By L.J.M. Owen
First published in 2015 in a Kickstarter supporter edition, and subsequently by Echo Publishing
Book 1 in the Dr Pimms, Intermillennial Sleuth series
Dr Owen has a diploma in library management, a degree in archaeology, a doctorate in palaeogenetics, and a deep love of cooking. So what sort of novel did she write? An archaeological mystery series about a librarian-archaeologist with a family of cooks, of course!
Olmec Obituary introduces us to Dr Elizabeth Pimms, a passionate young archaeologist, just as her career comes to a screaming halt. Back home in Canberra, grieving the loss of her father, Dr Pimms gets a job in a library1 to help support her younger siblings and elderly grandparents. Frustrated and miserable, she takes on a part time job analysing the skeletons of a set of Olmec remains from ancient Mesoamerica.
And now everything starts to get exciting. Who are these ancient Olmecs, and how are they connected?
What's going on with that creepy co-worker?
Is this really the oldest writing discovered in the Americas?
What's the deal with Elizabeth's cranky sister?
Are these skeletons from a royal burial?
Is Elizabeth ever going to get to Skype her boyfriend?
Will her research be franklined by her super-dodgy boss?
Meanwhile, in 1231BCE, retired champion ballplayer Ix is pregnant. Will she finally make her husband a Man Who Has Fathered Sons?
And can we please get a recipe for all those delicious recipes cooked up by Dr Pimms' Welsh, Chinese and French grandparents?2
Olmec Obituary is a deliciously cosy mystery, stuffed full of personality and intrigue - but it's also a fascinating introduction to both modern archaeology and the Olmec civilisation. Dr Owen has researched deeply into the Olmecs to write this novel, sticking as closely as possible to the truth. Her fiction is created to sit within the framework of current knowledge about the time periods she writes about. This is also the first book in an ongoing series, so I give you fair warning that not all your questions will be answered just yet.
Read if you like: cosy mysteries, intelligent books, history, archaeology, Mesoamerica, pro-active women, forensics, genetics, old books, philology, cooking, and getting distracted looking up more information about new things.
Parental and Trigger Warnings:
Violence - some 'onscreen' violence, including murder, in the ancient world. Some discussion of 'offscreen' violence and abuse in the ancient world.
Themes - discussion of pregnancy and childbirth
, not terribly graphic but also told from the perspective of ancient Olmecs, so some guidance may be needed for younger readers. The modern characters are dealing with grief over the death of family members. The importance of integrity in your career and support in your family are also strong themes.
Language - perfectly polite, and a helpful glossary
of technical terms is provided.
Gender - a strong, intelligent and pro-active heroine
who is an expert in her field, and a supportive mentor to younger women.
Overall, I recommend for readers 12 and over.
1 The only time I failed to suspend disbelief in this novel is when Dr Pimms is sad to have to work in the fictional equivalent of the NLA. Mainly because I can conceive of no higher joy than to spend my days buried in books, working to preserve old maps. Your mileage will no doubt vary.
2 Spoiler: yes.