Book Review: Digging Up Dirt by Pamela Hart

Written by Susan Wrigley.

Readers who have excavated or worked in museums around Sydney will enjoy trying to identify the fictional characters in the latest book by prolific author Pamela Hart titled Digging Up Dirt, a murder mystery set in the Inner West which starts with the most Sydney of preoccupations, a renovation. When a skeleton is found under the floorboards of a house in Annandale owned by the researcher for an ABC children’s educational show, an archaeologist is called in to identify and date the bones, and the story then expands to encompass NSW state politics and the influence of religious institutions. The parts of the plot involving museum politics and archaeological excavation indicate that the author is familiar with both, and while the tone of the story is light, Hart has some interesting points to make about life in contemporary Sydney.

The book is one of several novels set in Sydney that have been published this year which might interest students of history, including The Tribute by John Byron, a gripping if gruesome mystery centered on the re-enactments of autopsies recorded in a tome by a 16th century author, and Love Objects by Emily Maguire, a novel about hoarding and class that in part explores the relationship between objects and memory.