Saturday, June 29, 2013

A Dying Fall by Elly Griffiths

Reviewed by Jeanne

A Dying Fall by Elly Griffiths is the latest entry in the Ruth Galloway series.  Ruth is a forensic archaeologist who specializes in bones. She’s helped out with several police cases and has been slightly involved with DCI Harry Nelson—enough that they have a daughter together, though Harry is married and still much in love with his wife. Ruth isn’t sure she is ready for any sort of committed relationship, either.  She’s dating a fellow archaeologist but isn’t sure if they’ll end up together or not.  Ruth isn’t getting any younger, but she’s still not sure exactly where her life should be heading.  She adores her daughter, loves her work, and finds peace in living out near a salt marsh where most of the neighbors have feathers and fly.  The few human occupants are often away, but Ruth is used to the isolation.

That’s more or less her frame of mind when she learns the shocking news:  an old classmate has died in a house fire.  Dan was the handsome, charismatic one, surely destined for success.  It’s a bit of a surprise to find out that he was working at a distinctly non-prestigious university in Blackpool, but an even bigger surprise comes in the mail:  a letter from Dan, telling of some extraordinary find and asking Ruth to come take a look at it.  He adds, troublingly, that he’s afraid… but he doesn’t say why.

Ruth packs up daughter Kate, enlists the aid of Cathbad (her Druid friend and Katie’s godfather) and heads to Blackpool.  She soon learns that the police do not believe Dan’s death to be an accident, and his discovery could have significant historical repercussions—perhaps enough to kill for. To make matters even more interesting, Harry is vacationing in Blackpool along with his wife and mother and quickly becomes involved in the investigation as well.

This is the fifth in the Ruth Galloway series, and just as enjoyable as the others.  Ruth is an everywoman, who feels awkward in social situations because she’s not thin or glamorous or beautiful, nor is she at ease engaging in chitchat.  She’s very good at her job, and trying her best to be a good mother.  Her parents have taken a dim view of her choices, and her romantic relationships have never been quite satisfactory. There’s always a fascinating case to be solved through forensic archaeology and knowledge of history, ranging from Roman Britain to World War II.  Griffiths does an excellent job of making locations seem real.  I do have a quibble with this one, in that I had to suspend disbelief in a few places about the nature of the find, something I really hadn’t had to do with the others. I’m reluctant to go into detail, even though the jacket copy does a certain amount of spoilage I wish they hadn’t; I’m not going to add to it. Even so, this was a very good mystery, and I’ll be on the list for the next in the series.

You don’t have to read these in order, but I’d recommend it just for the way the characters and relationships change.  The series in order:
The Crossing Places
The Janus Stone
The House at Sea’s End
A Room Full of Bones
A Dying Fall

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