Book Reviews

Review Rating

With the October 2004 review, we began rating the books on the basis of one to four trowels; 
one trowel= don’t bother, to four trowels= run right out to your local book store and buy the hard cover!

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Bright Hair About the Bone by Barbara Cleverly

Reviewed on: February 1, 2009


Bantam Dell: New York
2008 (pb)

In this, the second Laetitia Talbot Mystery, author Barbara Cleverly maintains the very high standards she set in the initial volume, The Tomb of Zeus. Bright Hair About the Bone is, in a sense, a prequel, taking place in 1927 –a year before her adventures on Crete. I reviewed that first volume and praised it highly, noting that fans of Elizabeth Peters’ Amelia Peabody series ought to be delighted with this new heroine; I did note, however, that the sly humor to be found in the Peabody series seemed to be lacking in the first Letty Talbot outing. That deficiency seems to have been remedied as this novel opens with a comically outlandish plot that Letty hatches to ensure her inclusion in an archaeological dig in Burgundy, France.

Her desire to join the dig goes well beyond her interest in archaeology, however. Her godfather, Daniel Thorndon, had been murdered, supposedly by a street robber in Fontigny, Burgundy. He had been working on the archaeological dig underway at the local abbey and shortly before his untimely death he had sent a coded message to Letty, indicating mysterious doings in Fontigny and his desire for her to join him in looking into the mystery.

Thus the stage is set for a truly enjoyable adventure that seems to include everything a reader could possibly want in a period-piece mystery: a dark and forbidding ruined abbey; an equally dark and forbidding and brooding yet incredibly sexy French nobleman, who lives in a secluded manor house with his slightly (or perhaps mostly) dotty mother; another brutal murder whose victim is partially buried in the abbey dig site; ancient Celtic artifacts that link pre-Roman goddess worshippers to the cult of the Virgin Mary and to Mary Magdalene; and a contemporary political plot that incorporates the rise of the Nazis in post-World War I Germany! One is tempted to wonder if Barbara Cleverly will have any plot lines left for a third Laetitia Talbot mystery after this tour de force, but I trust the author will live up to her surname and I’ll wait with great anticipation for the next volume. Once again Barbara Cleverly has given the reader a delightful whodunit, great atmosphere and sense of place, and compelling characters. This second Laetitia Talbot novel deserves four trowels!

Twenty Years in the Trenches: Archaeology in Fiction

William Gresens, longtime MVAC supporter and volunteer, has been writing reviews of archaeological fiction as MVAC’s book reviewer for twenty years.  In this interview Bill shares how he got started writing reviews for MVAC, how the genre has changed, highlights, and his thoughts looking forward. 

Bill Gresen’s Book Review 20th Anniversary

While Bill's reviews go back 20 years now, his relationship with MVAC goes back more than twice that long! The reviews capture some of the things we enjoy most about Bill-- he's perceptive, methodical, a clear thinker, and a whole lot of fun! We look forward to this relationship--and Bill's reviews!--continuing for many years to come.

The March 2021 review marks the 20th anniversary of reviews of archaeological fiction.  It has been my pleasure and great fun to while away the hours reading these books—for the most part, at least—and writing the reviews!  My thanks to MVAC allowing me to prattle on and I look forward to the years ahead.

Bill Gresens