Having read the next two entries in the Ruth Galloway series, I’d planned to crow about being caught up. But when I searched for book jacket images for this post, I realized there’s a fifth installment: Dying Fall.
I get a strange satisfaction in following a series in its published order; it must speak to some obsessive quirk in my psyche. (In contrast, I know I missed one of Martha Grimes’s early Richard Jury books, which I read haphazardly. I’ve never been able to figure out which one, and the titles don’t provide any clues, because they’re named for British pubs—like The Five Bells and Bladebone.)
As a forensic archeologist, Ruth has one of those professions destined—at least in fiction—to lead to deadly crimes, past and present. In these two books, she’s also a new (and unwed) mother, which both enriches and complicates all aspects of her life. Griffiths has created an interesting cast of continuing characters, both town and gown, to complement Ruth—from the frustrating (yet appealing) Detective Chief Inspector Nelson to Cathbad: friend, druid, and occasional guardian angel.
In The House at Sea’s End, the “house” is an historic estate that’s slowly slipping into the sea. While documenting the erosion, an archeological team—some of Ruth’s colleagues—discovers six skeletons in a gap in the cliff. Ruth orders isotope analysis of the teeth (amazing science!), which indicates the men were World War II-era Germans. Further investigation reveals that the men were captured and summarily executed by a local Home Guard unit. Two elderly members of the unit have just died under suspicious circumstances; then, a German man also researching the skeletons is found murdered nearby.
A Room Full of Bones concerns two sets of old bones at a history museum in King’s Lynn: those of a fourteenth-century bishop and the remains of aboriginal Australians. Arriving at the museum for the opening of the bishop’s coffin, Ruth finds the museum director dead—and thus pulled once again into DCI Nelson’s orbit. Already involved in a drug investigation, Nelson begins probing the connections between the death at the museum and its owner, horse breeder Danforth Smith. The stakes are raised when Smith himself is found dead.
I appreciate the way Elly Griffiths weaves the Norfolk region’s geography and history into her plots. While they may not be the most shocking or compelling mysteries, I’ve come to enjoy the world according to Ruth. Even so, I think I’ll wait a while before reading the next book. It’s possible, sometimes, to have too much of a good thing.
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