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First the Dead

(Bug Man #3)

4.24  ·  Rating details ·  1,191 ratings  ·  87 reviews
When a national disaster strikes, "first the living" is the rule.
Unless you're the Bug Man.
When Hurricane Katrina strikes New Orleans, forensic entomologist Nick Polchak signs up to help with the recovery effort. He is known as the Bug Man for his knowledge of insects and what they can reveal about the dead. The government's mandate is clear--rescue the living first, rec
Hardcover, 363 pages
Published January 1st 2008 by Thomas Nelson Publishers
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4.24  · 
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 ·  1,191 ratings  ·  87 reviews

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Leander Grogan
Feb 28, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: christian
My sister gave me the book and said, "Read this. This guy writes like you." Of course, I had no choice then.

Though I saw many familiar phrases, it was the research component that immediately overwhelmed me. It's important to dig deep. But this guy digs so much deeper. You're going to end up being a bug expert whether you like it or not.

The writing was excellent. The gory scenes in and around New Orleans after the storm forced you to witness the human suffering and devastation up close and person
May 31, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: own-it
It's Saturday, August 27, 2005 and Nick Polchak, aka The Bug Man, is regretting accepting a date with a woman foisted upon him by well-meaning co-workers in the Entomology Department at North Caroline State University. His mind is on other things: waiting to be called up as a member of DMORT (Disaster Mortuary Operational Response Team), part of the National Disaster Medical System under FEMA. Hurricane Katrina is headed for New Orleans as a category 4 or 5 ... the worst, as we all came to know. ...more
C.J. Darlington
Feb 14, 2015 rated it really liked it
Where were you on August 29th, 2005? If you're anything like the average American, you probably don't remember. We can barely recite what we ate for breakfast this morning, let alone what happened to us on a specific day years ago. But if you're a Gulf state resident, August 29th is a day you probably never will forget.

That late summer Monday was the day Hurricane Katrina, the costliest natural disaster in U.S. history ($81.2 billion) and the sixth strongest Atlantic hurricane ever recorded, mad
Mar 02, 2014 rated it liked it
Synopsis: In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, federal disaster agents Jerry, Beth, and Nick "The Bug Man" Polchak go to investigate matters and assist with the recovery effort...when they find out that they have a murderer on their hands, and one who is intent on killing one of their own.  Will they find out who in time?

My Review: Mildly entertaining, but doesn't quite live up to its premise.  I was expecting the main character(s) to use insect-based detection skills, but they didn't do that
Jun 26, 2012 rated it really liked it

Set in New Orleans during Katrina, someone is using the floods and destruction to cover up murders. The 'bug man' - forensic entomologist, Nick Polchak, is determined not to let it slide. Seriously creepy, crazy, twisted fun.
Found this in "Christian Fiction", but other than a Bible verse on the dedication page for the people of New Orleans, there is no mention of God,Jesus, faith, the Bible, etc. It is, like all Tim Downs' work that I have read so far, really good mystery/suspense, and the aut
Jun 13, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Anybody. Except the faint hearted.
Hurricanes and murders and maggots oh my! This book is about murdered corpses being hidden within the many dead of Hurricane Katrina. DMORT (Disaster Mortuary Response Team) is preparing for the, ahem, flood of bodies that they know they will have to identify after the storm. Members of the team are ordered to deal with evacuating the living first, but any forensic evidence that will prove someone was murdered will soon disintegrate because of the disaster. Main character Nick Polchack, the port ...more
Jul 27, 2014 added it
Fun read. Really got into the characters and read all the books available. Wish he'd write another one!
Apr 03, 2019 rated it really liked it
I am so glad I listened and got this book. Very much enjoyed. This is a book that is in-between investigative thriller and fictional biography (especially for those who lived through Katrina). The author as another commentator implied indeed showed deep attention to details especially on the bug knowledge and the protagonist's personality on that subject. I quite enjoyed it although at the beginning I really wasn't sure despite the injected humour across chapters but right now I look forward to ...more
Mary Norfleet
Feb 28, 2018 rated it really liked it
Very good story, great mystery. Could hardly put it down until finished. The story takes place during the chaos left by Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans. Lots of information that I never knew about. The news reports were very much incomplete and often erroneous. Anyway, Mr. Downs and the "Bug Man" Nick Polchak make a great story.
Mar 05, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Awesome thriller/mystery during Hurricane Katrina. The pacing and scientific detail were the best parts. The last 15pgs were a little dramatic/cheesy for my taste, but they weren't bad.
Oct 09, 2018 rated it did not like it
I did not finish because it was too detailed. Bugs ruled the story too much. And the government angle was not for me
Brenda Robinson
It was a good read an interesting plot.
Ann Amadori
Apr 06, 2018 rated it really liked it
A page turner!
Roger Scherping
Mar 04, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I wasn't sure at first that I'd like this book. I was interested in the inside look at the Hurricane Katrina disaster, but I wasn't enjoying Nick's obsession with his profession, and I thought the Nick and Beth relationship looked stilted. But I really warmed to the story, especially how well developed and likable the characters were. Nick's personality and his quick wit are very entertaining. And I thought the ending with J.T. was really well done and sweet.

The plot is well laid out and believa
Jan 22, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: mystery
This series keeps getting better!
This time, Nick is helping out the "DMORT" (field mortuary) team during and after the Hurricane Katrina disaster. As per usual, he quickly runs afoul of his superiors - this time because he wants to collect dead bodies before any interesting forensic evidence (for instance, that which might place the time or place of death outside the easily explicable flood area) is erased by the water. His superiors would greatly prefer he focus on the rescue effort and worry
Nov 22, 2011 rated it really liked it
This addition to the "Bug Man" series packs an emotional punch. Nick and many, many others respond to the tragedy of Katrina and the horrors that unfolded in New Orleans after the hurricane struck. Working with a group of people called DMORT, a rapid response group that goes to national tragedies to help with the recovery and identification of the dead. DMORT is normally concerned only with the dead but this time they are charged with rescue first, then later they will start to collect the bodie ...more
Pr Latta
Third in the "Bugman" forensic mystery series, this title takes place in the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and proceeds chronologically. I appreciated Downs' afterword indicating that he subjected his fictional characters with the same constraints that really occurred: difficulties with communications and a lack of reliable information. [I actually confirmed some details with my husband whose agency worked with FEMA during the hurricane.] Downs vividly paints the picture of the besieg ...more
Catherine Leggitt
Oct 25, 2014 rated it it was amazing
When Hurricane Katrina strikes New Orleans, forensic entomologist Nick Polchak joins the recovery effort. New Orleans is full of live people to be rescued from trees, rooftops, and attics, but Nick's interest lies elsewhere. Forensic evidence on the dead will deteriorate quickly in the stinky cauldron boiling over the city. Nick suggests a divided effort--rescuing the stranded and recovery of the dead--but political correctness demands the living be tended to first. Not being one to follow rules ...more
May 05, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: mystery
This was a last minute selection for my book club this month and it was a pleasant surprise. I enjoyed the story and the writing style very much. The story takes place during and after Hurricane Katrina. Our main character, Nick, volunteers with the government to recover bodies after disasters and helps identify them so they can be reunited with their families. With Katrina, this changes. He is forced to rescue survivors which goes against what he wishes to do, which is recover the dead. He is a ...more
Jun 02, 2011 rated it really liked it
I've had The Bug Man series on my to-read list for quite some time, and I finally got around to reading one. I enjoyed this book and the Bug Man himself. He's a little quirky, wears bug-eyed type thick glasses, and relates better to bugs than to humans. Very fascinating stuff, even if it is about bugs and decomposing bodies. I want to read the rest of the books in the series.

The only question I'm left asking is, why is this considered Christian fiction? There was nothing Christian included in th
Aug 23, 2010 rated it liked it
Shelves: z-2011, thriller, mystery
Another good entry to the series. Nothing here really caught my attention the way that elements of the first two books did, thus the three stars. In this third adventure, Nick is an emergency responder with the disaster mortuary team in New Orleans after Katrina, and he finds some bodies of people that were killed before the hurricane hit. As he continues his investigations, it becomes apparent that someone doesn't want him digging any deeper.

As with the previous Bug Man stories, Downs keeps the
Daniel Routh
Dec 13, 2012 rated it really liked it
The book follows an eccentric, stubborn, and irascible scientist who studies the bugs on dead people to determine their time of death. He is called in to join a volunteer team bracing for the impact of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans. In the aftermath of floating dead bodies, he finds some that have been dead much longer...

The first 2/3 of this book is five star material, compellingly detailed, conflicted, witty, and full of action--not to mention giving a first-person perspective of the New O
Mike Page
Dec 17, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: mystery, thriller, library
Another good story and a great setting in the Katrina leadup and aftermath. I haven't read one that dealt with that tragedy and it was a great setting to use since there was familiarity with it. The characters are typical of Downs' Bug Man story to this point: witty banter, difficulties to overcome, depth to the characters. All really good stuff.

(view spoiler)
Diana H.
Sep 19, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: suspense
Yet another great tale from author Tim Downs featuring his character Nick Polchak, a forensic entomologist.

This story is set in the days immediately following Hurricane Katrina. Downs did a great job of preserving much of the feeling of miss-information that was part of this whole sad and trying time for the people of the Gulf Shores and particularly New Orleans.

The characters have to struggle to move around and figure out how to deal with; well everything that we generally take for granted (sh
Mar 04, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Forensic entomologist Dr. Nick Polchak volunteers to help identify bodies for the government during the Hurricane Katrina disaster in New Orleans. But, when he discovers a couple bodies that obviously have been dead much longer than a couple days, he finds himself the target of someone who is using the hurricane disaster to cover up murder.

Third in the Bug Man Series but can stand alone.
Downs writes a great, entertaining thriller with interesting characters and funny situations, contrasting them
Mar 27, 2012 rated it really liked it
Dr. Nick Polchack is an unusual individual with a bad habit of trying to be witty almost constantly. If he were real I couldn't stomach being in the same room with him for too long. That being said;
As a character Nick is a delight to read. Not having to deal with the sarcasm and misdirection makes him a lot more entertaining. I'm weird enough that I delight in the disgust the other characters and sub-characters exhibit at his body of work. As for the actual story; I found it as interesting and u
Apr 24, 2012 rated it liked it
Another in the Bug Man series about forensic entomologist Nick Polchak. This time he is part of a FEMA team sent to New Orleans in anticipation of Hurricane Katrina. After the storm strikes and the team goes in, Nick starts to find evidence that some of the bodies were dead well before the storm hit.
The series is becoming somewhat formulaic to me - it's been a while since I read the last one, but I could easily anticipate what was going to happen next. However, I enjoy the character and this tim
Tory Wagner
Aug 01, 2012 rated it it was amazing
This was the first book of Tim Brown's that I've read and I loved it! His main character was a forensic entomologyist, thus his nickname, the Bug Man. He is part of a team that goes to disasters to help in the relief efforts. In this book, he is sent to New Orleans during the Katrina hurricane. His usual role in disasters is to collect the dead bodies and try to identify the victim and time of death. In this disaster, he is told to help out in the rescue effort since so many people were caught b ...more
May 19, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Forensic entomologist Dr. Nick Polchak volunteers to help identify bodies for the government during the Hurricane Katrina disaster in New Orleans. But, when he discovers some bodies that obviously have been dead much longer than a couple days, he finds himself the target of someone who is using the hurricane disaster to cover up murder.

Third in the Bug Man Series but can stand alone. Downs writes a great, entertaining thriller with interesting characters and funny situations, contrasting them w
May 19, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Nick Polchak is a part of a team helping the Katrina disaster recovery. His single-minded inquiry into suspicious corpses gets him into all sorts of trouble. This time he also becomes a father figure to a boy stranded by the hurricaine. As usual, I learned a lot about the relationship between cadavers and bugs - this time in relation to water-logged bodies. Also some interesting background into psychological problems, due to an on-site female psychologist. Great mystery, intriguing characters, a ...more
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Tim Downs is a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Indiana University. After graduation in 1976 he created a comic strip, Downstown, which was syndicated by Universal Press Syndicate (Calvin & Hobbes, Doonesbury, The Far Side) from 1980 to 1986. His cartooning has appeared in more than a hundred daily newspapers worldwide. Tim has written seven mystery/suspense novels: Shoofly Pie, Chop Shop, PlagueMak ...more

Other books in the series

Bug Man (6 books)
  • Shoofly Pie (Bug Man, #1)
  • Chop Shop (Bug Man, #2)
  • Less than Dead (Bug Man Series #4)
  • Ends of the Earth (Bug Man, #5)
  • Nick of Time (Bug Man Series #6)
“The early fly gets the cadaver” 5 likes
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