Rituals of the Dead: An Artifact Mystery

Adventures of Zelda Richardson, Book 3
Narrated by: Chelsea Stephens
Length: 8 hrs and 23 mins
4.2 out of 5 stars (21 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

Stolen artifacts, a missing anthropologist, and a pesky amateur sleuth. 

Art-history student Zelda Richardson is working at the Tropenmuseum in Amsterdam on an exhibition of bis poles from the Asmat region of Papua - the same area where a famous American anthropologist disappeared in 1962. When his journal is found inside one of the bis poles, Zelda is tasked with finding out more about the man's last days and his connection to these ritual objects.  

Zelda is pulled into a world of shady anthropologists, headhunters, missionaries, art collectors, and smugglers - where the only certainty is that sins of the past are never fully erased.  

Join Zelda as she grapples with the anthropologist's mysterious disappearance 50 years earlier and a present-day murderer who will do anything to prevent her from discovering the truth.  

All four mysteries in the Adventures of Zelda Richardson series are stand-alone novels, and they can be listened to in any order.

©2018 Jennifer S. Alderson (P)2018 Jennifer S. Alderson

What listeners say about Rituals of the Dead: An Artifact Mystery

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  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

Cannibals & ritual masks, on my!

Note: Even though this is Book 3, it works fine as a stand alone novel. Zelda Richardson continues to stumble around the antiquities gathered in Holland, making enemies and uncovering old mysteries. I liked this story quite a bit more than Book 2 mostly because I like Zelda more. She’s grown up a bit and now comes off as perhaps 20 years old instead of 15. She’s still a bit unsure of herself and not the swiftest to catch on, but some of that can be excused by the extraordinary circumstances she finds herself in. Papua, New Guinea is the featured culture in this novel. Once upon a time, Dutch colonists cluttered up the Papua countryside bringing Christianity, modern medicine, and boxer shorts while also taking away cultural artifacts. The story portrays both sides of how modern peoples with their religions and sciences both helped and harmed the native peoples. I really like that the author didn’t shy away from showing this. It would have been easy to throw a rosy blanket over it but it’s way more interesting this way. Zelda is still hanging out with her friend Friedrich but he’s got a much smaller role in this novel. Zelda still has him strictly in the Friend Zone even as she dates a few other guys. Her boss (Meric – spelling?) still questions if she’s the right one for the internship or not. Basically, Zelda’s life is this constant teetering see-saw. Albert Schenk still isn’t her fan. The Amsterdam museum she works for is trying to gather enough Asmat New Guinea art pieces for a good show and Zelda has been tasked with gathering as much basic info as she can. In digging up info, she learns of an American artifact obtainer, Nicholas, who went missing in the 1960s. The story has a series of flashbacks showing what Nicholas was doing up to his disappearance and those are quite well told. Even as I enjoyed them, I wish there had been more Papua characters in the tale. In the 1960s, the priests sent to convert the indigenous peoples to Christianity were instructed to destroy old, ritualistic artifacts and art (which had been obtained by trading medicine and living utensils for them). This put some people in a difficult place – not everyone agreed that destroying these cultural items was the right thing to do. It’s a great little slice of questionable history to explore through this murder mystery. The murder mystery part is a little long in getting spun up but I felt it was a delicious burn. We have one murder at the museum that doesn’t point to anything Zelda is tripping around in. Then later we get a second one that definitely points to whatever Zelda has gotten herself in. Plus there’s that decades old mystery of the missing American to solve. In the end, things mostly get figured out by Zelda though one small piece to the puzzle comes out in a random confession… and I felt that was a plot device and not really something the character would do. All told, it’s an interesting mystery and I’m now warmed up to Zelda. 4/5 stars. The Narration: For some reason, this series switches narrators which I find a bit distracting when I’m listening to a series back to back. Chelsea Stephens does a good job with Zelda’s voice. All her character voices are distinct though her male voices need masculinity. She did a good job portraying Zelda’s emotions and her pacing was good too. I know it’s a bit to ask, but since this is set in Holland, it would be nice to have a Dutch accent for the Dutch characters. That would really make it feel like the story is set in Amsterdam and not just any Midwestern USA city. 4/5 stars. I received this audiobook as part of my participation in a blog tour with Audiobookworm Promotions. The tour is being sponsored by Jennifer S. Alderson. The gifting of this audiobook did not affect my opinion of it.

1 person found this helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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Historical details put readers IN the story

Audio Book Review. Though Rituals of the Dead is the third book in the Adventures of Zelda Richardson series, it was the first for me and my introduction into Zelda’s world. The librarian in me connected with the art-historian in Zelda as we both appreciate finding and processing information from the past and present. This book easily stands alone, but the scattered references to some prior hair-raising adventures piques my curiosity about the other books. The book starts out in 1962 as a man is bailing-out a sinking boat. From there, readers will jump to events of 2017, which sets the standard for two parallel stories unfolding. The story in the ‘60s is a slow building, high interest one while the current story moves at a faster pace. Readers can almost see how these lines become closer and closer to finally merge for an exciting culmination and big reveal as to whodunit and why. “Zelda was elated she didn’t have to work with dead bodies this week.” History and lovers of diverse cultures will be treated to the historical details that author Jennifer Anderson has included in the book. Who doesn’t enjoy a bit of the true but macabre tribal rites and rituals found in faraway places? Admittedly, I am no expert, but it seems the author has done her research. Some sections get a little too history-book-heavy, but the historical information makes the reader think. Anderson subtly and not-so-subtly reminds readers about the western impact on native cultures and our tendency to corrupt what is sacred to others. Rituals of the Dead shows that even when the motive is good, unintended consequences are not. For example, when one of the characters tries to help the tribe by buying its artifacts, the result is that they increase their headhunting activity! The premise of Rituals of the Dead is completely unique, and the story is fascinating. There are a few holes in the storyline, and there are some things that happen that are just a bit too convenient, but it doesn’t push the reader’s ability to suspend disbelief. There is plenty of death and murder, but I never felt a real sense that Zelda was in real danger – she certainly didn’t seem to worry as she made some extraordinarily bad choices and put herself in precarious positions. ABOUT THE NARRATION: Chelsea Stephens does a great job narrating Rituals of the Dead, and meets the challenges of voicing both male and female characters as well as some accents and difficult vocabulary. Many of the males sounded a bit haughty, which matched the attitudes of some but not all. Overall, she had an even and enjoyable delivery. I listened at 1.25x speed, which was perfect for me. I look forward to reading the prior books in this series and any future installments Anderson may have in store, but I may switch to print for those. Though the audio narration was excellent, the downside for me is that when faced with factoids of dates, I need to see the words with my eyes to process some of the history. Thank you to Audiobookworm Promotions and the author for providing me an audio download in exchange for my honest opinion – the only kind I give.

1 person found this helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars

I so wanted to like this book

I kept going because there moments of promise that it was going to get good. The narrator wasn't bad but not enough to keep me interested. The book would have too many dates and facts then not enough descriptive details. Too many complaining stinks and not enough time with the dead body. The pacing didn't make sense, it would tease getting interesting then drop. It's a great concept and has potential.

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    3 out of 5 stars

I liked it :)

•audiobook• It took me a while to really get into the book. I liked the time flip between present day Zelda and the past with the deceased. Had it been written more professionally, it could have been woven more intricately, so the reader/listener discovers the story when Zelda does. As it’s written, I learned (figured it out?) in the first chapters and was just waiting for Zelda to put two and two together. I liked Zelda, but it seems as this is a ‘series’, she’s slowly maturing and coming into her own. She makes baby steps with her character development and growth in this book. The world building and other characters seemed to be unique-ish versus cliche-ish. It was an easy flow to get to know them. It’s a three star because I figured out A LOT before the climax. For those who prefer to know the ending then read the rest of the story, this will be right up your alley! This author could become stronger as she continues to write. I am inclined to follow her and the series. Chelsea Stephens was an excellent narrator. It was easy to multitask and follow the story or stop/start and recognize the characters’ voices. I think there were one or two questions/things that didn’t quite get tied up though. This is my voluntary review of an audiobook received for free.

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Entertaining Adventure!

You can tell a lot of research went into the writing of this book. With an amazing amount of detail in the writing and storytelling I could not stop listening until I had finished the audiobook! I highly recommend this book if you are into adventure mystery and ancient artifacts. I was given this audiobook review copy at my request and have voluntarily left my review.

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Great book.

Wow, what a great book. Very entertaining and adventurous. Zelda a museum researcher working on her internship for a museum. They stubble across a old journal that belonged to a missing anthropologist from America that disappeared in 1962. She secretly makes a copy of the journal to better transcribe to log it in. Her co worker who she is helping to copy and scan the journal into the system is murdered. The museum computer system is hacked and the journal is stolen. Later the bones of the Asmat people there were studying and cataloging after they find bones that do not belong to the Asmat people. They belong to a white man. Then there is another murder of Zelda's room mate. This murder, the murder of her co worker and the thefts are all connected. Zelda did ot tell anyone she made a physical copy of the journal and she has continued to study it. The journal contains secrets some people do not want to be revealed. Now Zelda is in danger. This book kept me on the edge of my seat. I definitely would like to listen to more of these books. The narrator did a great job. I was gifted this book at my request in exchange for an honest review.

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this book was given to me at my request for review

at first I had a hard time listening to this book but after the first few chapters I started getting intrested and couldn't stop listening. it turned out to be a good book.

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    2 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

Good concept but lackluster execution

The plot of this book is complex, which should have entertained me, yet I felt that it was not executed in a way that did it justice. There are many characters and moving parts in the scheme for the reader to figure out, however the fact that the narrative is split between present day and the past led me to the conclusion of most of the mystery early on. I guess for readers who enjoy puzzling the mystery out ahead of time that could be a good thing, but I felt led to the conclusion rather than like I was really putting things together on my own. It also led to repetition as Zelda figures out or fails to figure out things I already knew. In addition, the plot is presented slowly, especially in the present day situations, which combined with the repetition of he information makes it seem even slower. I think I would have preferred if the book stuck with one narrative instead of the two timelines and told the story a little faster. The narrator of the audiobook has a soothing voice, but there is little emotion in the recording. Especially as there are some segments of the novel that are very emotionally charged, I felt that the rather flat narration detracted from the excitement or emotions of the segments and didn’t fit the style of the book properly. There was also little distinction made between characters voices. I was given this free review copy audiobook at my request and have voluntarily left this review.

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Rituals of the Dead

Very good story, kept me listening when I should have been sleeping. Will be recommending to my friends. "I was given this free review copy audiobook at my request and have voluntarily left this review."

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Interesting

I don't really know anything about anthropologist so I found this book really interesting. The author gives us an insight into their lives. I felt like the author knew what she is talking about. She either did her research really well or she is one herself. I figured out who did it early on but this did not put me off. There is no sexual content (happens behind closed doors) or profanity. It does have some violence but it is not graphic.

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  • MommaBear
  • 10-06-19

HeadHunters, Intern, Archaeology

I love books that run two timelines - this one past which explains the present but you have to listen to all the book to make sense of it. I loved it, no heavy archaeology or anthropology but enough information to know the author either is one or other or is very good at research. A fifty-year-old mystery, headhunters, Dutch Museums, your typical overworked, always blamed intern, a few modern murders and thefts and mix it together and you have a very enjoyable book which keeps you reading until the very last page. I felt the Narrator has just the right voice for the book, she speaks clearly, no rushing yet conveys the emotions of the characters I was given this book free and asked to write a review but what I have written is totally honest - if I thought it was bad I would say so, check my reviews. This is book three so I am off to see if Audible has books one and two as I want to visit more with Zelda. I hope if they do its the same narrator.x

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  • Norma Miles
  • 08-26-18

Property of Nicholas Mayfield

Zelda Richardson had secured an internship at the Tropenmuseum in the Netherlands and was present at the press worthy arrival of crates of artefacts collected years before from the head hunting, ancestor worshiping Asmat tribes of Papua before Christian missionaries put an end to their belief system, activities and, consequently, their art. The boxes had been in storage for decades and had been delivered to the museum for a forthcoming exhibition. But the opening of one of the huge boxes held a surprise, the journal of a collector who disappeared without trace some 50 years before. The story artfully moves between the present day preparations for the exhibition and Zelda's investigation, and the story of Nicholas Mayfield, the man who's journal that had been found. And along the way, much fascinating information about the Asmat and the political situation extant at the time. All is well written and with nice characterisation. Narrator Chelsea Stevens has a clear voice, her intonation good, if a little stilted at times. Young sounding, she is an excellent voice for the youthful main protagonist, Zeke, and she delivers distinctive seperate character dialogue. My thanks to the rights holder of Rituals of the Dead, who, at my request, freely gifted me with a complimentary copy, via Audiobook Boom. At times the pace was a little slow but overall this was a fascinating glimpse into a world now long gone and, as such, highly recommended for anyone interested in art history and the time of the great artifact collectors

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  • Jan M
  • 08-16-18

Great Story, Great Narration!

I was really impressed by Jennifer S Alderson with this book. Archeology has always intrigued me, and this book pulled me in from the very beginning. I haven't thought much of rituals of the dead from other countries before listening to this book. I am not naive in believing that shady things do not happen when dealing with antiques and art from other places. This book really brought to light how some things could have been done. The author was brilliantly clever in solving this case, and had unexpected twists. The performance by Chelsea Stephens was great. I really thought she did great with the suspense and proper emotions.