A Room Full of Bones by Elly Griffiths
Ruth Galloway #4
Set in Norfolk, England, A Room Full of Bones embroils, once again, our brainy heroine in a crime tinged by occult forces. On Halloween night, the Smith 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 forensic archaelogist Ruth Galloway arrives to supervise, she finds the curator, Neil Topham, dead beside the coffin. Topham’s death seems to be related to other uncanny incidents, including the arcane and suspect methods of a group called the Elginists, which aims to repatriate the museum’s extensive collection of Aborigine skulls; the untimely demise of the museum’s owner, Lord Smith; and the sudden illness of DCI Harry Nelson, who Ruth’s friend Cathbad believes is lost in The Dreaming — a hallucinogenic state central to some Indigenous Australian beliefs. Tensions build as Nelson’s life hangs in the balance. Something must be done to set matters right and lift Nelson out of the clutches of death, but will Ruth be able to muster herself out of a state of guilt and foreboding in order to do what she does best?
Since I read the first book in the series in October 2016 this series has become one of my favorites! Ruth Galloway is such an interesting character–both as a person and as a forensic archaeologist. I recommend you read the books in order. I think you’ll enjoy them a lot more and they are all so good!
Recurring characters in the books
Cathbad–a Druid, but also a scientist who works in the Chemistry Department at the university. He seems to have some uncanny abilities–especially when Ruth, Kate or Nelson are in trouble.
DCI Harry Nelson–He’s a no-nonsense copper and doesn’t believe in “hocus-pocus.” However, he’s a friend of Cathbad, much to his own amazement. He’s a good policeman–conscientious and honest. He pushes his team hard, but pushes himself just as hard. Nelson comes from Blackpool–“…[he] still thinks of himself as a Northerner, which, in his mind, is synonymous with sharp wits and a proper sense of humour.”
Michelle Nelson–Nelson’s wife. She’s beautiful and Nelson still is in awe that she married him. Michelle owns a beauty shop and they have two college-age daughters.
Shona–Ruth’s best friend. Shona is living with Ruth’s married boss and is now five month’s pregnant. Shona is an English professor. Sometimes Shona isn’t that reliable a friend, but Ruth doesn’t have too many friends.
Ruth–Forensic archaeologist and university professor. Ruth is called by the police occasionally to consult with them when bones are found to help determine if the bones are recent or hundreds or thousands of years old. That is how she met DCI Nelson in the first book.
Kate–Ruth’s one year old daughter. Ruth is raising her alone and has little experience with babies, but she and Kate are muddling along. Ruth is doing the best she can for Kate even though she has “the working mom’s guilt” and is often tired and uncertain. Kate is developing her own personality and it’s a strong one. When Shona suggests Ruth have a birthday party for Kate’s first birthday….
“Kate doesn’t play with her friends,” Ruth had protested. “She hits them over the head with stickle bricks mostly.” But she had allowed herself to be convinced. And part of her does think that it will be a lovely occasion, a rare chance for her to sit back and watch Kate tearing off wrapping paper and shoving E-numbers in her mouth and think: I haven’t done such a bad job of being a mother, after all.
Ruth is called to consult about the bones in a coffin in a museum, but when she finds the museum curator dead beside the coffin Harry Nelson is called in.
I like the intelligence Ruth shows and the love she has for her profession. Now that she is a mother she is often pulled several ways–in her professional life as a teacher and an expert and her life as a mother. The birth of Kate has made Ruth’s life much more complicated, but it also enriched her life and she’s so happy she made the decision to keep Kate. I also like her friendships with various characters in these books–especially Cathbad and DCI Nelson.
The museum also has Australian Aborigine bones and a group calling themselves the Elginists is demanding the bones return to Australia for burial. Ruth is appalled when she views the room full of bones in the museum. The bones are jumbled together in a small room in the museum basement. They were collected by the present museum owner’s great-grandfather–apparently dug up in Australia from graves. Ruth believes in treating human bones respectfully. But the great-grandson is rather proud of his great-grandfather and has no intention of returning the bones.
Are the deaths of the curator and the owner of the museum plus DCI Nelson’s mysterious illness related to the bones and a curse? Or is it a curse related to the coffin of the medieval bishop? And is there something paranormal going on, too? What is The Dreaming?