A Book Spy Review: ‘Old Bones’ by Preston & Child

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Old BonesIn her first starring role, Nora Kelly, a young, beautiful curator at Santa Fe Institute of Archaeology who has already tasted success on several previous excavations, is approached by a handsome historian named Clive Benton, who offers her the opportunity of a lifetime. 

Back in the mid-1800s, travelers migrating west became trapped in the Sierra Nevada mountain range during a hazardous snowstorm that left the group, forever remembered throughout history as the Donner Party, desperate to stay alive. So desperate, in fact, that many turned to such extreme acts as cannibalism in hopes of cheating death. Now, Benton claims to have the original journal of Tamzene Donner, which may leave clues as to the camp’s position—which is where Nora comes in. Benton asks for her help finding the exact location, ticking off a number of reasons, including the powerful impact finding the site would have in today’s world.

Of course, there’s also rumors of gold, potentially tens of millions of dollars’ worth, which doesn’t really interest Nora, who’s more in it for the historical ramifications than the money. She takes the job, and soon a team heads out in search of the buried pioneers’ remains—only to learn they aren’t the only ones combing through the area. Worse yet, the more digging they do, the more they realize that something else might be buried right along with the old bones they’re searching for as a dark secret emerges, indicating that we don’t really know what went on in that camp over one hundred and seventy years ago . . . and begging the question, are we perhaps better off not knowing? 

Preston and Child are both veteran, solid-as-a-rock novelists who know how to spin a good mystery and keep readers entertained. Nora Kelly, who has stolen scenes in their Pendergast series in years past, is a terrific leading character, and the writers have done a fine job developing her. Same goes for Corinne Swanson, an FBI agent Nora ends up teaming with, and together they drive the story—which twists and turns its way to a fun and somewhat shocking conclusion. Think Christopher Golden’s Ararat (2017) meets Alma Katsu’s The Hunger (2018), with a pinch of Bill Schutt and J.R. Finch’s Himalayan Codex (2017) . . . and a drop of Indiana Jones. 

Preston and Child add another top-notch protagionist to their arsenal in Nora Kelly, and Old Bones is as good as anything they’ve written over the last decade. 

Book Details

Author: Preston & Child 
Series: Nora Kelly #1
Pages: 384 (Hardcover)
ISBN: 1538747227
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing 
Release Date: August 20, 2019
Book Spy Rating: 8.0/10

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Praised as “One of the hardest working, most thoughtful, and fairest reviewers out there” by #1 New York Times bestselling author Lisa Scottoline, Ryan Steck has “quickly established himself as the authority on mysteries and thrillers” (Author A.J. Tata). Steck also works full-time as a freelance editor and pens a monthly thriller column for CrimeReads. For more information, be sure to follow him on Twitter and Facebook. He currently lives in Southwest Michigan with his wife and their six children.

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One comment

  1. Another great review. One fact check, Nora Kelly has previously featured as the protagonist in Thunderhead (1999).

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