Nora Kelly # 2
Format: Hardcover, 416 pages
Release Date: January 12, 2021
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Genre: Thrillers / Suspense
Following the acclaimed debut of Old Bones, this second "happily anticipated" new thriller in Preston & Child's series features Nora Kelly, archaeologist at the Santa Fe Archeological Institute, and rookie FBI Agent Corrie Swanson, as they team up to solve a mystery that quickly escalates into nightmare (Booklist).
A mummified corpse, over half a century old, is found in the cellar of an abandoned building in a remote New Mexico ghost town. Corrie is assigned what seems to her a throwaway case: to ID the body and determine cause of death. She brings archaeologist Nora Kelly to excavate the body and lend her expertise to the investigation, and together they uncover something unexpected and shocking: the deceased apparently died in agony, in a fetal position, skin coming off in sheets, with a rictus of horror frozen on his face.
Hidden on the corpse lies a 16th century Spanish gold cross of immense value.
When they at last identify the body -- and the bizarre cause of death -- Corrie and Nora open a door into a terrifying, secret world of ancient treasure and modern obsession: a world centered on arguably the most defining, frightening, and transformative moment in American history.
The Scorpion's Tail, by co-authors Douglas Preston, and Lincoln Child, is the second installment their Nora Kelly series. Dr. Nora Kelly is senior curator at the Santa Fe Archaeological Institute who first appeared in the authors Thunderhead and is an associate of FBI Special Agent Aloysius Pendergast. The series also features FBI Agent Corrie Swanson of the Albuquerque Field Office. She's the protegee of Special Agent Pendergast who saw something in her that her own parents didn't. Corrie and Nora first worked together in the story Old Bones which revisited the Donner family tragedy.
Corrie has been out of the FBI academy for 8 months and is spending the next two years on probation while working out of New Mexico field office. She had quite the experience after Nora lead an expedition into the Sierra Nevada to find the Donner Party's "Lost Camp" and found herself deep in trouble. You could say that Nora owes Corrie her life. While responding to a violent domestic dispute with other agents, Corrie makes a mistake and even though she saves a child, she blames herself for not doing enough.
Two weeks later, she is assigned by Supervisory Agent Hale Morwood to an unfolding case up near the Azul Mountains. A local sheriff encountered an illegal relic hunter uncovering a dead man's body. One of the reasons that this is the perfect case for Corrie is that she has a background in forensic anthropology from John Jay College of Criminal Justice. Corrie requests Nora's assistance in determining how hold the body might be. Corrie needs all the help she can get because people see how young she is and tend to ignore her.
Nora is an ace when it comes to ancient Pueblo culture. Said mummified body appears to have been buried since around 1945. What’s even more shocking is that an old golden cross is found with the body likely dating back to the 17th century when Spain and Native Indians warred with each other over the land. This suddenly becomes a mystery, and a treasure hunt of sorts. There's talk of a hidden treasure high up in the mountains surrounding the White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico. But then things get a bit strange. Someone doesn't want Corrie or Nora anywhere near the ghost town of High Lonesome.
They'll face the rigors of the dangerous terrain where Geronimo and the Apaches once roamed which is now home to Los Alamos and the White Sands Testing Range. They will face historic details about the release of nuclear weapons on the desert and the desire among those in the know and others to find a long-hidden cache of gold and other gems. There's a lot going on in this story, but it is fast paced and engrossing. The historical aspects of the story, especially the nuclear tests in the New Mexico desert, once again proves that the authors actually took their time and did some research before laying pen to paper.
As a historical buff, I found myself checking on the authors work to see how accurate they are. Surprisingly, very. We yet again get an Agent Pendergast sighting to save the day. Not sure why he’s needed except to embarrass Corrie or to prove he’s just better than anyone else.