A Roomful of Bones is the next of the Ruth Galloway novels; there are links to my other reviews of this series here.
Dr Ruth Galloway is a forensic archaeologist based in Norfolk, and these stories revolve around the bleak Norfolk scenery, the relationship between Ruth and detective Harry Nelson, and murders or deaths linked to some historical theme or event. The Galloway / Nelson relationship is a continuous thread with elements of soap opera – hidden passion, betrayal, and illicit sex. The historical element offers some interest, and there is a new age thread in the person of Cathbad – purple robed druid and lab technician – an interesting and strange combination.
This novel involves a pile of aboriginal bones kept in a Norfolk museum, and the attempt to have them repatriated. There is a wealthy horse racing family, and there are various characters related to the Norfolk police and to the university where Ruth works.
A Roomful of Bones is a bit of a page turner. It’s an easy read told in simple prose, with adept use of cliffhangers and a plot that creates interest by alternating between different story threads each with a fairly compelling human element: what will happen to Ruth’s relationship with Harry, her daughter’s father, now his wife has discovered the truth? Who is the strange Australian, Ruth’s new neighbour? Will Cathbad survive his drug fuelled nightmare? How will the detective, Clough, cope with the promotion of his younger, female colleague, Judy? And what is the nature of her relationship to Cathbad?
It’s unusual in my experience to find a book written almost completely in the present tense; at times this is annoying, as the author occasionally slips into the past in ways that I find a little strange and ungrammatical. The writing is simple and direct, and the plot mechanisms equally unsophisticated: the rescue of two of the detectives is straight out of the Enid Blyton teach yourself how to write manual.
But who cares? There was a reason Blyton sold so many books, and it’s the same reason this is the read it is – fast and engaging.