Saturday, November 17, 2012

A priceless treasure comes within reach

SKULDUGGERY by Carolyn Hart

San Francisco, 1980s: A knock on the door. The unexpected visitor is a young Chinese man named Jimmy. He has read a newspaper article referring to anthropologist Ellen Christie as “the bone lady” and wants her to examine a skull he believes belongs to Peking Man.

Those ancient bones have been missing since 1941. At the prospect of such priceless treasure within reach, Ellen throws caution to the winds. She climbs on the back of Jimmy’s motorcycle and they roar off to Chinatown.

When she holds the skull in her hands Ellen is mesmerized, but before she can question Jimmy, his older brother Dan bursts in. Within minutes they are assaulted by two thugs who had followed Dan. Ellen, Jimmy and Dan escape through a secret tunnel and Jimmy disappears.

What follows is a journey through another time, another place, as Ellen and Dan search Chinatown block by block, looking for Jimmy. The author paints a harrowing picture of a Chinatown that tourists never see, a warren of immigrants living in squalor and despair. Also emerging are a portrait of Jimmy, who devotes his life to helping others, and a revealing look at the resilience of the immigrants he works with.

Ellen and Dan must question people without revealing anything that would start a storm of rumors about the reappearance of long-lost fossils. Ellen is constantly torn between her concern for the safety of the ancient bones and her concern for the living people she comes to admire and respect. She must also deal with her growing attraction to Dan, a handsome, no-nonsense lawyer, and her out-of-the-blue brush with death.

In this slim volume (175 pages) the author touches on 500,000 years of human evolution without slowing the plot’s momentum. The startling denouement comes in the aftermath of a Chinese New Year’s parade.

In her Introduction to SKULDUGGERY, Carolyn Hart writes: “Ellen’s challenge occurs in the San Francisco Chinatown of the 1980s, evoking a part of the past of American Chinese, whose families came to this country as immigrants, as so many of our forebears did, and stayed to become a part of the rich and varied tapestry that makes America truly a land created by those who dare.”

I will never again think of San Francisco’s Chinatown as simply an exotic collection of shops and restaurants.

I don’t have the foggiest idea what this is all about, but I keep seeing it on other blogs, so here it is.

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What makes Carolyn Hart tick? Writing!
This busy Oklahoma author writes several mystery series and has about 3 million books in print. Her first love was journalism and she saw herself as the next Marguerite Higgins. Higgins was a famous American reporter who covered World War II, the Korean War and the war in Vietnam.

In Carolyn’s case, love, marriage and motherhood intervened, and she gave up working as a reporter. How she developed a career as a best-selling mystery novelist is told in a fascinating article by another best-selling Oklahoma author, Judith Henry Wall, in an article titled “Hart of the Mystery.” Wall’s article was published in Sooner Magazine, Winter 2007 issue. You can read it at

Carolyn Hart’s many awards include:
• Guest of Honor at the Malice Domestic annual conference in 1997 and recipient of its Lifetime Achievement in 2007.
• 2004 Lifetime Achievement Award from the Oklahoma Center for the Book.
• Invited to speak at the 2003 Library of Congress National Book Festival on the Mall in Washington, D.C.

She may have given up her dream of being the next Marguerite Higgins, but she’s doing very well as “the American Agatha Christie.”

Peking Man

Archaeological excavations at Zhoukoudian near Beijing (formerly known as Peking) began in the 1920s and uncovered fossils half a million years old. Excavations came to an end in 1937 with the Japanese invasion.

(Quoting from Wikipedia)
Fossils of Peking Man were placed in the safe at the Cenozoic Research Laboratory of the Peking Union Medical College. Eventually, in November 1941, secretary Hu Chengzi packed up the fossils so they could be sent to USA for safekeeping until the end of the war. They vanished en route to the port city of Qinhuangdao in northern China. … There are various theories of what might have happened, including a theory that the bones sank with the Japanese ship Awa Maru in 1945. … The Peking Man Site at Zhoukoudian was listed by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site in 1987. New excavations were started at the site in June 2009.
(End Quote)
The Wikipedia article with some excellent photos are at

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