International Intrigue, Murder, Archaeology, How Do They Fit Together?

A little over 35 years ago we moved to Colorado where we stayed for a wonderful twelve years. With both of us having been brought up in the deep south Colorado, and most of the west, was such a different place for us. We learned early on that once the sun set behind the mountains we needed more than a gauzy shirt and sandals. The first softball game I went to watch taught me that…or rather my hasty trip home for warmer clothes did when my toes started turning blue! It was wonderful and new and something we enjoyed for the years we were there.

Of course, we always told each other if we ever really wanted to move back to the south, we only needed to consider it in the spring when everything in the south was bursting with color and everything out west was still dormant and often under snow. So, after a dozen years we returned to our home in Atlanta, Georgia. Or, more exactly, what we thought of as home. Who knew that during the years we were gone the population would explode, the rush hour would turn into rush half-day, and the joke was that the crane was the city bird of Atlanta. Yes, I do mean the construction crane. It seemed everything was under construction, if it was over ten years old it was being torn down in order to build something new. If had been pasture or green space of any kind, it was being leveled and buildings being erected at a record rate.

We stayed in Atlanta for another ten years, mostly because of family obligations. Still, we never felt completely comfortable. Home wasn’t home any more. So, when things changed and we were no longer feeling any obligation to stay, we moved further south to the coast. We’ve learned to manage the hotter weather here, although there are times when we miss at least the mountains of north Georgia if not the cooler mountains of Colorado. Still, the south is home and it’s doubtful we will ever leave again.

Our time in Colorado gives me an extra perspective on conditions when I read books that take place in and around the western mountains, especially if it’s in early spring or late summer. That’s when snow may or may not arrive suddenly and you better make sure you have a jacket and maybe a blanket in the trunk just in case. That knowledge got a workout with my most recent book, Old Bones by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Childs. This is the first in a proposed new series featuring Nora Kelly an archeologist at the fictional Sante Fe Institute of Archeology. For this book Nora and a small archeological dig party travel into the Sierra Nevada mountains to excavate a previously undiscovered camp of a branch of the Donner Party. For my review, read on.

It’s a murder mystery wrapped up in an archelogical excavation surrounded by international intrigue. That’s how you might describe OLD BONES by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Childs. The book opens with two men meeting up at a darkened bench on the banks of the Seine in France which results in the exchange of an undisclosed object and then the murder of one of the men. It then abruptly moves to a house demolition where a different man breaks in and steals a diary just before demolition begins. Another abrupt shift takes the reader to an FBI field office where Corrie Swanson is a new field agent and, after months of studying cold cases finally receives her first active investigation.

As a reader, you know these things will eventually tie together, but for some time you don’t know how. The first connection is when the man with the diary approached Nora Kelly about mounting an archeological dig to search for the “Lost Camp” of a portion of the Donner Party. His promise to her is both one of archeological significance in terms of finding a previously unexplored site along with the possibility of a cache of gold coins reportedly having been carried by two of the inhabitants of the site.

The archeology dig is finally given the green light by the Inst itutes CEO when she is told about the gold and what it’s discovery could mean to the Institute. Even though they would not be allowed to keep the gold, finding it would definitely be a publicity coup for them. At the same time they are preparing to travel up into the mountains, the FBI rookie, Corrie, is connecting several grave robberies and a murder with a family who are decendents of a Donner Party family.

At the dig site, Nora uncovers the bones of all the inhabitants, including an eight year old girl who has been the subject of some more active ghost stories around the campfire. Just when it seems things are going like clockwork, one of the wranglers disappears with some of the bones, and things begin to unravel at the dig site.

Unable to connect her case to the dig site in a logical way, Corrie is ordered to return to her office and concentrate on the information she has instead of striving to make a connection. While she complies, things at the dig site turn upside down yet again and she is called to return. However, once again, she is unsuccessful in making a connection and her supervisor decides to turn the case over to a different office so Corrie can concentrate on her original case.

Because the book is more entertaining if everything unfolds as the reader is moving through the story, this review will end here. Suffice it to say there are still surprises to unfold and adventures to have for the characters in this story before the end is achieved. Overall, the different threads come together reasonably well as long as the reader can accept the premise of the international intrigue. The epilogue is particularly satisfying on several counts. It will be interesting to see where this series goes in future books.

Thank you to Grand Central Publishing and NetGalley for providing me with an Advanced Read Digital copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.