I’m getting ready for SJCPL’s Summer Reading Challenge, which starts June 3rd and runs through August 3rd. The theme for the adult program this year, Groundbreaking Reads, is open-ended and can apply to lots of different things, since books can be groundbreaking in many different ways. When I first heard the phrase groundbreaking reads, books about archaeology immediately came to mind because archaeology is one of my favorite subjects. For me, archaeology is intriguing because, by digging into the past, archaeologists break new ground in our understanding of human origins or of a region’s history and culture or, as in the mysteries below, of the history of a crime and its victim.
So, I’ve started to think about archaeology books that I’ve really enjoyed (most of which are mystery novels!) and others that I am interested in reading this summer as part of the summer reading challenge. Of course, you can include any book you read in your summer reading log. There is no need for it to connect with the topic–I just have fun trying to read things that relate to the theme. And these books are great reads for any time.
So here’s my list of fiction archaeology books. Elizabeth Peters’s archaeology mystery series takes place at the turn of the century and is about a family of English Egyptologists. The stories are great adventures involving newly discovered tombs, priceless Egyptian artifacts, master criminals, romance, murders and kidnappings. The characters are quirky and appealing and the plots are so gripping that these books are hard to put down. And they are frequently laugh-out-loud funny. The first title in the series is Crocodile on the Sandbank.
Erin Hart’s mysteries about Cormac Maguire and Nora Gavin, an archaeologist and a pathologist, take place for the most part in contemporary Ireland. In several of the stories, the two main characters examine bog bodies, ancient human remains that have been preserved for centuries in peat bogs. The discoveries and study of these remains are linked to crimes in the present. By recounting the very interesting and sometimes tragic personal stories of the two main characters and those of the investigating police officers, Erin Hart gives the reader a real sense of life in contemporary Ireland. The first book in this series is Haunted Ground. Here is a link to “Digging Deeper,” an article from Booklist about the most recent title in the series, The Book of Killowen.
Beverly Connor writes two excellent series, one about an archaeologist, Lindsay Chamberlain, and the other about a forensic anthropologist, Diane Fallon. I like the Lindsay Chamberlain stories because Lindsay is an upbeat, energetic character and because the novels usually take place on fascinating archaeological excavations. I feel like I learned quite a bit about archaeology by reading these books. The series begins with A Rumor of Bones. On the other hand, the books about Diane Fallon are somewhat grittier and grimmer than the Lindsay Chamberlain books. I really enjoy them for their intensity and fast pace and Diane’s struggles for justice against very dangerous enemies. And I must say, the latest Diane Fallon title, One Grave Less, was one of the most gripping books I have read in a very long time and it just stunned me with a couple of breathtaking plot twists. But you really have to have read some of the earlier titles to appreciate the developments in this most recent title. The first title in the series is One Grave Too Many. I was delighted to learn recently that Beverly Connor is working on new titles in each of these fantastic series.
I’ve been reading the Gideon Oliver series for over 20 years now, and am still enjoying them as much as I ever did. Gideon Oliver is a professor of forensic anthropology who solves mysteries by finding clues about the victims and their murderers by examining skeletal remains. The books often take place in exotic locations and provide a lot of detail about those locations, while at the same time offering suspenseful plots that are hard to put down. Fellowship of Fear is the first title in the series, but these books really don’t have to be read in order.
I’ve just begun reading Artifacts, the first book in the Faye Longchamp series by Mary Anna Evans. This series is about an amateur archaeologist trying to save her family home, which may be seized due to debt. Since I’ve just begun reading it, I can’t say much about it, except the main character is appealing and well-drawn and the plot seems like it will be gripping.
Dana Cameron’s Emma Fielding mysteries, like the Lindsay Chamberlain stories, usually take place on interesting archaeological digs. Emma Fielding is an archaeology professor and her digs are in New England and relate to the early colonists of the United States. While reading these books, I loved learning about archaeology and this time period in our country’s history, but also enjoyed the character of Emma Fielding and the tense and intricate plots. The series begins with Site Unseen.
A couple of archaeology stories that I am interested in trying are:
Elly Griffith’s Dr. Ruth Galloway series that takes place in England
Tom Knox‘s archaeological thrillers
Alex Archer’s SF/Fantasy archaeology series about Annja Creed
Are there any archaeology books you would recommend? What books do you think of when you hear groundbreaking reads?