This is a traditional mystery story set in 1996, where Simon Shaw is a Professor in forensic history at a college in Raleigh, North Carolina. His life is on a downward spiral having recently split up with his wife. He is suffering with depression which he is at pains to keep under wraps but his lack of interest in academic life has been noted by his colleagues and questions are being asked in some quarters about his abilities. Then a body is found on an archaeological dig at Bloodworth House by his friend David Morgan and it looks like he has a chance to use his skills to help him out. It doesn’t take long to realise that whilst the body is old, it isn’t all that old and Simon becomes obsessed with finding out more.
With the date of the body still under consideration the Police are called to the site but are unwilling to carry out too much in way of an investigation considering the perpetrator is most likely dead. It is at this point we meet Julia, a lawyer with the police whose job it is to consider the legal aspects of how to file the crime. After all it doesn’t take much by way of an examination to realise that it is a crime, the skeleton has a bullet hole through their skull and they had been hidden below the floor of the kitchen at Bloodworth House.
Simon soon becomes convinced that the bones belong to Anne Bloodworth who went missing in 1926 and was never seen again although there were rumours she’d run away because of a falling out with her father. Simon soon moves from a point of interest to obsession banishing the worst of his depression in research and Julia.
This was a competent mystery story that held my attention for the duration. The plotting was solid and the historical aspect very well presented although perhaps the contrast between life in the 1920s and 1990s would have been more distinct had Simon not been a bit fussy and pernickety for a man who is reportedly only in his 30s, but maybe that’s what being a Professor at such a young age does to you? The book did however underline that the life of heiress Anne Bloodworth, was maybe not all it was cracked up to be. The book came into its own when it became clear that someone wanted to halt any investigation into her life and Julia became far more involved with the case and her character was a really good addition to the book as her role is one not usually seen in this type of crime fiction novel.
The academic setting also made a pleasant change, we had academic in-fighting and jostling for position as a backdrop, I especially enjoyed the meetings which while differing in subject matter could mirror the petty concerns of work colleagues the world over, these adding shade to the storytelling.
While the dénouement wasn’t especially inventive, it was fitting which to me is far more important anyway. I did guess some, but not all the mysteries, I was better on the who than the why. Given that the first book in the series is possibly the weakest in that a wide range of characters have to be given backstories I thought that Simon Said was a proficient and interesting opener.