Old bones and Anglo-Saxon culture combine with fresh murder and contemporary hate groups in Griffiths’s intricately plotted fifth Ruth Galloway mystery (after 2012’s A Room Full of Bones). Ruth, a forensic archeologist and teacher, learns of the death by fire of a college friend and colleague, Dan Golding, the day before receiving a letter from Dan requesting her professional opinion. Dan has excavated the bones of a “Raven King,” who may be Arthur Pendragon. Single mother Ruth, along with her toddler daughter, Kate, and various others, including Kate’s father, Det. Chief Insp. Harry Nelson, all take summer holiday trips to the vicinity of the site of the murder and dig, where they encounter a host of suspect fellow academics and locals, including someone who sends Ruth warning text messages. Puzzle solvers may find the clues too subtle, but all will enjoy Ruth’s largely self-aware sardonic perspective on life, death, and relationships. Agent: Emma Thawley, rights director at Quercus (U.K.). (Mar.)
From the Publisher
"The latest captivating and enjoyable Griffiths novel does not disappoint. Set along England's northern coast, the story brings Ruth, an archaeologist whose work with old bones has involved her in several police cases, to a back-water university in Lacashire, where one of her old school friends has been murdered. The victim had been working in a dig that seemed to involve the Raven King, aka King Arthur. . . . The characters are strong and believable, the plot intriguing and well developed, and there is plenty of atmosphere."San Jose Mercury-News
"Both plot strands make compelling reading, but the way Griffiths interweaves them is absolutely masterful. As with all Ruth Galloway mysteries, the application of forensic archaeology is intriguing. . . readers are in for a really good time with this flesh-and-blood bone expert."—Booklist, STARRED
"Intricately plotted. . . all will enjoy Ruth's largely self-aware sardonic perspective on life, death, and relationships."—Publishers Weekly
"Another gem packed with offbeat, well-developed characters and a quirky, challenging mystery."—Kirkus
Forensic anthropologist Ruth Galloway is called from her seaside cottage to Lancashire to investigate some bones found by a recently murdered college friend. A mysterious letter Ruth received from Dan shortly before his death mentioned the discovery of a skeleton that quite possibly might be the legendary King Arthur. With her 18-month-old daughter, Kate, and her druid friend Cathbad in tow, Ruth heads for the university. Though anthropology is not a particularly hot subject at the middle-class University of Pendle, the campus is buzzing with rumors of the potential Arthurian find and fearful of the threats of a sinister white supremacist group anxious to discredit the discovery. What began as a favor for a lost friend and a bit of a holiday rapidly becomes awash in danger and intrigue. Ruth’s former lover, DCI Harry Nelson, hears of the murder while visiting his mother in Blackpool and is drawn into the investigation. While Cathbad babysits young Kate, Ruth and the DCI pursue mayhem, murder, and missing bones. Why is the potential discovery of King Arthur so shocking and who is willing to kill to suppress the truth?
Verdict The fifth entry in Griffiths’s forensic series (A Room Full of Bones; The House at Sea’s End) is a satisfying mix of science, suspicion, murder, and druidic tradition. The complexity of Ruth’s relationship with DCI Nelson intensifies, and the questions surrounding the possible find of King Arthur lend just the right touch of gothic atmosphere to this wonderfully engaging read. Sure to be a hit with a wide range of mystery readers. [See Prepub Alert, 10/8/12.]Susan Clifford Braun, Bainbridge Island, WA
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A forensic archaeologist, a policeman and a druid pool their skills to find a murderer. Ruth Galloway's quiet routine of teaching and raising her daughter Kate, the fruit of her short affair with DCI Harry Nelson, is interrupted by the shocking news of her university friend Dan Golding's death. A posthumous letter from Dan asking her to examine the bones of an exciting discovery he has made and hinting at unnamed problems prompts Ruth (The House at Sea's End, 2012, etc.) to ask Nelson to inquire more closely into the case. It turns out that Dan's laptop and cellphone are missing, and the police are already treating his death as suspicious. When someone from Dan's university asks her to look at the bones, Ruth, Kate and her druid friend Cathbad all head to a rented cottage in the north of England, where Nelson is visiting his mom in Blackpool. Cathbad's local druid friend, Pendragon, greets them with a gun and a tale of fear, possibly of the White Hand, the right-wing group terrorizing the university campus. The bones, which Dan was sure were those of King Arthur, have mysteriously vanished. All that remain are some samples Dan had sent to a lab in the States. When these samples indicate that King Arthur was part black, Kate and the police both look to the mysterious White Hand for answers. Another gem packed with offbeat, well-developed characters and a quirky, challenging mystery.