Old Bones: Review

Nora Kelly, a young but successful curator with a series of important excavations already under her belt, is approached by the handsome Historian, Clive Benton, to lead an expedition unlike any other.

Old Bones (Nora Kelly #1)
by Douglas Preston, Lincoln Child
369 pages
Published August 20, 2019
Liked It A Lot

Book Reviews- Liked it Alot


Content Rating: As listed by Storygraph users: Cannibalism, Murder, Death, Body horror, Child death, Confinement, Gore, Blood, Injury/Injury detail

The first in the groundbreaking Nora Kelly series from #1 bestselling authors Preston & Child blends the legend of the Donner party with a riveting suspense tale, taking the dynamic duo’s work to new heights.

Nora Kelly, a young but successful curator with a series of important excavations already under her belt, is approached by the handsome Historian, Clive Benton, to lead an expedition unlike any other. Clive tells his story–one involving the ill-fated Donner Party, who became permanently lodged in the American consciousness in the winter of 1847, when the first skeletonized survivors of the party stumbled out of the California mountains, replete with tales of courage, resourcefulness, bad luck, murder, barbarism–and, finally, starvation and cannibalism.

Captivated by the Donner Party, Nora agrees and they venture into the Sierra Nevada in search of the camp. Quickly, they learn that the discovery of the missing starvation camp is just the tip of the iceberg–and that the real truth behind those long-dead pioneers is not only far more complex and surprising than they could have imagined…but it is one that puts them both in mortal danger from a very real, present-day threat in which the search for the lost party, and its fabled fortune in gold, are merely means to a horrifying end.


I picked this read because it was available through Kindle Unlimited, which I had for a few months last year. Every once in a while I get a hankering for a thriller. When I picked out a story about a modern day expedition of the Donner party I didn’t know what I was getting.

Yes it had the archeology/mystery and the cannibalism discussions, lost gold and grave robbing. But more than that it names drops ALL sorts of place from where I grew up. Streets in Albuquerque were the first shock. THEN… The main character ends up having to go to Glorieta Pass. Which BLEW MY MIND 🤯!!!

So unless you are a super serious Civil War buff or the daughter of someone writing a master theses on How Geography Impacted The Battle of Gloretia Pass (that’s me) you probably didn’t even know that there was a Civil War battle in New Mexico.

I on the other hand, got drug all over the area as a kid. We’d spend weekends out in Gloretia Pass, Fort Union or Fort Craig and out along lonely stretches of roads. My dad would pull over and be like, “On that hill they found a cannon ball. Which means a Union cannon would have had to have been over there…”

So when FBI Special Agent Corinne Swanson ends up investigating a grave robbing there my jaw dropped about 3 stories. I looked at a few other reviews before writing this and no one else is mentioning Gloretia Pass. 😛

So anyway, on to the rest of the review…. I have not read any of the previous books and didn’t even realize this was a spin off series until the end of the book.

The book keeps the pace up and there’s plenty of tension throughout. The characters are well done and the interweaving plots lines interesting.

I had two problems with the book, that keep it from getting a loved it rating. My biggest problem with the book was the ridiculous reason behind why certain shadowy groups were looking for the old bones. (I won’t spoil it, but I thought 20 million in gold coins was enough of a motive.)

The second reason was the ending just didn’t work. I don’t want to spoil this either, but the coda of the book was rushed. They seemed to want to wrap everything up nicely so they dropped in a Deus Ex Machina and that was that.

Bottom Line:

A thrilling archeology mystery that will delight Donner history buffs and those 5 people who are into Civil War history in New Mexico.

"It whispered to her professional instincts of history; of stories long hidden, waiting to be told. And there was something about untouched ground, before the first trowel had bit into the dirt, that seemed almost magical." Old Bones

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