It is Halloween night, and the local museum in King's Lynn is preparing for an unusual event - the opening of a coffin containing the bones of a medieval bishop. But when Ruth Galloway arrives to supervise, she finds the museum's curator lying dead beside the coffin. It is only a matter of time before she and DI Nelson cross paths once more, as he is called in to investigate. Soon the museum's wealthy owner lies dead in his stables, too. These two deaths could be from natural causes - but Nelson isn't convinced.
©2012 Elly Griffiths (P)2014 Audible, Inc.
I loved Elly Griffith's first book so much that when the second came out, I bought it right away -- something I almost never do. I usually wait for a second-hand copy to become available. I enjoyed the second book, and the third, too, but not as much. This one? Not at all. The author has subtly changed genre, and this doesn't interest me anymore.
The earlier books focused on Ruth Galloway, an archaeologist and single mother, which was an interesting combination, and meant a mystery focused on ancient remains, their origins and what might have occurred. The series has now taken off in a different direction. Now the focus is equally on one of the other characters, Cathbad, a Druid, and now seems to center on his occult beliefs, rituals, super powers and abilities. We still get Ruth dealing with her young daughter, but the emphasis has definitely changed.
In reading other reader's comments, I understand that many love this new direction, the Druidical hocus-pokus, the spells and charms. I don't. I liked the more traditional detective tale involving ancient remains and what happened to them.
It's all a matter of taste -- this book with its phantasmagorical storyline just wasn't interesting to me. I won't bother with subsequent books.
I like mysteries (particularly British ones, historical fiction and nonfiction, science fiction and fantasy.
I was disappointed in the previous Ruth Galloway mystery (The House at Sea's End). Three stars disappointed. I actually said that I wasn't looking forward to forensic anthropology with a toddler. However, the author made a decision to have a significant event in the relationship between Ruth and her baby's father happen between books that actually seems to help the story arc in my opinion.
The story opens with the death of a director of a small local museum. He is found lying dead beside the coffin of a medieval bishop that had been excavated from a site that had once been a church and then an industrial site. The window is open, a single shoe lies on the floor and a guide book whose pages riffle in the breeze. Ruth Galloway, forensic anthropologist, finds the body. Murder or natural causes? A drug habit might argue one, but menacing letters in his desk drawer might argue the other.
The museum also houses some Australian aborigine bones that a group calling itself the Elginists (Lord Elgin's marbles but I'm not sure why they named themselves after the guy who took the marbles from the Parthenon) want repatriated. These bones were collected by the ancestor of the founder of the museum, Lord Smith. Lord Smith is also a racing stable owner, married with three adult children, one of whom helps with the stable, one who is a successful QC and one who is a wastrel.
Meanwhile Harry Nelson's team is also dealing with the importation of high quality drugs from over seas that apparently no one in the criminal community knows about.
The disentangling all of the threads kept me interested through the entire story. There was one thing that niggled at me after I finished the book but I can't tell it without spoilers so I just have to say that it might bother others also.
I gave this book 4 stars because it was a better than average entertainment even with the occasional fault.
P.S. Jane McDowell does her usual good job with the narration.
I have been working through the series back to front. I started with book 8, and though reviews tended to complain that it wasn't as good as earlier books, it caught my interest and I continued backward through the series to this point. I do not particularly like the two main characters (Ruth Galloway and Harry Nelson), but I find a number of the secondary characters and their interactions interesting and compelling and find myself caring about their lives. The mysteries themselves vary, but the atmosphere is always powerful and the flow of the story grips the reader and carries them along inexorably. Until this book.
SPOILER ALERT Spoilers to follow!
This book, however, breaks with all the books to follow it. (5-8). The mystery is resolved with a secondary plot that is introduced late, and seems to have been shoehorned in to explain things in a poorly executed way. The solution to the deaths is clever but it is, for me, completely wiped out by the coroner saying that they would have known what killed one of the victims if they had done an autopsy. Really? A second person dies a mysterious and unexpected death while a police investigation is going on that closely involves him and they didn't do an autopsy? This is ridiculous. The whole thing is put together with equal sloppiness.
The worst part, however, is the fact that I loath authors who use the abuse of animals as a means of indicating evil or wrongdoing. In this case, we have snakes killed and abused in the name of animal rights, the report of a cat brutally murdered in a previous story, and the horrifying abuse of multiple horses. In fact, the police witness this not once but twice. The second time they witness this horror and are thrown off the property in a suspicious manner and they do nothing, NOTHING about it. They just ignore it. Aditionally, we are never told if either of these horses survives, or anything about their fate or the fates of any of the other animals that were abused in the past. We are in fact meant to believe that the owner of the stable, his horse loving daughter and his animal rights activist wife allowed this abuse to go on for months or maybe years without even noticing it! There is also no satisfactory explanation of why these horses are suffering this way. We are told the cause, but not why it should cause such suffering. The medical explanation might be simple enough, but since this book is written with a depth of understanding that allows us to be told that a character may be suffering from a viral infection "one that doesn't respond to antibiotics" and a coroner that doesn't do autopsies on suspicious deaths, it is really no surprise that no coherent explanation is offered for the horse situation either.
In summary, I will not be reading anything by Elly Griffiths again and I am sorry she got so much of my money already.
Elly Griffiths' 4th book in the Ruth Galloway series does not disappoint. Her characters continue to be interesting and the mysteries less than straightforward. Although many of her characters are less than conventional people and hold beliefs not likely to be accepted by the mainstream, Griffiths always manages to keep them from going overboard into an extreme that might alienate some readers. She also leaves much open to interpretation instead of simply telling you this is what you must believe happened. It's a bit along the lines of Phil Rickman's Merrily Watkins, only as a archeologist Ruth Galloway is perhaps a bit more grounded in scientific belief. I'm making the comparison simply based on the fact that both authors are adept at leaving opinion up to the reader.
The plot of the novel is excellent with enough twists and turns to keep it interesting and leaving me feeling like the book was much too short and couldn't we have had more please. I'm amazed at how well Griffiths combines Ruth's life with the investigations without making her into a Scarpetta, or a protagonist who becomes the constant victim. She's there and she is definitely the focus, but the writing is much more subtle and you don't feel as if Ruth is being forced on you. I've loved the previous books in the series and this one was no different. Griffiths holds your interest from beginning to end without going overboard on the drama and I really like the way she even makes reality seem surprising. I don't want to have to wait for the next book to come out.
The only critique I have of this book is the quality of the recording. Jane McDowell did an excellent job at narration, as always, but the recording occasionally sounds quite tinny even though I downloaded the 4. Still, it's a great book and one I can recommend.
Couldn't wait for this book to be published and was not disappointed. Loved the new romantic plot developments. Am usually fairly good at figuring out the culprit before the
end of the book but was taken by complete surprise in this one. Start with the first book in the series. You won't regret it.
Old Broad with Keyboard
Didn't bother to buy the print version because I bought the Unabridged audio to listen to while I work.
I think it's a lot like a Miss Marple mystery. Our Hero, Ruth, doesn't mean to find fresh dead bodies under very odd circumstances but she does. She's driven by curiosity, observation & the need for solitude.She tends to attract very odd people, dead & alive, who try to get her killed. There's enough twists, turns & spirits to keep the listener happy but none of the violence or destruction of most adventures. I'd say, more action than a cozy mystery but less than a thriller. A perfect book for a long drive or a few commutes to work.
She does a good job of reading the story but has trouble with male regional British accents. Not a real failing on her part because I think it's impossible for a woman to do them justice.
Can't wait to listen to the next one in the series. I like Ruth Galloway.
I especially enjoy historical mysteries. I don't like to know how things end before I begin.
Ruth, supposedly a forensic anthropologist, should be an interesting character study if Griffiths portrayal of her reflected any of the intelligence and independence a reader might expect. Other characters in the story speak of her with admiration but I find her a most uninformed scholar. She asks others to answer questions about British political or church history that I could have answered in high school. The story wanders endlessly around the thoughts of a group of personalities and taxes a reader's patience in trying to link them together into a coherent story line. The author constantly refers to earlier books in order to support the story line in this one. I have no motivation to go back and read the earlier novels. The author would be better served to do a little more research and develop a central character with some depth.
Another lovely book by Elly Griffith: the story is good, not great, but the character development is very satisfying. Jane Powell's performance is excellent. If you are a fan of Ruth and Harry, then, you will enjoy this book.
Love this series. Although they are murder stories there is graphic gory murder scenes. Characters are multidimensional and interesting. Stories are interesting and there is always a twist.
Once again Ruth Galloway gets caught up in solving a crime she never wanted to get involved with which brings her in contact with her love. All sorts of lovely twists and turns throughout as usual to keep the reader interested with characters who are totally believable. And thankfully a decent narrated was used who is capable of voicing the different characters making it so much easier to listen to. I have read the first 3 books in this series and none of them have disappointed - this a series I will definitely continue following
Atmospherically written, well read and edited, my favourite Ruth Galloway story yet. Truly recommend it.
"A good story"
I enjoyed this book very much, the plot was interesting and (more or less) believable. I like the interaction between the characters and the dilemmas which they face in their private lives. The ending was not predictable and it was good that some loose ends were left for us to wonder about.
It was very well read, Jane McDowell is my favourite narrator for this series of books, I think she makes Nelson much more believable.
"I just love this series"
I would definitely recommend this series of books. I am a convert so yes yes yes have a listen.
I always want to listen to this in one go, I wear headphones in the supermarkets, whilst doing the housework, anything to be able to get to the end.
"Another great read from Elly"
Good storyline, empathetic narration, held my interest right to the end. Both the main characters, Ruth and Nelson, are imaginatively and sensitivity drawn. Can't wait for the next!
I thoroughly enjoyed this latest book in the series, familiar characters, the relationship between Ruth and Nelson, all set in Norfolk...loved it :-)
"Good crime for bedtime"
Have listened to the whole series, and have enjoyed them all, even though the narraator changed. Good crime story, but nothing majorly original. I wouldn't say it's an over-accurate representation of forensic or police procedure, but enjoyable, and the characters are well rounded. Listen to them in order though if you want to get the best out of them.
"The curse of the bones"
Yes, any of the books in this series are good.
I like the characters, Ruth, Kate, Nelson, Cathbad, and as I have listened to a few now, I feel like I know them. It is a bit different in that there is the archaeological aspect to the story not just the crime aspect, it is really well blended.
She has a great voice and captures the essence of the characters really well.
Yes, but knew I couldn't, but I took every opportunity I could to listen to it when I could.
"A very enjoyable listen"
It starts rather slowly, but as the book develops the characters emerge more and more clearly. They are depicted with sympathy and understanding so that even the troublesome ones are shown as real human beings, not stock characters. The plot is intriguing and the resolution satisfying, even though a tinge of supernatural possibility remains.
Jane McDowell has a particularly pleasant voice to listen to, and reads clearly and with good pace. Just now and then I wished she would not emphasise quite so many words (some narrative passages are jus scene-setting), but this is a very minor quibble and I look forward to listening to other books she has read.
The descriptions of the salt marshes, although brief, are evocative. But the most memorable moment was the description of the death experience of one of the characters. Whether it describes a real experience or a fever-induced hallucination is left to the reader to decide, but as an evocation of the approach to the next world it was memorable.
This is the first Elly Griffiths book I have listened to, but I am about to download the others as I enjoyed this very much.
"I LIKED THIS"
Weird Norfolk crime.
Ruth - she's always trying to do exactly the right thing.
The Ruth Galloway characters are always very consistent.
Tend to listen before I fall asleep at night.
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