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The Hidden Bones (Hills & Barbrook) Hardcover – 21 Jun 2018
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About the Author
Nicola Ford is the pen-name for archaeologist Dr Nick Snashall, National Trust Archaeologist for the Stonehenge and Avebury World Heritage Site. Through her day-job and now her writing, she's spent more time than most people thinking about the dead.
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Some of the writing could do with tightening up a bit to racket up the suspense I thought, but I would be happy to read another please!
“The Hidden Bones” is the debut novel by Nicola Ford and introduces us to our heroine, Clare Hills, a former archaeology student returning to her previous passion after being widdowed.
Clare is a likeable character, she has doubts and uncertainties about her abilities and her way forward in life and these insecurities lend her a three dimensionality that is pleasing. In the early stages of this book she appears unsure and overly cautious as she tries to find her feet after her husbands death and, as the story progresses, she becames more self reliant and confident. Her character progression is pleasing, you find yourself rooting for her as the mystery develops and the danger and tension mounts.
The characters are well rounded and believable and the dialogue between the participants flows smoothly; you get a real sense of the individuals within the plot. Clare is an interesting protagonist with which to spend a few days.
The plotting is well executed and the pacing of the story leaves you eagerly turning the pages. The ending is satisfying, well executed and quite a tense affair; an enjoyable climax to a thrilling read.
Nicola Ford is the pen-name of Dr Nick Snashall, an eminent archaeologist for both The National Trust and the Stonehenge and Avebury World Heritage sites. Consequently, the novel bristles with authenticity – well, as a reader unaccustomed to life as an archaeologist, it certainly came across as authentic! The setting and descriptions of the dig site and the practices that occur during an excavation are vividly portrayed and these details are woven deftly into the storyline. The author subtly layers her expertise and experience gently into her writing so that you learn enough about the subject to enhance your reading pleasure yet are never swamped by too much unnecessary information that would otherwise the story down and prevent the plot from developing.
I especially enjoyed how the author used the excavation of a previous dig site from forty years earlier to bring immediacy and relevance to their work; I thought this was a very intriguing way of telling her story and it really helped to bring it and the characters to life.
This is a sparkling debut from a new British crime writer and I urge you all to go out dig a copy off the shelves of your nearest bookshop. You can rest assured that you will have unearth an immensely enjoyable read.
Initially, I wasn’t sure I shared Clare and David’s excitement at the discovery of a missing artefact as they comb through the papers of deceased archaeologist, Gerald Hart, famed for his work on the Hungerbourne Barrow. However, that all changed when the pair make a startling discovery about one of the finds in the collection. It brings to light revelations from the past that although historic definitely do not relate to the Bronze Age. I was now hooked.
History starts to repeat itself in other ways as the excavation team led by David and Clare are plagued by graffiti warning messages and accidents on site, just as occurred at the time of the original excavation. But are they actually just accidents or are they manifestations of an ancient curse or something more sinister but distinctly earthbound? When events turn darker and more dangerous still, it becomes clear that there is someone who will stop at nothing to prevent the excavation continuing.
The author certainly kept me guessing about who the culprit was. One minute I was sure I knew who was responsible, the next minute I was convinced it was someone else. Eventually the perpetrator and their motive is revealed but not before lucky escapes for some members of the team and just the opposite for others.
It turns out archaeology has much in common with the investigation of a crime. They both involve gathering and piecing together evidence, investigating available source information, testing assumptions and coming to conclusions. A crime scene must be preserved in the same way as an archaeological excavation site. Because of the author’s background, the details about the excavation and the archaeological procedures felt completely authentic. I also got the same sense about David’s tussles with his university head of department over the need to deliver research funding that appears to be such a feature of modern day academia.
What I particularly enjoyed about the book was the strong cast of female characters – Clare, obviously, but also Margaret and Jo. Along with David, the author has lined up an interesting team for future books in the series. The Hidden Bones is an engrossing murder mystery with engaging characters that will appeal to lovers of crime fiction, fans of TV’s Time Team or those with an interest in history or archaeology.