Note: Spoilers for previous books in this series.
This is the 14th book in the excellent Ruth Galloway crime series. It begins in February, 2020, just before COVID takes hold in Great Britain.
Ruth Galloway, 52 and a forensic archaeologist, is now head of the archaeology department at the (fictional) University of North Norfolk.
Ruth’s mother has been dead for five years, and she is now going through her mother’s things while her father and his new wife are away for the weekend. In a box of pictures, she finds something odd: a picture of her own cottage from 1963 (before Ruth was even born) with the legend “Dawn 1963.”
Ruth lives in that cottage with her daughter Kate, now eleven, but her mom never said anything to her about familiarity with the place before Ruth bought it, causing her to launch her own investigation of the history of the cottages. There are three cottages in a group, and the one next to hers has just been rented out to a nurse named Zoe who looks to be about Ruth’s age. Ruth is especially glad to have the company when the country goes into lockdown.
Meanwhile, the Serious Crime Unit of the Norfolk Police, headed up by Detective Chief Inspector Harry Nelson, who happens to be Kate’s father, is dealing with a series of alleged suicides that Nelson is convinced are suspicious.
Harry and Ruth have a complicated relationship. Harry is married with two adult daughters (Laura and Rebecca). Harry and his wife Michelle had another (unexpected) baby a little more than two years before, a boy named George. All of Harry’s children are fond of one another. Michelle allows Harry to see Kate but insists that Harry only see Ruth in a professional capacity.
Everyone must learn to cope with the new post-COVID situation. Ruth has to teach on Zoom, Kate has to learn at home, and Nelson has to try to solve crimes without doing interviews except at a distance.
Two startling events put a wrench in the works: Cathbad, close friend to both Ruth and Nelson, gets a serious case of COVID and it is possible he might not make it. And Zoe not only turns out not to be who she purported to be, but she goes missing.
Evaluation: I enjoy this series a great deal because the main characters are all complex, likable and funny. Yet there is still plenty of page-turning tension and a lot to learn about archeology and history in the Norfolk area. This book ends, like so many of them, with developments in the characters’ personal lives that will have readers champing at the bit for the next installment.
Published in the U.S. by Mariner Books, an imprint of HarperCollins, 2022
One main reason I like her mystery books is the inclusion of her personal life, which would be a book in itself. Her daughter, her sometime lover, etc. in the middle of her investigations into medieval ruins.
I enjoyed this one, but Cathbad being sick made me very anxious for a while!