The Sutton Hoo ship burial is the greatest archaeological discovery made in Britain in the 20th century. On the eve of WWII, Edith Pretty, the owner of Sutton Hoo House, asked Basil Brown, a local archaeologist, to excavate the curious mounds in the grounds of her estate. As he did so, he realized he had found a ship burial, the largest ever found in Britain. The beautiful gold & garnet jewellery, the helmet, silver bowls & other objects found in the burial chamber inspire awe, envy & greed. John Preston's novel is told in the voices of Mrs Pretty, Basil Brown & Peggy Piggott, a young woman on honeymoon with her archaeologist husband. The Piggotts are invited to help on the dig once the professionals from the British Museum, led by C W Phillips, take over. Mrs Pretty is in ill-health, secretly visiting a London spiritualist, hoping to hear from her long-dead husband and struggling to connect with her young son, Robert. Basil is dismayed as his careful discoveries are taken over by the "real" archaeologists and he's sidelined. As his wife, May, says, "My Basil may be self-taught and not have the right letters after his name...that's no reason to treat him like he's all sappy in the head." Peggy has realized already that her marriage is a mistake, and the discoveries she makes on the dig confirm her feelings. The atmosphere of excitement at the dig overshadowed by the coming war, the mystery of the discoveries, and the effect of all this on the characters is beautifully observed.