This is Book One of the Ruth Galloway Mystery Series, featuring Ruth Galloway, a forensic archeologist at the (fictional) University of North Norfolk, and Detective Chief Inspector Harry Nelson of the Norfolk Police. The two team up to solve a crime when old bones are found in the saltmarsh near Ruth’s cottage, with Harry hoping the bones will help clear up some cases of missing children.
Archeologists are drawn to that marshland, because prehistoric man thought the border between land and sea was symbolic and often performed rituals and left sacrifices there. [Norfolk, in the East of England, is bordered by the North Sea.] In fact, Ruth first came to the area ten years earlier while on an archeological dig, and fell in love with the place.
Ruth is almost 40, and weighs 12 1/2 stone (175 pounds). What is very, very unique about this crime series is not only that Ruth is not a svelte and gorgeous (but usually, junk-eating) protagonist. It also is the case that Ruth, who approaches the issue of her weight with self-deprecating humor and acceptance albeit self-consciousness, is at no loss for suitors.
Harry Nelson is tall and dark with greying hair and a reputation of brusque impatience. He quickly comes to like Ruth; she knows her field; she does good, careful work; and neither seems to despise Harry nor kowtow to him. Rather, she acts as if they are equals, and this elicits his respect for her. He muses:
“There’s something interesting, even refreshing, about a woman who doesn’t care whether or not she’s attractive.”
As Ruth uncovers more leads about the missing girls and gets closer to the truth of what happened to them, her own life is in danger. Harry responds immediately when she calls, but when she gets too close to the killer, she has no way to reach him.
Discussion: This quickly turned into a book I didn’t want to put down. The characters are very likable, you will learn a lot about prehistory, and there is thrilling suspense toward the end. Both Nelson and Ruth have wonderfully wry senses of humor. I can’t wait to read more books in the series.
Published in the U.S. by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2010