Book Review: Old Bones by Douglas Preston & Lincoln Child (Nora Kelly #1)

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Old Bones by Douglas Preston and Lincoln ChildHaving read all the Douglas Preston & Lincoln Child books, including the Pendergast novels in order, I was quite excited to learn that they’ve started a new series with a side character from their popular series: Nora Kelly.

I’ve first met Nora in Cabinet of Curiosities, the third Pendergast book, and I became fond of her from back then. Of course, I also liked Bill Smithback, with whom Nora had a history, but that’s an ancient story.

In Old Bones, several years passed since Nora’s husband died, and she has been working as a museum curator and archaeologist in Santa Fe, trying to keep busy and keep her personal pain at bay. One day, she is contacted by historian Dr. Clive Benton, who is apparently a descendant of one of the Donner Party families.

He’s been researching that tragic event ever since, and now he is ready to undertake an expedition to learn what really happened during that fateful winter of 1847.

Nora is persuaded to agree to the expedition, but she has to discuss it with her boss, who initially seems quite reluctant. Still, when Clive mentions there might be a big treasure to find there as well, the expedition is a go. Nora herself is intrigued about finding out the real story of those horrible days in the past.

I was quite excited to see that the authors introduced another secondary character from the Pendergast novels, FBI agent Corrie Swanson, whom we first met in Still Life With Crows. Corrie investigates a separate case which eventually intersects with Nora’s work.

Both women are headstrong, ambitious, and their personalities clash from the first moment they meet. Of course, neither knows that the other has Pendergast as a friend as well. Maybe if they did, many things would go smoother, but then what kind of book would this be without a massive dose of intrigue, conflict, and suspense?

While initially, it seems that there are two separate story threads at play, they both converge in one heck of a twist I didn’t see coming. I did have a suspicion about a person, which turned out to be true, but the last major twist opened a whole other can of worms, which I would have liked expanded a bit further. I felt it was a bit rushed, and other books worked that particular topic better (the reason for the killings).

The case the archaeological team is investigating is loosely based on the real story of the Donner Party involving a group of American pioneers who decided to leave Midwest and go to California in their wagons.

The winder was harsh, the snow and storm didn’t let off, and people got stranded, and they started dying. Also, the food ended, so what went on next was the stuff of nightmares, including cannibalism and other horrors. I’ve never heard of this story before, so I went online researching a bit more. It was truly a gruesome piece of American history of the era of the westward expansion.

The authors tackled the old story quite well, and they kept the readers in constant suspense. I might still prefer their Pendergast novels, but Nora Kelly really started a series I am looking forward to.

And of course, I was much overjoyed when Special Agent Pendergast himself made a cameo appearance in the Epilogue, helping the ladies trying up a few loose threads that they could not figure out on their own. Both girls are very good at their jobs (albeit Corrie is still a rookie FBI agent), but there is a reason Pendergast is everyone’s darling, and for one, I was truly happy to see him even if just during a few short pages.


Old Bones by Douglas Preston & Lincoln Child
Series: Nora Kelly #1
Published By:  Grand Central Publishing
Genres: Thriller, Archaeological mystery
Source: Review Copy
Also by these authors: Extraction, White Fire, Blue Labyrinth, Crimson Shore, Beyond the Ice Limit, Obsidian Chamber, The Lost City of the Monkey God, City of Endless Night, Verses for the Dead

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