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 Magyar Venus by Lyn Hamilton

Reviewed on: June 1, 2004

Berkley Publishing Group, New York
2004 (hc)

The Lara McClintoch mystery series, of which The Magyar Venus is the eighth installment, just keeps getting better and better. While some other archaeological mystery series – I’m concerned about the Kathy Reichs and Dana Cameron novels—seem to perhaps be running on fumes, judging from their last entries—Lyn Hamilton’s skills appear to be getting stronger with each new novel.

One of the strong elements in the Lara McClintoch series has been its sense of place—particularly its sense of exotic place. From the initial novel The Xibalba Murders, set in Mexico, to later episodes set in such exotic locales as Malta, Ireland, and Thailand, among others, one constant of the series was the author’s ability to make the locale come to life and to make the reader want to visit those places. This has apparently worked well enough for Lyn Hamilton to stage tours based on her novels! The Magyar Venus is no different except that Lara (and the reader) do not arrive in Hungary until page 129.

The first half of the book sets the stage for Lara’s investigations in Budapest and rural Hungary. The reader is introduced to a number of women who, along with Lara, were dubbed the Dovercourt Divas some twenty or more years earlier when they were all students at the University of Toronto, as well as some of their male friends. While this might sound a bit like a CBC version of “Friends,” the impromptu reunion activity at the opening of a new exhibit at the Cottingham Museum turns first nasty and then deadly when decades-old animosities flare up, too much alcohol is consumed by nearly everyone—including Lara (or is it a date-rape drug?), and one of the Divas winds up a suicide (or is it murder?)!

At the center of these swirling emotions and events is the Magyar Venus, an Upper Paleolithic figure of a woman carved in mammoth ivory. This ancient artifact brought Lara’s old friends together, may have caused the death of one of the them, reunited Lara with an old lover, and then proved to be the reason that a mysterious assailant tracks her through the primitive hinterland of Hungary. This assailant, it soon becomes apparent, will only be satisfied with Lara’s death.

This is another wonderful entry in this entertaining series, and while I’ve never considered Hungary to be high on my list of “must-see” countries in the world, it is now!

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