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What bones are buried in the shadows of the past?
Asked to join in a dig at the site of the eighteenth–century Chandler House, archaeologist Emma Fielding and her student crew have descended upon Stone Harbor, Massachusetts. But certain residents of the tiny coastal community are none too happy about Emma's arrival -- especially when her excavation uncovers a pair of freshly slain corpses. There are dark forces at play in this dangerously divided town, where a distrust of strangers wars with a desire for tourist dollars. And when a young local's life is snuffed out, Emma is determined to get to the twisted roots of the strange secrets buried in this killing ground. But a mystery that lies among the tumbled ruins of a once grand manor could change Stone Harbor forever. And for some murderous someone, one more death -- Emma's -- would be a small price to pay to keep it hidden.
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About the Author
Dana Cameron is a professional archaeologist, with a Ph.D. and experience in Old and New World archaeology. She has worked extensively on the East Coast on sites dating from prehistoric times to the nineteenth century. Ms. Cameron lives in Massachusetts. Ashes and Bones is her sixth novel featuring archaeologist Emma Fielding.
Read an Excerpt
Past MaliceAn Emma Fielding Mystery
By Dana Cameron
Chapter OneTo most people, I'll bet the old place looked nothing at all like a battlefield. To most casual observers, the Chandler House was the epitome of what they imagine the past to have been: a big colonial house by the ocean, a wind-swept lawn leading down to a dramatic cliff, romantic to the nth-degree. The reason that so many people think the past really was the good old days is because of the fine, lovely things that survive. These are the very best, the very richest things that would have inspired pride and a desire to preserve them. Seeing these objects causes people to confide in me how much they've always loved history, how they've always wanted to be archaeologists, how they would have loved to have lived "back then," whether back then was ancient Egypt, imperial Rome, or, as it was in this case, colonial New England.
I have to smile when I think that they're imagining big skirts, wigs, and courtly manners. They are not imagining a world without antibiotics or indoor plumbing or the hope of democracy and equal rights. They are forgetting that they might be lost without supermarkets or instantaneous global communication or electricity. They are not thinking of a world where, to paraphrase Monty Python, the king was the only one who didn't smell like crap, which isn't such a bad summary for most of history.
It wasn't even the neat row of trenches by the side of the house that reminded me of a battlefield: I would never have allowed my students to let things get that messy. No, our trenches were orthogonal, hell, even the back dirt piles were clean, made of well-sifted loam, filled with fat worms and sorted pebbles, the sort of thing that sends gardeners drooling. If we didn't have to put it all back when we were finished, I would have brought it back home with me myself. And it wasn't the fencing we'd put up around the site to keep the unwary, the unthinking, and the dim-witted from falling into one of our nice, square units and breaking a neck, or worse, disturbing my carefully exposed stratigraphy. We'd even deliberately chosen the portable wooden fencing to blend in with the scenery, so you couldn't even claim that it resembled a military picket. No, I'm afraid it was the general background hum of negative emotions that made me feel like I was digging in for my own protection as much as I was trying to learn about the Chandler family.
I'm not usually so misanthropic; it's just that I was tired of trying to fight to do my job properly and we still had another two weeks of work to go. It would have worn the patience of a saint down to a nubbin, and I'm no saint for all my sister claims I am a Puritan. I just knew that I had to bide my time and pick which battles to fight, and which ones to avoid. Anyone who tells you that the Ivory Tower is a quiet retreat from the dirty old "outside world" doesn't know what she's talking about.
I sighed and stood up from the bench, telling myself that I would be better off for another walk around the property, and another long look out at the ocean behind the house. I was waiting to be invited into the Stone Harbor Historical Society's board meeting to tell them all about the archaeological research I'd talked them into letting me do on their property at the Chandler House. I figured there'd be another half hour or so of their private business - to which I was pointedly not invited - before I had to go in.
The main part of the Chandler House was an early example of a brick Georgian structure, two floors with four rooms each, and an attic with dormers. As I faced the front, there was a small brick addition to the right; there was none on the left. When I walked around to the rear, there was another, later addition, also in brick; its two large cube-shaped rooms faced the ocean that relentlessly crashed against the Massachusetts coast.
I picked up a flat pebble from the path and slung it side-wise, making it skip three times before it lost momentum and sank. The one that followed it only brushed the water twice, then hit a wave with a plop. The next pebble I picked up ached to be thrown at the fat seagull I saw perching on a white-stained piling not too far away from the shore. I told myself that I could hit it, if I wanted to. But my aim is pretty bad and I didn't really want to wreck my karma by taking out my bad mood on the poor bird, no matter how nasty I think gulls are. Besides, my veterinarian sister was staying with me and any slight I inflicted on the animal kingdom would be immediately telegraphed to her, and she would instigate a massive retaliation. So I dropped the stone back on the path and walked up the lawn to the house. After another half-perambulation around the building, I heard the sound of footsteps on the gravel in front of the house.
I looked up to see Justin Fisher, one of three security guards who worked here. A nice kid, maybe twenty-four or so, who looked like he was five years younger. He had straw-colored hair that was cut fashionably short and close to his head, a crooked smile, and a youthfully eager presence that was made positively gawky by the authority of his uniform ...
Excerpted from Past Malice by Dana Cameron
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
This was a disappointment. The ending was non-climatic and gave no account for key events that had happened earlier. Far too much time was wasted on insignificant tedium that did nothing to move the story or the mystery along. The author's liberal slant was all too apparent -- her disdain for guns, her inclusion of both a lesbian couple and a gay couple, her confusion surrounding healthy male/female relationships, her extreme feminism (reason for confusion). All of these elements were included in the story and, clearly, reflected the author herself. I kept reading in hopes that at least the mystery portion would be worth it. Unfortunately, the conclusion was as disappointing as the rest.
Excellent Read. The plot was good and the writing was excellent and well-edited. The story will involve you and you and challenge you - so this isn't a light-hearted easy read but an actual, well-developed mystery. I think the story would appeal to both men and women and women and you'll learn a bit about archaeology as well. An excellent book to get for free. Enjoy.
At times the story line was convoluted. After four chapters I put the book down.
Archaeologist Emma Fielding and her student crew are working on a dig at the eighteenth century Chandler House in Massachusetts. Neighbors are not very happy about the dig, especially when they find two separate murders. These aren¿t old bones from past murders, these are freshly slain corpses. Emma¿s students are staying with her and her husband at their home not too far from the dig. This can prove interesting with so many people in one house. Plus Emma¿s sister has come to visit. Another complication. Emma gets herself into some scary situations in her attempts to figure out whether the deaths are related to the museum or the dig. There are lots of interesting characters in the town and plenty of dark forces to keep the mystery going. While I liked the archeological information and the many characters, for some reason I feel this book was a slow read. It wasn¿t something I kept picking up to finish. Not really sure why. I like Emma and the other characters. I think this was a good story. Just something about the flow. I recommend this book.
The Stone Harbor Historical Society wants to build a gift house with bathrooms on the grounds of Chandler Home and they hired archeologist Emma Fielding to set up a site where they want to dig. Emma plans to identify any archeological remains and to learn more about the Chandler family who was a power in the community in the early eighteenth century. Emma lives in nearby Lawton, Massachusetts so this summer dig is an easy commute for her..................... The site yields some good artifacts when Emma and her students find the dead body of the security guard. The police temporary halt work at the site so Emma spends time with her sister. The police permit the dig to continue but immediately close it down again when the body of Aden Fiske, the head of the Historical Society is found. When Emma starts asking questions, she discovers that Aden had many enemies. However, the killer goes to far when her sister is poisoned............................ The heroine of PAST MALICE is a very likable character who loves her husband and sister more than she does the job. She makes compromises to keep her husband satisfied that she isn¿t putting herself in danger and is ready to listen to her sister when she is ready to talk about her man troubles. She learns the secrets of the town, which places her in danger from a killer who will go to any lengths to keep them buried. While the story line is fast-paced and exciting it is the heroine who makes this a book to remember.................... Harriet Klausner