bone box book coverReviewed by Nina Longfield 

Bone Box by Jay Amberg is a sweeping archeological suspense novel that spans Anatolia and merges ancient history, contemporary business, religion, and world politics. Bone Box begins as Joe Travers is descending on Istanbul, Turkey. Travers, a former corporate executive, is an unlikely analyst for an archeological dig. Yet Travers has a keen ability to see below the surface of the people around him. He is in Turkey at the behest of the Aegean Association, a multi-national foundation, to evaluate the Saint John’s archeological site and determine Sophia Altay’s ability to continue leading the dig. When Altay finds an ancient relic that could possibly rewrite history, Travers must determine who he is really working for and at what cost.

To be honest, at first, I had a difficult time getting into Bone Box. Joseph (Joe) Travers is a distant protagonist. Not cold, just withholding and difficult to know. I was several chapters into the novel before I began to form a wary fondness for Travers. He has suffered a great loss in his personal life and I think this adds to his distance but also makes him vulnerable, which leads to likeability. Sophia Altay, the lead archeologist, took longer to form any opinion on; she begins too cardboard-like, cool, and seemingly calculating. It is her passion for her job and her research that helps to chip away her icy façade. As both characters mold into likeable, the story also takes shape and draws the reader in with the deepening mystery. Questions arise as to why Travers was brought to Turkey and to an archaeological dig unsuited for his technological expertise.

Amberg is meticulous with his detail; so much so, that the details tend to take over at times distancing the reader from the story. Yet, Amberg offers up some vivid comparisons at times, “her eyes are William Blake’s tiger’s”, that draws one back into the moment captivating the reader. Amberg’s writing is generally good. There are a few transition flaws and sentence structure flaws that hinder the narration at times, but these flaws are easily dismissed given the captivating story within Bone Box.

Don’t be put off by this novel’s slow beginning. Bone Box picks up quickly as the narrative moves into the conflict between the Aegean Association against Sophia Altay’s management of Saint John’s archeological dig site. It is Travers’ job to determine Altay’s capabilities to continue overseeing the dig site. Tension escalates when Altay discovers a fabulous and world-altering artifact. Things become complicated for Travers as he tries to figure out the true intent for him being in Turkey and what Altay’s discovery means to him and the world. At this point, Bone Box falls into place and was difficult to set down as the novel raced to a satisfying conclusion.

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

Nina Longfield is a writer living in Oregon’s fertile wine country. When she is not reading or writing in her spare time, Nina enjoys hiking in the hills surrounding her cabin.

Review copy was provided by Amika Press.