[Review] Burial Ground written by Malcolm Shuman


Title: Burial Ground
Author: Malcolm Shuman
Publisher: Avon Books (1998) – Mysterious Press & Open Road (2014)
Date of Publication: First published 1 March 1998 – Review version published 15 July 2014
Number of Pages: 215

Rating: 4 stars

Disclaimer: Copy provided free by NetGalley in exchange for an honest review

Summary: Digging for ancient Native American artifacts, an archaeologist finds murder instead.

Louisiana’s past is as layered as an onion, with American, French, and Spanish history all resting atop the myriad tribes who have spent millennia on the Mississippi. Alan Graham knows how to peel back the layers. A contract archaeologist in Baton Rouge, he scrapes out a living one dig at a time. Hired by a wealthy landowner to search his property for a cache of long-lost Tunica Indian relics, he expects to find only dirt. But when the client is murdered for his curiosity, Alan knows he is close to the discovery of a lifetime.

To find the artifacts and sniff out the murderer, he must work alongside his competition: the over educated Yankee Pepper Courtney. As the two dig into the dead man’s past, they find it may be safer to leave some things buried. [Goodreads]

Review: Archaeology has changed enormously in the seventeen years since Burial Ground was first published, however, there is a strong sense of the modern in the text. By creating strong characters, plausible settings and old school but still highly valuable research methods, it is easy to say this work has stood the test of time. It is also evident from the first few pages that Shuman has knowledge of archaeology [confirmed when I searched for his biography] and that his knowledge is passionate.

Part of why Burial Ground works so well is the continuity of issues regarding land rights and Native American Indians*. Within the space of 215 pages, Shuman engages with the different points of view without making any value judgement on any position. There is a level of sensitivity in the writing that shows his engagement with the issues and whatever Shuman’s own position, there seems to me, nothing inflammatory.

Burial Ground is a short but engaging read and I really enjoyed my first encounter with Dr. Alan Graham and P.E. Courtney.

*I mean no offence using this term and apologise if distress has been caused.
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