Archaeologist Sage Westfield has her first forensics case: investigating the murder of a teenage girl. Hidden by holly leaves, the girl’s body has been discovered on the grounds of a stately home, where another teenage girl went missing twenty years ago – but her body was never found. The police suspect the reclusive owner, Alistair Chorleigh, who was questioned but never charged. But when Sage investigates a nearby burial mound – and uncovers rumours of an ancient – she discovers the story of another mysterious disappearance over a hundred years ago. Sage will need both her modern forensics skills and her archaeological knowledge to unearth the devastating truth.
A huge thank you to Titan Books for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review!
A Shroud of Leaves has a plot that is cloaked in mystery right from the start and what piqued my interest was the fact that it’s from the point of view of an archaeologist taking on her first forensic case. I haven’t read any books about archeology, especially forensic archaeology, and it was really interesting being able to see how much work they contribute to murder investigations as well as their relationship with the police. The author went into incredible detail and I appreciated how much explaining she did so readers who have no clue about this stuff (like me) would be able to keep up with the plot and understand what was going on.
The most intriguing part of the story was definitely the chapters set in the past that followed the archaeologist, Edwin Masters, and his two friends, Peter and Molly, as they excavate an ancient barrow that ultimately led to Edwin’s disappearance. It was confusing at the start though because his chapters weren’t explained until much later on, they were just dropped in the middle of Sage’s story. But I did enjoy them and found his story to be much more interesting even though it was a subplot. I was more invested in these characters and their archaeologic dig than I was Sage’s forensic one. I loved the friendship they all formed and the enthusiasm they shared for the ancient barrow. Also, I assume Sage’s story is set in 2019 when the book was published because the chapter headings just say ‘this year’ but it was interesting comparing her forensic dig to Edwin’s barrow dig in 1913.
Unfortunately, I didn’t realise this was the second book in a series. Sometimes you can read books in a series as a standalone because not all of the stories are connected; however, for this one I think it’s necessary for you to read the first one (A Baby’s Bones). I believe Sage suffers from PTSD as a result of a traumatic event that happened in the first book but the author never explains it so I’m just guessing. Sage has a lot of flashbacks to that event and it completely threw me because I haven’t read the first book and consequently, I had no clue what was going on for most of it. I think it would have been good if the author summarised what happened in the first book then I’d have more of an understanding of the characters. You definitely need to read A Baby’s Bones before you tackle this one. Sage is wrestling with the idea of speaking to a therapist and she is struggling to juggle her personal life with her work one. She has a rocky relationship with, I assume, her boyfriend and it was interesting seeing her trying to cope with it all.
While it was an interesting read I couldn’t really enjoy it. I found it to be very character driven and having not read the first book I struggled to understand what was happening a lot of the time. Relationships had already been formed and explained, Sage has been rocked by a traumatic event which has shaken her mentally and this book is kind of the aftermath and her also considering a career in forensics. This is definitely not the kind of series where you can skip the first book so I’ll end this review by saying: If you want to read this book, make sure you read A Baby’s Bones first.