Sometimes a book blog seems like a lot of work. You’re reading, you’re searching for new books and trying to locate copies of old ones, and occasionally you’re struggling to find something new to say about something that’s already been reviewed 100 times. Sometimes, though, like when I get to read Elly Griffiths’ new Ruth Galloway mystery, A Dying Fall, it seems like a lot of fun.
A Dying Fall is the fifth Ruth Galloway mystery, and I like the series more the more it goes along. Ruth’s life is so much more complicated now — she has a 2-year-old daughter, Kate, with a man who’s married to someone else; her career hasn’t gone the way she thought it would; her best friends are her boss’s wife and an aging druid (who, coincidentally, had a child with a woman who’s married to someone else) — and her desire to get involved in solving mysteries is tempered by her knowledge that her daughter depends solely on her.
This time, though, Ruth feels compelled to get involved because the murder victim is an old college friend, Dan Golding, like Ruth an archeologist at a not-terribly prestigious university in England. He makes an amazing discovery, yet something has made him afraid enough to contact Ruth for help. Just before she gets his letter, however, his house burns down with Dan in it. When his supervisor, Clayton Henry, asks her to come to Pendle University to examine Dan’s finding, she can’t refuse. She packs up Kate and Cathbad, the druid, and they head to Lancashire to investigate. When Ruth sees the bones Dan found, she quickly realizes there’s a big, big problem.
But archeology isn’t her only problem. Ruth knows that Kate’s father, DCI Harry Nelson, is in the area visiting family, and sure enough, they can’t help but run into each other. Nelson’s wife, Michelle, knows about Ruth and Kate, but his mother and sister don’t, and he wants to keep it that way. But his mother insists on inviting Ruth, Kate and Cathbad to tea. Awkward!
One thing I especially liked about this book is that visiting Pendle University gives Ruth the opportunity to examine university life from the outside: Dan’s department is completely dysfunctional, with people who drink too much, join hate organizations, have affairs with each other and steal money. No wonder Dan was afraid. Ruth also gets to find out how Dan saw her, and she confronts her own career trajectory in looking at his.
Recently I’ve reviewed a couple of series that are getting stale, if not past their due dates, but this one is still fresh and growing. If you like archeology, academic mysteries, female sleuths, or mysteries with lots of character development, I can honestly recommend Elly Griffiths’ Ruth Galloway series. My thanks to the publisher, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, for sending a review copy of A Dying Fall.