Griffiths, Elly. The Janus Stone.

NY: Houghton Mifflin, 2011.

This is the second in the series featuring English archaeologist Ruth Galloway of northern Norfolk, and it’s even better than the first-rate first volume. Ruth is turning forty and she’s overweight, but she had a one-night stand with homicide DCI Harry Nelson — it was a combination of stress and special circumstances during the last case — and that’s complicating her life. Being a bone specialist, she’s been doing some forensics work for the police and this time, three months since the previous case, that brings her to investigate the skeleton of an infant found under the doorstep of an old house being torn down to make way for a block of luxury flats.

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Griffiths, Elly. The Crossing Places.

NY: Houghton Mifflin, 2010.

This is the first entry in a lengthening series featuring English archaeologist Ruth Galloway of northern Norfolk and it’s a first-rate piece of work. Ruth is not unattractive, but she’s pushing forty and weighs in at 180 pounds. She concentrates mostly on her career, both teaching at the local university and excavating in the nearby coastal marshes, which she has come to love, and where she lives in a small wind-and-rain-swept cottage.

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Saunders, Nicholas J. Alexander’s Tomb.

NY: Basic Books, 2006.

Subtitled “The Two Thousand Year Obsession to Find the Lost Conqueror,” this is a semi-academic (lots of footnotes, lengthy bibliography) but also very readable account of what we know happened — and what else we think may have happened — to the mummy of Alexander after he died in Babylon at the age of thirty-two. By Macedonian tradition, a deceased king was buried by his successor, so whoever controlled that particular very famous corpse had an excellent claim to taking over his empire. (more…)

Published in: on 14 August 2017 at 7:43 am  Leave a Comment  
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Kearsley, Susanna. The Shadowy Horses.

NY: Bantam, 1997.

I read a great deal, in nearly every genre and flavor of fiction, and I strongly disagree with the elitists who insist that certain entire categories of books simply aren’t worth their time. That’s pure snobbery, and it’s generally based on prejudice, not experience. Because a book is either well-written or it isn’t, and while there are plenty of books that I haven’t bothered to finish, and certain authors whose repeated lame attempts I have learned (usually) to avoid, the occasional losers are spread across the whole of literature. There are almost always books in any niche that are worth your time. And this one, a romance novel with a strong psychic flavor, is one of them.

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Ashford, Lindsay Jayne. The Woman on the Orient Express.

Seattle: Lake Union Publishing, 2016.

It’s a historical fact that in the fall of 1928, still recovering mentally from a very painful divorce and not wanting to be trapped by the press in England when her ex-husband married his mistress, Agatha Christie, already famous as the author of ten mystery novels (and also for her public bout of “amnesia”), anonymously crossed the Channel and boarded the Orient Express, headed for Baghdad.

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Asimov, Isaac. Pebble in the Sky.

Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1950.

I believe this book was my introduction to Isaac Asimov, so I must have read it around 1954 — the same period during which I was discovering Heinlein and Simak and Groff Conklin’s fat anthologies of short stories by every important writer of the period. More than six decades later, I’m pleased to find that the story holds up quite well.

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Cleeves, Ann. Red Bones.

NY: St. Martin, 2009.

I’ve become a real fan of this author’s police procedural murder mysteries set in the Shetland Islands, out in the North Atlantic between Scotland and Norway. Even with the Internet, and with shopping and vacation trips to the mainland paid for by oil money, it’s still a very isolated place to live. In many ways, this means everyone knows everyone else’s business, especially at the local neighborhood level, where nearly all the families are each other’s cousins. But it also means family secrets are kept even tighter than they would be in London or Edinburgh.

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Johnson, Marilyn. Lives in Ruins: Archaeologists and the Seductive Lure of Human Rabble.

NY: HarperCollins, 2014.

I’ve been an archaeology junkie all my life, starting with my reading of Gods, Graves, and Scholars: The Story of Archaeology in 5th Grade many years ago. The summer after my freshman year in college, I was an unpaid volunteer for the National Park Service’s Missouri Valley Basin Project on the upper Great Plains — which mostly meant holding a surveyor’s rod steady, but I loved being associated with the guys who were searching for Indian hunting sites.

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Hunt, Geoff. The Sea Painter’s World: The New Marine Art of Geoff Hunt.

London: Anova Books, 2011.

I’ve been fascinated by the Age of Sail, and especially by the warships of the Napoleonic wars, all my life, or at least since discovering my father’s shelf of Hornblower novels when I was in junior high. Even though I come from a family of strict landlubbers, I learned what I could about ship types and about the intricacies of sailing a tall ship, and I went in search of detailed drawings and paintings to help increase my understanding of what I was reading.

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Published in: on 17 January 2016 at 6:01 am  Leave a Comment  
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Sfar, Joann & Emmanuel Guibert. The Professor’s Daughter.

NY: First Second, 2007.

A fellow graphic-novel fan recommended this one to me but I’m afraid I have to question his judgment. It’s the old problem: Good writing with mediocre art, or vice versa.

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Published in: on 14 December 2015 at 4:57 pm  Leave a Comment  
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