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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The Moai Murders by Lyn Hamilton

Reviewed on: September 1, 2005


Berkley Publishing Group, New York
April 2005 (hc)

In the past few years, the late spring has proved to be not only the time of April showers bringing May flowers, but it is also the time of year for the publication of new additions to several archaeological mystery series. Aaron Elkins’ new Gideon Oliver mystery was followed closely by the new Elizabeth Peters’ Amelia Peabody novel, which in turn has been followed by my favorite armchair traveler/archaeology mystery author, Lyn Hamilton.

In this, her ninth entry in the Lara McClintoch series, Hamilton transports her antique dealer heroine to a tiny dot in the middle of the western Pacific called Rapa Nui, better known to many of us as Easter Island. For the first time in the series, Lara is not traveling to exotic locations seeking antiques and antiquities, but rather accompanying her convalescing friend, Moira Meller, on the vacation of a lifetime-it seems Moira has had a life-long fascination with Easter Island and the giant sculpted heads (the Moai) for which the tiny island has long been famous, at least since Thor Heyerdahl’s 1958 best-seller, Aku-Aku.

Coincident with their vacation on Rapa Nui, and headquartered at their hotel, is the self-styled First Annual Rapa Nui Moai Congress. This small but select (by whom is one of the mysteries Lara eventually must grapple) group of people share in common a passion for the history and mystery of the sculpted heads that dot the Rapa Nui landscape. But they are a ragtag group, including some legitimate scholars, some self-educated avocational experts on the Moai and their creators, and some out and out charlatans and mystics. Central to the group, however is Jasper Robinson, who seems to embody aspects of all the aforementioned types. He promotes the paper he is to deliver at the Congress – Rapa Nui: The Mystery Solved – as the definitive answer to the question whether the indigenous people of Rapa Nui, and therefore the origins of the Moai, came Asia via the Polynesian Island chain or from South America. He is an archetype of the phenomena we have all grown used to in the last few decades-the media-savvy, self-aggrandizing and very popular quasi-scientist. So much so that Jasper Robinson has come to Rapa Nui and the Congress with his own film director and crew in tow to capture the magic moment of his unraveling the mystery of Easter Island.

Unfortunately, Death is also a registrant at the conference, and conferees-including the star himself, Jasper Robinson-begin to fall like ten-pins and in quick succession three of them are dead. Lara soon finds herself up to her neck in intrigue as she aids and abets one prime suspect who is hiding out from the police and her friend Moira becomes romantically involved with yet another murder suspect. While logic would seem to indicate that the murders are the macabre results of academic jealousies and hostilities whose origins go back several decades, Lara can’t help but believe there is something more substantial-and even more perverse-behind the killings.

Lyn Hamilton’s mysteries improve with every outing; her characters, primarily Lara, grow more robust and well defined as with each new edition of the McClintoch mysteries, and my only regret is that we now have to wait at least another year for the next Archaeological Mystery from this gifted author.

The Moai Murders deserve 3 ½ 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