Olmec Obituary: Dr Pimms, Intermillennial Sleuth Book One (L J M Owen, Echo)
A devastating family tragedy sees young archaeologist Elizabeth Pimms return to Canberra and take on a job as a librarian to support her extended family in their rambling home. She finds respite in an opportunity for part-time research: a royal Olmec cemetery has been unearthed in Mexico, containing what seems to be the oldest writing in the Americas, and Elizabeth is the one to discover the secrets of the skeletons within. When her findings clash with those in charge, her belief in archaeology is shattered. Through flashes into Olmec’s brutal history, debut author Owen builds the tension in a mystery that is more than 3000 years old. There is less danger in the present, where Elizabeth’s reputation and her relationships with those around her is under attack. Elizabeth is a flawed character—bitter about her new role as breadwinner, prone to childish fights with her siblings, and doing her best to avoid confrontation with her perpetually absent boyfriend and an unexpectedly vicious colleague. However, there is still plenty of charm in Olmec Obituary, from Elizabeth’s love of archaeology to the caring grandparents who populate the sprawling family home. Some loose ends remain untied, and the author’s obvious enthusiasm for archaeology occasionally jars with the story’s serious undertones, but it’s a cosy and rollicking tale in a sub-genre that is refreshing to see in Australian crime fiction. Olmec Obituary is the first instalment in a planned nine-book series.
Fiona Hardy is a bookseller at Readings Carlton and secretary of the Australian Crime Writers Association