Book Review: Old Bones by Preston & Child

Book Review_ Old Bones by Douglas Preston Feature Image

The myth and folklore concerning the Donner Party, a group of settlers who left Missouri in 1846, are discussed in the book Old Bones by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child. They traveled the Oregon trail in the direction of California. It is a good, clever mystery which made me want to research the Donner party’s history.

After a big hit of the Agent Pendergast series, I thought this new series will revolve around Agent Pendergast again. But no, I was wrong. He will always be in the backstory as the characters that this series focused on are associated with the previous one as it takes other characters as a center and explored them.

A string of grave robberies occurs at the start of the novel. And a robbery from the Donner House before it has been destroyed that seems unrelated. The Donner Party member Jacob Donner’s daughter lived in that residence. Bulldozers are set to level the house beside the Bear River since preservationists failed in their attempt to save it, and condos and a golf course are planned to replace it. However, a stranger breaks in and steals an ancient journal.

This author comb that gave us masterpieces like ‘Agent Pendergast’ and ‘Relic’ has made a come-back with yet another amazing book series “Nora Kelly“. Let’s dive into the book to know more about this masterpiece.

Old Bones by Preston and Child | Book Review

Old Bones by Preston & Child Cover

About The Authors

1. Douglas Preston

Douglas Preston was raised in the deathly dull suburb of Wellesley after being born in Cambridge, Massachusetts, in 1956. After a successful career at a private nursery school, from which he was almost immediately expelled, he attended public schools and the Cambridge School of Weston.

Despite the fact that he is most known for his thrillers written in partnership with Lincoln Child, he has also authored six novels on his own, including the Wyman Ford series and a book called Jennie that was turned into a Disney film. He is the author of six nonfiction books about science and exploration, and he also occasionally contributes to Smithsonian, The New Yorker, and other periodicals.

2. Lincoln Child

Lincoln Child was born on 13th October 1957 in Westport, Connecticut. He currently resides in Florida. Child earned a degree in English from Carleton College in Northfield, Minnesota.

He is an American writer of horror and techno-thriller books. Although his work with Douglas Preston is what made him most famous, he also wrote seven novels on his own, including the Jeremy Logan series. Most of his solo stories and more than twenty co-written books have achieved New York Times bestseller status.

About The Book | Old Bones by Preston and Child

Full Title: Old Bones

Author: Douglas Preston, Lincoln Child

Genre: Mystery

Publishing Date: 20th August 2019

Page Count: 384

Series: Nora Kelly

Followed by: The Scorpion’s Tail (2021), Diablo Mesa (2022)

Main Characters: Nora Kelly, Clive Benton, Corrie Swanson, Dr. Fugit

Point of View: Multi-perspective

Setting: A group of settlers who, in 1847, became snow-bound in the hills of California and earned a dreadful place in American folklore

Themes: Thrill, Suspense, History, Cannibalism


The attractive historian Clive Benton approaches Nora Kelly, a young but accomplished curator with several significant digs now under her belt, to lead a voyage unlike any other. Clive shares his experience, which involves the tragic Donner Party, that had an indelible impression on American culture during the winter of 1847. Nora accepts since she is fascinated by the Donner Party, and they travel into the Sierra Nevada in quest of the camp.

Book Summary | Old Bones by Preston and Child

Old Bones by Preston & Child cover image

Nora is intrigued by the unexpected request of a charming historian despite being young and knowledgeable at the same time. Clive Benton will require assistance from a group to plan and carry out a shocking excursion into the harsh western wilderness.

Benton approached the Santa Fe Archaeological Institute with his eminently credible claim that he holds the secret to discovering a vast gold coin trove that is somehow related to the Donner Party misadventure.

An agreement was reached with the institute, and staff from that group were sent into action along with a backup staff. The team’s tasks must be completed according to a well-planned timetable that considers the environment, weather, horse riding, rock climbing, preparing meals, and walking in the time allowed.

Additionally, geography poses a risk. Since their search location is on federal property, the FBI is in charge of it, which results in the appearance of FBI Agent Corrie Swanson, another intriguing, crucial female character who longs to be given a legitimate case.

Understanding the long-ago crimes that contributed to the Donner Party disaster is crucial, but it also encompasses offenses committed out of avarice during the problematic current mission. Due to their distinct characters and obligations, Nora and Corrie have an ongoing conflict that lessens at the end of the book.

In the meantime, Corrie’s investigation into the death of a mission member is ongoing. In addition, there will be more, unfortunately, she has traveled by horseback frequently, as Nora has no issues with this means of transportation.

The encounter between Corrie and Dr. Fugit, the head of the Santa Fe Archaeological Institute and Nora’s supervisor, is a moment that exemplifies Corrie’s professional development. Corrie resists the obnoxious woman’s attempts to manipulate her with fear and doesn’t lose her cool.

My Thoughts on Old Bones by Preston and Child

Old Bones by Preston & Child

Nora Kelly, who has frequently stolen scenes in the Pendergast series, has been a fantastic lead character, and I believe the writers did a great job of developing her. She has a spinoff of her own in this book. The authors have created an outstanding fast-paced thriller using genuine Donner Party members and historical details.

They approach the subject matter delicately, stressing through various characters on the mission. It has come upon the holy land and that the relics they come across must be treated respectfully. In my opinion, it’s just another level of awesomeness.

The plot was okay, but the conclusion was entirely out of the left field. Even while it wasn’t terrible, given the authors’ credentials, it could have been far better.

My Ratings For The Book

I think this book conveniently deserves 4 out of 5 stars.

Final Words

I liked how most of the story occurred at the untamed mountains’ dig site. This novel contain interesting, if occasionally gory, archaeological details. The Donner party’s details are a mixture of actual events and fabrications, yet they fit the narrative. I was occupied the entire time, even though there wasn’t much tension until the finish. I want to read more in this new series, which got off to a solid start. Totally recommend it!

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