When builders renovating a café in King’s Lynn find a human skeleton behind a wall, they call for DCI Harry Nelson and Dr Ruth Galloway, Head of Archaeology at the nearby University of North Norfolk. Ruth is preoccupied with the threatened closure of her department and by her ever-complicated relationship with Nelson. However, she agrees to look at the case.
Ruth sees at once that the bones are modern. They are identified as the remains of Emily Pickering, a young archaeology student who went missing in the 1990s. Emily attended a course run by her Cambridge tutor. Suspicion falls on him and also on another course member – Ruth’s friend Cathbad, who is still frail following his near death from Covid.
As they investigate, Nelson and his team uncover a tangled web of relationships within the student group and the adults leading them. What was the link between the group and the King’s Lynn café where Emily’s bones were found?
Then, just when the team seem to be making progress, Cathbad disappears. Was it guilt that led him to flee?
The trail leads Ruth and Nelson to the Neolithic flint mines in Grimes Graves which are as spooky as their name. The race is on, first to find Cathbad and then to exonerate him, but will Ruth and Nelson uncover the truth in time to save their friend?
I can’t believe this is the last book – for the moment – in the series. The Ruth Galloway series was the first long series of books I read as an adult. The characters have since become quite beloved in my heart. The “will they, won’t they” dance between Ruth and Nelson has been a source of much enjoyment and frustration throughout the series.
I’ll admit that I found it hard to get into this book. I think perhaps I was so aware that this is the last book for a while that to commit to reading it meant that I’d committed to knowing there was going to be a pause in the series. We knew that this book would, once and for all, give a definitive answer on Ruth and Nelson and I was both excited and nervous to read it.
The central plot here centres around a body being found behind a wall, the threatened closure of the archaeology department, and Cathbad’s health and knowledge of the crime.
Poor Cathbad has not gotten a break, considering how COVID almost killed him in book 14. The found remains in this book are relatively modern, which is a slight deviation to what we are used to Ruth excavating but no less intriguing.
As well as Ruth and Nelson, we have Kate, Zoe, Judy, Tracy, Tony, Bradley, a brief return of Cloughie, and newcomer Lucy.
It took me by surprise to realise Kate’s age and how far the books have come. I knew on some level but perhaps I had forgotten. The web between Ruth and Nelson has always been complicated but reading how Kate has grown and evolved over the years has been interesting. I like how she has these traits that seem to contradict both her parents, she is however a delightful character and as Ruth’s daughter, the relationship between the two is wonderful to read.
Zoe, who only appeared in book 14, is a new addition to the cast and Ruth’s half-sister. Zoe is a light character whose presence comforts Ruth but whose presence isn’t all that large in the book. I suppose the relationship between the two sisters is still very new and almost uncharted.
Judy, faces almost as much as Cathbad in this book but I love how resilient she is and how she manages to face every problem. Judy is one of the characters I see as having the most growth outside the MCs. The Judy from the first book is so different from the character we see in book 15.
Tracy is another character who has developed through the series. Back in the beginning when she was introduced I didn’t like her character much and found her rather annoying but as the series has progressed she has grown on me and I see how much she has evolved and how she has developed her character skill set.
Tony is a relatively new character to join Nelson’s team but he is a welcomed addition and fills the hole that Cloughie left, yet still remains individual and his own character. In this book he gets ‘pinged’ by the covid app and has too self-isolate. It puts his character in a unique position and alters the way the narrative plays out. Though it makes it seem like he isn’t present for much of the story, he does provide valuable insights into the case.
Bradley becomes a ‘tag along’ with Tracy but swiftly seems to become part of the team. I can’t actually remember if he was mentioned or featured before book 15, but he is a welcome addition. Not only because he tempers some of Tracy’s attitude but also because he adds to the team and has a bubbly personality that shines through the doom and gloom of the case at hand. I would be happy to see more of him.
It’s always nice to see Cloughie included in the book because he was such a good character when he was a part of Nelson’s team and when he finally moved, it was almost disappointing to see him leave. The fact that Griffith’s hasn’t forgotten him and still manages to include him in the plot despite the fact that the character no longer resides in Norfolk is a great point to the series.
I won’t say much on Lucy only that her addition was fantastic and brough the series full circle – in my opinion.
The plot of this book was interesting and involved many a twist, turn, and confusing riddles. As a murder plot there were actually a large variety of characters introduced and I think this made for a better reading experience because there were more theories to be had and questions to be raised.
Griffiths’s does an excellent job of portraying working during the covid pandemic in a way that does the characters justice but also shows the narrative evolving with the times in a positive practice. Griffiths’s works are always well written but I appreciated the extra attention to detail in this book and book 14 with how living through the covid pandemic impacted the lives of ordinary people.
I read this book in 1 day, in two sittings. I tried to go to bed at a reasonable time but ended up staying up till 11:30pm just to finish the book as I couldn’t put it down. The final third of the book was so interesting and at the same time I was so confused by the turn of events that it took me a while to work out who the bad people were.
The reveal was surprising in that the culprit wasn’t someone I’d theorised about but it was at least someone mentioned in the story – which did give it bonus points.
The most nerve-wracking part of this story was holding onto the anxiety I had surrounding the final result of the Ruth/Nelson love story. Griffiths’s had said previously that this book would resolve it once and for all and I was very nervous about what that decision would be. Griffiths’s keeps the reader on the edge of their seat in this matter and doesn’t overly address it till the latter half of the book. While reading I could see the matter go both ways and I was more nervous about this reveal than I was about the killers.
I think it was very artfully written and considering how much pressure Griffiths’s probably had in writing it, it came off very well. I was very impressed by how well the situation was handled.
It is sad to think that this is the last book in the series for a while. Griffiths’s hasn’t said this is the end, just that she is taking a break from the series. I don’t know how long that break will last but when she does return to writing the series it will be interesting to see how, if any, further character development they have had.
As book 15 of the series, this was a stellar addition and well worth the paper it’s printed on.
As a book in itself, I enjoyed the plot. I thought it had a good thought-out plan and many cogs to draw from. I enjoyed the various avenues of theories to explore and how I didn’t know for certain what had happened and what was going to happen. I enjoyed that it was a little different from the usual that Ruth investigates. I enjoyed the continue development of world building and how Griffiths’s is constantly adapting her world and characters to reflect what is happening in the real world.
I greatly enjoyed this book.
I give this book: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐!