This is the fifth book about Ruth Galloway, archaeologist and bone specialist. It works well as a stand-alone mystery, but it is a much richer experience if you have read the others first.
Ruth hears that Dan, who was at university with her has been killed in a fire. Although she has not heard from him for nearly twenty years she is grieved. A couple of days later she receives a letter from Dan, a lecturer at Pendle University, saying that he believes he has made a major discovery and that he needs to consult her, as a bone specialist, about it. He said the discovery had made him both excited and afraid. Worried that he had been afraid, given what happened to him shortly afterwards, Ruth asks DCI Nelson, father of her child, to make discreet inquiries. Nelson, about to go on holiday to his mother's home in Blackpool, down the road from Pendle, agrees to contact former colleagues in the Blackpool police force.
Meanwhile, Ruth decides to go to Pendle to examine the bones. Taking her friend, Cathbad to help mind the baby, Kate, she travels north. Pendle university is cash strapped and underfunded and the head of the history department is desperate for a major discovery to ensure funding for his department. It soon becomes apparent that something very odd is happening at Pendle. Is it paganism or neo-Nazism or a deadly combination of both, or is it just common or garden embezzlement? Ruth, herself, makes a major discovery about the bones which could have huge ramifications in the worlds of archaeology, folklore and early history. More people die and Ruth's safety is threatened.
This is all compounded by the complications of the Ruth/Nelson/Kate relationship and keeping it secret from Nelson's mother, in laws and colleagues. As in her previous books, Griffiths' management of her characters and the moral dilemmas that they find themselves in, is expertly handled and the complexities of their relationships more fully explored. The more we know the characters, the more intriguing they become.
In some of the previous stories there have been hints of possible paranormal activity, but, even though some of the characters appear to be practising wizards, this is a much more straightforward whodunnit. It was completely absorbing and I could not put it down. Elly Griffiths has maintained her high standards and has produced yet another excellent thriller.
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