I’m thrilled to be on the blog tour for Hidden Bones by Nicola Ford today and I have a great extract to share with you. Huge thanks to Ailsa for letting me change to sharing an extract when two ill children meant I didn’t have much time to read.
Hidden Bones is available in ebook and hardback now, you can purchase a copy of both here.
Before I share my extract with you here is a little bit about the book.
Following the recent death of her husband, Clare Hills is listless and unsure of her place in the world. When her former university friend Dr David Barbrook asks her to help him sift through the effects of deceased archaeologist Gerald Hart, she sees this as a useful distraction from her grief. During her search, Clare stumbles across the unpublished journals detailing Gerald’s most glittering dig. Hidden from view for decades and supposedly destroyed in an arson attack, she cannot believe her luck. Finding the Hungerbourne Barrows archive is every archaeologist’s dream. Determined to document Gerald’s career-defining find for the public, Clare and David delve into his meticulously kept records of the excavation. But the dream suddenly becomes a nightmare as the pair unearth a disturbing discovery, putting them at the centre of a murder inquiry and in the path of a dangerous killer determined to bury the truth for ever.
Chapter 3 extract:
‘God, that’s good.’ Clare watched David take a second large bite from his eclair and wash it down with a gulp of Darjeeling.
By the end of a week incarcerated in the archaeology department’s laying-out room, she’d had her fill of listing, counting and weighing artefacts from the Hungerbourne archive. So she’d been only too happy to accept David’s invitation to join him at the tea rooms next to St Thomas’ church.
She finished dividing her poppy-seed cake into bite-sized squares. ‘You always had a knack for knowing how to cheer me up.’
He licked the chocolate from the ends of his fingers and flushed. ‘There aren’t many situations that can’t be improved by a cuppa or a decent pint.’
She laid her knife down on the edge of her plate. ‘I do appreciate you letting me work on the Hungerbourne stuff, you know. It’s given me something to get my teeth into. There was so much to sort out right after the accident. But later . . .’
He stared down at the pristine white tablecloth, rubbing his fingertips distractedly over some imaginary speck on the linen. ‘You don’t need to explain.’
But she wanted him to understand. The first few weeks after her husband’s car crash had been hell, but she’d held it together. Stephen had been a successful solicitor and he’d ensured everything was taken care of even when it came to his own death, appointing a colleague from his practice as his executor. But that had seemed to make things worse. She’d spent all of her time consumed with worrying about the funeral arrangements, writing thank-you letters for the sympathy cards and then finally sorting through his possessions. It all seemed so pointless; everything done for show. She wasn’t allowed to do anything of substance that might make a difference.
Her words were spoken softly, but her tone was determined. ‘When I phoned the department, I had no idea you were working in Salisbury. I just needed to be somewhere familiar – to have something to focus on.’ He shifted uncomfortably in his seat. ‘I suppose I hoped to be allowed to do a bit of pot washing or some finds drawing. I didn’t expect to be indulged like this.’
He snapped his head upwards. ‘I wouldn’t have asked you if you weren’t up to it. You’re a bloody good archaeologist.’ His broad face eased into a smile. ‘When I used to take you for seminars, you knew as much as I did half the time.’
‘That was a long time ago.’
‘Doesn’t seem it.’ He swirled the dregs round in the bottom of his cup before repositioning it on its saucer. ‘So, are you going to tell me what’s in that archive or not?’
Clare brightened, grateful to be dragged back to the present. ‘Gerald seems to have run a pretty tight ship. His notebooks are in good shape, which should make it easier when you come to write up. You know the goldwork is in the British Museum.’ He nodded. ‘There’s a complete small finds catalogue cross-referenced to the site plans. So we’ll be able to work out where everything came from.’ She paused. ‘But what I’m really looking forward to is excavating the cremation in the Collared Urn.’
She’d known what it was as soon as she’d seen the pot’s heavy brown rim protruding out of the scrunched-up balls of time-cracked newspaper. What she hadn’t anticipated was what she’d find inside. ‘It’s still got the ashes in situ. I presume you’ll want to analyse it yourself.’
‘Not a chance. We need to get someone in – a specialist.’ He was staring out of the window towards the church.
‘Why do you think he left it like that? Do you suppose he wanted to leave something for posterity? . . . David!’
He was looking straight at her now. But he didn’t seem to have registered a word she’d said. ‘A human bone specialist. Someone with experience in prehistoric cremations. Lloyd or Granski, maybe.’
‘Fine.’ She couldn’t disguise her impatience. ‘But what do you think?’
She’d forgotten he could be like this, entirely absorbed by the past. Sometimes he seemed to inhabit another world, a world that excluded everyone and everything around him. The world of the long dead.
She sighed. ‘Why do you think Gerald stopped?’
‘And why let everyone think it had all gone up in smoke like that?’
‘His site diaries are so methodical. Everything recorded down to the last flint flake. But they just stop. No summary. No conclusions. It’s like he just gave up.’
David remained silent. She could see she wasn’t making any headway.
‘Then there’s this.’ She handed him a folded sheet of faded blue writing paper.
Painstakingly cut out from newsprint, the first two words were individually glued to the paper while the last two had been cut out in a block. The words BEWARE THE WOE WATERS obscured the Basildon Bond watermark.
About The Author:
Nicola Ford is the pen-name for archaeologist Dr Nick Snashall, National Trust Archaeologist for the Stonehenge and Avebury World Heritage Site. Through her day-job and now her writing, she’s spent more time than most people thinking about the dead.