Book Review: The Hidden Bones (Hills & Barbrook #1) by Nicola Ford

ThrowbackThursday

Today I’m revisiting my review of The Hidden Bones by Nicola Ford, the first in a crime mystery series featuring archaeologist Clare Hills which was published in hardback and ebook by Allison & Busby in June 2018. It’s also available in paperback and as an audiobook.

The Lost ShrineThe second book in the series, The Lost Shrine, will be published on 23rd May 2019 and is available to pre-order now.  I’m thrilled to have an advance copy of The Lost Shrine courtesy of the publishersso look out for my review towards the end of this month.

You can also read Nicola Ford’s guest post, ‘Wiltshire Noire’, here.


The Hidden Bones 2About the Book

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During her search, Clare stumbles across the unpublished journals detailing Gerald’s most glittering dig.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.

Format: Hardcover, ebook (352 pp.)   Publisher: Allison and Busby
Published: 21st June 2018  Genre: Crime, Mystery

Purchase Links*
Amazon.co.uk ǀ Publisher ǀ Hive.co.uk (supporting UK bookshops)
*links provided for convenience, not as part of any affiliate programme

Find The Hidden Bones on Goodreads


My Review

Recently widowed, Clare is feeling rather lost at having to cope on her own after years of  happy marriage. The death of her husband was both sudden and unexpected. When her old university friend, David, contacts her about getting involved in his research project, it seems like the perfect distraction from her grief and also an opportunity to rekindle her love of archaeology.

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, 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.

I received an uncorrected proof copy courtesy of publishers, Allison and Busby, in return for an honest and unbiased review.

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In three words: Suspenseful, engrossing, mystery

Try something similar…Dark Sky Island by Lara Dearman (read my review here)


Nicola FordAbout 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 than most people thinking about the dead. Her writing brings together the worlds of archaeology and crime, unravelling the tangled threads left behind by murder to reveal the stories of those who can no longer speak for themselves.

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Throwback Thursday: The Last Day by Claire Dyer

ThrowbackThursday

Throwback Thursday is a weekly meme originally created by Renee at It’s Book Talk.  It’s designed as an opportunity to share old favourites as well as books that we’ve finally got around to reading that were published over a year ago.

Today I’m revisiting a book I reviewed last May but that was published almost exactly a year ago – The Last Day by Claire Dyer.  It was a book I loved when I read it which seems a suitable sentiment to mark Valentine’s Day.  In fact, as you will see, I found at least ten reasons to love it….


The Last DayAbout the Book

They say three’s a crowd but when Boyd moves back into the family home with his now amicably estranged wife, Vita, accompanied by his impossibly beautiful twenty-seven-year-old girlfriend, Honey, it seems the perfect solution: Boyd can get his finances back on track while he deals with his difficult, ailing mother; Honey can keep herself safe from her secret, troubled past; and Vita can carry on painting portraits of the pets she dislikes and telling herself she no longer minds her marriage is over.

But the house in Albert Terrace is small and full of memories, and living together is unsettling.

For Vita, Boyd and Honey love proves to be a surprising, dangerous thing and, one year on, their lives are changed forever.

Format: Paperback, ebook (370 pp.)    Publisher: The Dome Press
Published: 15th February 2018     Genre: Contemporary Fiction

Purchase Links*
Publisher (buy direct for 30% off) | Amazon.co.uk  ǀ  Amazon.com  ǀ Hive.co.uk (supporting UK bookshops)
*links provided for convenience, not as part of any affiliate programme

Find The Last Day on Goodreads


10 Things I Loved About The Last Day by Claire Dyer

  • The structure of the book – Told from alternating points of view of the main characters, at random intervals the reader gets a chapter about a seemingly unrelated character whose role in the story will only be revealed at the end of the book.
  • The atmosphere in the house – The book creates a powerful sense of claustrophobia.  The house in Albert Terrace is small, smaller than the reader might have imagined, meaning Vita, Boyd and Honey are in close proximity all the time.  The three of them share one bathroom and the rooms are described as ‘crowded with furniture’.  At one point Vita says, ‘I feel cramped by their presence in the house.’
  • The apt names – The character names give an insight into their personalities.  There’s Vita whose name matches her feisty nature, someone who’s full of life and not a little pent-up anger.  There’s Boyd, whose names speaks of solidity and honesty.  There’s Honey who embodies the sweet nature her name suggests.  And there’s Trixie – but I’m going to let you read the book and work that one out.
  • Colin – Oh, poor Colin, Vita’s convenient companion for outings, suppers and – occasionally – something more.   His comment to Vita, “If you’re happy, I’m happy” sums him up.
  • Honey’s superstitions – Bringing bread and salt to a new home (and sprinkling the salt on the doorstep), going in and out by the same entrance, flinging open all the door at midnight on New Year’s Eve to let the old year escape unimpeded.  And I can’t finish without mentioning the precaution against bad luck Honey takes on p.47.  Sorry, you’re going to have to read the book to find out!
  • Vita’s pet portraits – In fact, not so much the pet portraits as Vita’s sheer contempt at what she’s been reduced to – painting pictures of pampered pooches.
  • Shared pleasures – Boyd’s and Vita’s early morning chats over tea or coffee and the crossword.  What could be more civilised?
  • Tension – The presence of secrets and hidden frustration contribute to an air of mounting pressure that the reader feels must eventually find some release.  As Vita observes, ‘…how can this house survive seeing it’s full to bursting with the three of us, our belongings, and so many unsaid things?’
  • That ending – The tension mentioned above builds to a dramatic and heart-breaking conclusion that represents both a last day in one respect and a first day in another.

Elements of the story, for me, were definitely in the realm of fiction but what really stood out about The Last Day was the depth of the characterisation, the intense atmosphere the author created within the house and the compelling nature of the relationship between Vita, Boyd and Honey.

I received a review copy courtesy of publishers, The Dome Press.

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In three words: Intense, compelling, intimate

Try something similar…That Summer in Puglia by Valeria Vescina (read my review here)


Claire DyerAbout the Author

Claire Dyer’s novels The Moment and The Perfect Affair, and her short story, Falling For Gatsby, are published by Quercus. Her poetry collections, Interference Effects and Eleven Rooms are published by Two Rivers Press. She has an MA in Creative Writing from Royal Holloway, University of London and teaches creative writing for Bracknell & Wokingham College.  She also runs Fresh Eyes, an editorial and critiquing service. (Photo credit: Goodreads author page)

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