- Audible Audiobook
- Listening Length: 8 hours and 23 minutes
- Program Type: Audiobook
- Version: Unabridged
- Publisher: Jennifer S. Alderson
- Audible.co.uk Release Date: 25 Jun. 2018
- Language: English, English
- ASIN: B07DX869R1
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank:
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Rituals of the Dead: An Artifact Mystery: Adventures of Zelda Richardson, Book 3 Audiobook – Unabridged
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Bis Poles are artefacts that have been made on Papua New Guinea for generations by the Asmat people, carved during a bis ceremony, a party of many days honouring the life of the dead. The Asmat people believed that an adult couldn’t simply pass away, they put the blame on neighbouring communities and such a festival would end in a headhunting expedition (you can’t say you don’t learn anything!).
There are two timelines, 1962 and 2017. In the early 1960s the area was still under Dutch colonial rule. Many of the items collected and shipped to the Netherlands back then are hopefully to be included in the upcoming exhibition, showcasing the beauty and artistry of the carvings. As the assembled curatorial staff, including Zelda, unpacks crates of artefacts from the period, including human bones – supposedly all Asmat – a notebook falls out. It transpires that it belonged to Nick Mayfield, who was adventuring and collecting artefacts out in what was then Dutch New Guinea. His disappearance then becomes all the more sinister when a member of the present day team, Janna, the photographer, is murdered.
Father Terpstra was on missionary work in the area in the 1960s and it becomes apparent through photographic evidence that he and Nick were certainly acquainted. He too was a collector of some of the most astounding examples of the art. But it soon becomes apparent that he has something to hide… and he is not the only one.
The Anti-Colonial Brigade also make their views known, after all, the cultural history of the country had largely been stolen – sometimes by devious means. this is clearly a theme close to the author’s heart.
This is an enjoyable and easy to read story of artefact collectors, with mystery and culture playing an important part.
Seven crates have been discovered unopened for 50 years in the archive depot of Rotterdam’s Wereldmuseum. As Zelda and the more important staff from the museums observe, the crates are unpacked, revealing not just Bis poles, but also human remains of the head-hunting Asmat culture of what was then Dutch New Guinea. But the most intriguing discovery is the leather-bound journal of Nicholas Mayfield, a wealthy American anthropologist who went missing in 1962.
Interspersed with Zelda’s transcription of the journal and her investigations, are passages from 1962, where we discover the frustrations and difficulties Nicholas had experienced while trading in Dutch New Guinea, hindered rather than helped by experienced Dutch anthropologist, Albert Schenk. Albert is now Director of the Wereldmuseum and he seems to be a thoroughly unpleasant, arrogant individual.
Soon, Zelda is alarmed when two people close to her are murdered. She continues with her task of transcribing the journal and researching the background of the Bis poles for an imminent exhibition, but she keeps information close to her chest and, at times, is unwise in those she chooses to trust.
This exciting story is also an education about a culture of which I knew very little. The actions of colonial powers, the church and collectors of artefacts is called into questions but there is also our moral dilemma of whether to exhibit treasures from the past or return them to their source. But don’t let this put you off; you will be on the edge of your seat wondering if Zelda will take one risk too many as well as wishing to discover what actually happened to Nicholas Mayfield. A thoroughly good read.
Zelda decides to relocate, but she becomes embroiled with a mystery surrounding some artefacts seems to spill into the present, with a team member being murdered. The questions mount and so does the tension…
The pace was good, the writing tight. The dual timeline, too, was handled well. The art, history, and suspense all blended well within the story, with no single element overcrowding the plot at the heart of the novel. The tension built well, and the ending … well, I’ll take a leaf out of the author’s book and build up the suspense… and let you find out for yourself. Recommended
*Thank you to the author for my free review copy via #RBRT.
"Very interesting and thought provoking, the author clearly researched as well as using her knowledge of the Asmats and this was evident throughout the book."
Founder of Chill with a Book Awards