Book Review: “The Lost Tomb and Other Real-Life Stories of Bones, Burials, and Murder” by Douglas Preston

It was a dinosaur bone.

Not really but it was fun thinking that it was, even for awhile. You were just seven years old then, and the truth (it was a simple rock) didn’t deter you from digging some more. It never stopped you from dreaming of ancient treasure or the rarest of relics. It shouldn’t keep you from enjoying those feelings again in “The Lost Tomb” by Douglas Preston.

Does that name sound familiar? It might: Preston is a best-selling co-novelist of history-based thrillers but his fans may be surprised to learn that he’s also a journalist who loves a good fact-based adventure. Digging for a story, for Preston, is almost as much fun as digging in the dirt, and this collection of his articles shows it. 

He begins with a tale of murder that was a little close to home: an old friend, someone Preston had lost touch with, was killed years after their last contact. Unearthing the guy’s name online, says Preston, “was not knowledge as power; it was knowledge as sorrow.”

In 2006, he wrote about The Monster of Florence, a killer who viciously mutilated some of his victims. Preston was so fascinated with the crime that he befriended an “expert on the case,” and eventually collaborated on a true-crime book with the man but too much digging got the expert arrested and Preston ousted from Italy.

He wrote in 2020 about an archaeological mystery, and dozens of skeletal remains in a lake in the Himalayas. A year later, he wrote an article about another mystery that happened in Russia more than six decades ago and he believes that there’s finally a solution to what happened – although the latest answer is still controversial.

In two different stories, Preston tackles the issues of skeletal remains found in America, the laws regarding their return to Native tribes, and why there’s argument about the subject. He writes of Oak Island, and the possibilities of treasure. He visited a very exciting major archaeological site near the nation’s heartland. And he writes about victims of archaeological fraud and targets of internet harassment.

So you say you really dig reading about ancient history, true crime, real-life mysteries, and, well, digging? Put down your shovel, then, because you’ll want to use your hands to carry “The Lost Tomb” around with you awhile.

Fans of author Douglas Preston’s co-written thrillers may wonder sometimes where he gets his ideas, and this book offers clues. Much like a good novel, in fact, the completely absorbing tales here will make you feel like you’re treasure-hunting with Indiana Jones or working a whodunit with Sherlock Holmes. But fear not: this book is nothing but authentic, as Preston relies on science to explain his works in both crime-solving and archaeology, thus speaking to a reader’s intelligence. Admit it: that’s pretty fun stuff.

If you spent your childhood searching for “fossils” or if you’d love that kind of adventure as an adult now, you want “The Lost Tomb.” Make no bones about it, this is your book

c.2023, Grand Central


320 pages