Today I am over the moon to be taking part in the blog tour for Nicola Ford’s debut novel The Hidden Bones. With equal part archaeology, investigative mystery, romance and humour this baby really ticked all of the boxes. I may have picked it up as my ideal way start off the summer reading season, but I genuinely think that The Hidden Bones is going to have some serious staying power.
Following the recent death of her husband, Clare Hills is listless and unsure of her place in the world. When her former university friend Dr David Barbrook asks her to help him sift through the effects of deceased archaeologist Gerald Hart, she sees this as a useful distraction from her grief. During her search, Clare stumbles across the unpublished journals detailing Gerald’s most glittering dig. Hidden from view for decades and supposedly destroyed in an arson attack, she cannot believe her luck. Finding the Hungerbourne Barrows archive is every archaeologist’s dream. Determined to document Gerald’s career-defining find for the public, Clare and David delve into his meticulously kept records of the excavation.
But the dream suddenly becomes a nightmare as the pair unearth a disturbing discovery, putting them at the centre of a murder inquiry and in the path of a dangerous killer determined to bury the truth for ever.
My Rating: 4.5/ 5
When I first picked up this book, admittedly I was suffering from a serious reading slump. The size of it had me a little nervous about finishing on time for this review, but the minute I opened the pages and was introduced to the complicated and endearing Clare Hills I was absolutely entranced! Before I knew it my clock was reading 2:00 AM and I was turning the final page and stark raving mad that I had to wait for the next instalment in what looks to be a cracking series.
I loved the depth and variety found in the characters and not once did I feel that they were cut from a type-cast cloth. There was a constant flow of adventure and revelations that made sure things never got stagnant, and it was done in such a subtle way that I didn’t realize that the plot was moving along at a break-neck speed. I especially enjoyed Clare’s tenacity and perseverance, even if I did judge her a little for letting Stephen take care of absolutely everything in her life. But with that aside, I found her passion relatable and enthusiasm contagious. And let’s not forget the elephant sized tension that gets carried around behind her and David! I mean, who doesn’t love a good grad school forbidden/ unrequited love story? (Okay, maybe that’s just a thing amongst academics…)
It was interesting to see how central a role Dr. Hart played in the story, even though he was never present to advocate for himself. His absence and actions call into consideration some of the deeper conversations around academic integrity, access to research and information, and the duty that mentors have to the students they take under their wings. While these discussions might not resonate with every reader the tension they create between Gerald and David, as well as Gerald and Margaret, still create ample excitement.
And lets not forget spunky ol’ Jo! It’s always enjoyable to read a character that plot out defies the stereotypes associated with their job. I could picture that scene so vividly when Jo walks in to meet Clare with a backpack and a Coke, and Clare is absolutely thrown for a loop when this little blonde American turns our to be the exact opposite of the world class expert that Clare had originally envisioned. I know that look, I’ve seen that look, and I laughed uncontrollably because I have totally lived that moment! But what made it all the more awesome, was the fact that Clare’s character was able to eat crow and strike up an awesome friendship with her colleague.
The strong cast of female characters is something that can’t be ignored. Together they are balanced, determined, and straight up boss without ever being bitchy. This is so, so, so important! If you’re looking for a touch of girl power with a dash of gripping crime, this one is for you. And even if you aren’t actively seeking strong female reads, the authenticity of the archaeology and the twists in the plot are sure to please crime junkies and thrill seekers alike.
Would I recommend this book? Oh hells to the yes! It’s well written, engaging, and the perfect start to a killer series. I can’t wait to see what Nicola Ford puts out next, as her expertise in archaeology creates an incredibly authentic reading experience and expertly blends together investigating the past with the recently dead. Buy it my book nerds, this is one summer read you won’t regret!
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.
- Nicola is National Trust Archaeologist for the Stonehenge and Avebury World Heritage Site, and has drawn upon her experience ‘in the field’ to write a murder mystery combining well-realised characters, a strong sense of archaeological hotspot. Wiltshire and distant past clashing with murky present.
- As an archaeologist, working in two of the world’s most iconic ancient landscapes, she spends her days bringing the dead to life. She writes with the down in the dirt eye of an archaeologist and the heart of a story teller.
- Under her working name of Dr Nick Snashall, she regularly gives public talks and lectures in Britain and abroad and has featured in films and podcasts for the National Trust alongside Clare Balding and Bettany Hughes. She’s given numerous local, national and international TV and radio interviews and appeared in national TV and radio series, including BBC’s Countryfile, Channel 4’s Britain’s Secret Treasures, and BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.
- Nicola received the 2017 Archaeological Research Project of the Year Award (jointly with other project co-directors) voted for by members of the public.
Many thanks to Allison & Busby for organizing this tour, and to Nicola Ford for providing an ARC in exchange for an honest review.