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Sunday 19 April 2020

‘Old Bones’ by Preston & Child

Published by head of Zeus,
Septeber 2019.
ISBN: 978-1-838-93105-6 (HB)

A mysterious heist in Paris, the last-minute theft of a diary from an about-to-be-bulldozed house, and this crime novel is up and running. Archaeologist Nora Kelly is approached by historian Clive Benton with a unique offer: directions to the ‘Lost Camp’ of the Donner Tragedy, which may include a cache of gold worth millions. A strange grave-robbing and murder bring rookie FBI Agent Corrie Swanson on the scene...

I love crime novels which have a real-life historical element, and this one’s a cracker. I’d never heard of the Donner tragedy, in which a party of pioneers got lost from the Oregan Trail, were snowbound, and restored to cannibalism to stay alive, so I was enthralled from the beginning.  There are two female leads, and apart from the opening sections the novel is told in third person from their viewpoint. Nora Kelly is practical, calm, a leader, and the processes of setting up an investigation, as well as the miracles of modern technology, were well described. Agent Swanson, by contrast, is longing for excitement but unsure of herself, and still has difficulty controlling the temper that got her into trouble in her teenage years, especially when she’s patronised by older male officers. You empathise with both women, and it’s fun seeing them react off each other.  The plotting’s very clever, with several unexpected twists, the dialogue rattles along, there’s plenty of action, and the atmosphere of the ‘Lost Camp’ becomes very spooky indeed, especially when the ghost of little Samantha Carville comes into play.

An excellent thriller with a page-turning plot, great characters, including two sleuths that I hope to meet again, and an intriguing historical background.
Reviewer: Marsali Taylor

Douglas Preston was born in Cambridge, Massachusetts, in 1956, and grew up in the suburb of Wellesley. He attended public schools and the Cambridge School of Weston. Preston attended Pomona College in Claremont, California, where he studied mathematics, biology, physics, anthropology, chemistry, geology, and astronomy before settling down to English literature. After graduating, Preston began his career at the American Museum of Natural History in New York as an editor, writer, and finally manager of publications. Preston also taught nonfiction writing at Princeton University and served as managing editor of Curator, a journal for museum professionals. His eight-year stint at the Museum resulted in the non-fiction book, Dinosaurs in the Attic, edited by a rising young star at St. Martin's Press, a polymath by the name of Lincoln Child. During this period, Preston gave Child a midnight tour of the museum, and in the darkened Hall of Late Dinosaurs, under a looming T. Rex, Child turned to Preston and said: “This would make the perfect setting for a thriller!” In the early 1990s Preston and Child teamed up to write suspense novels; Relic was the first, followed by several others, including Riptide, Thunderhead and, more recently, Fever Dream and Two Graves
In the year 2000, Preston moved with his family to Florence, Italy, to write a murder mystery set in Tuscany. Instead of writing the novel, however, he became fascinated by the story of a serial killer named il Mostro di Firenze, the Monster of Florence. He teamed up with an Italian journalist, Mario Spezi, who was an expert on the case. In 2008 they published a nonfiction book, The Monster of Florence. The book won numerous journalism awards in both Italy and the United States. Preston has published a number of solo novels, including Tyrannosaur Canyon, Blasphemy, and Impact. Preston was Co-President of International Thriller Writers and serves on the Board of Governors of the Authors Guild. He is a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society and a member of the Long Rider’s Guild. In 2011, Pomona College conferred on him the honorary degree of Doctor of Letters.

Lincoln Child was born in Westport, Connecticut. Lincoln graduated from Carleton College in Northfield, Minnesota, majoring in English. Discovering a fascination for words, he made his way to New York in the summer of 1979, intent on finding a job in publishing. He was lucky enough to secure a position as editorial assistant at St. Martin's Press. Over the next several years, he clawed his way up the editorial hierarchy, moving to assistant editor to associate editor before becoming a full editor in 1984. While at St. Martin's, he was associated with the work of many authors, including that of James Herriot and M. M. Kaye. He edited well over a hundred books--with titles as diverse as The Notation of Western Music and Hitler's Rocket Sites--but focused primarily on American and English popular fiction. In 1987, Lincoln left trade publishing to work at MetLife. In a rather sudden transition, he went from editing manuscripts, speaking at sales conferences, and wining/dining agents to doing highly technical programming and systems analysis. Though the switch might seem bizarre, Lincoln was a propeller-head from a very early age, and his extensive programming experience dates back to high school, when he worked with DEC minis and the now-prehistoric IBM 1620, so antique it actually had an electric typewriter mounted into its front panel. Away from the world of publishing, Lincoln's own nascent interests in writing returned. While at MetLife, Relic was published, and within a few years Lincoln had left the company to write full time. He now lives in New Jersey with his wife and daughter.

Marsali Taylor grew up near Edinburgh and came to Shetland as a newly-qualified teacher. She is currently a part-time teacher on Shetland's scenic west side, living with her husband and two Shetland ponies. Marsali is a qualified STGA tourist-guide who is fascinated by history, and has published plays in Shetland's distinctive dialect, as well as a history of women's suffrage in Shetland. She's also a keen sailor who enjoys exploring in her own 8m yacht, and an active member of her local drama group.  Marsali also does a regular monthly column for the Mystery People e-zine.
Click on the title to read a review of her recent book Death on a Shetland Isle

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