of the American Academy of Forensic Sciences and a lecturer in anthropology. As a forensic anthropologist, she has worked for tribal groups, the U. S. government and in the states of Alabama, Florida, Hawaii, Mississippi, Washington and Utah. She was married to Charles Hoff but is now widowed and lives and works in Hilo, Hawaii.

Keep up with Jane:

Website | Amazon author page | Goodreads


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