First-time British author Beaton blends narrative forms--history and fiction, mystery and myth--with ease in this unusual (if occasionally overwrought) story about a multigenerational obsession that refuses to die. Writer, photographer, and amateur archaeologist Lionel Robertson is the imposing patriarch of a tumultuous family in a complex saga that effortlessly spans nearly a century. With WW I looming (in the opening scene Lionel, dressed like a proper Englishman in ""Edwardian whites,"" improbably witnesses the assassination of the Archduke and Duchess in Sarajevo), Lionel escapes from England to Crete and launches an excavation of And Meri, an ancient Greek palace that will later become known, thanks to Lionel's discoveries, as Ariadne's Summer Palace. He unearths some carved gemstones at the site that gradually become a family obsession. Decades later, Lionel's grandson Dan--a disgruntled employee at the Institute of Chronometry who specializes in dating clay pots--must deal with accusations that either his father (who also worked at the internationally renowned site) or grandfather secretly excavated a part of the palace, left no record of his findings, and then covered up the excavation as if there were something to hide. Dan begins to search through his family possessions for the records in the hope that these strange activities can be explained. His father Daniel, having been largely abandoned by Lionel as a child, died young but managed even so to strike up a relationship of sorts with his father; and now Dan's daughter Lucy, training to become a psychoanalyst, helps him sort through the nightmares he has inherited from his obsessive ancestors, nightmares that will, in all likelihood (Beaton suggests), never end. Despite some extravagant twists that strain credibility, and a number of overlong patches, a generally captivating ""dig"" into the ancient as well as more recent past.