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by Elly Griffiths
Houghton Mifflin, March 2013
400 pages
ISBN: 0547798164

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

As the recent discovery of King Richard underneath a parking lot reminds us, old bones have a way of surfacing unexpectedly, especially in England. When they do, Elly Griffiths' fictional forensic archaeologist, Ruth Galloway, is the sort of expert called upon to deal with them. A DYING FALL serves up a gangbuster of a beginning with the gruesome murder of Dan Golding, an archeologist on the verge of making history if he can demonstrate that the bones he has dug up are those of the near legendary King Arthur. Ruth Galloway receives word of the death from a former classmate and the next day a letter from Dan is delivered asking her to come to Lancashire and assist him with her expertise as a bone expert in examining and authenticating his find, hinting that they hold far more information than she could dream of. Dan's college repeats the invitation and Ruth packs up her baby Kate and enlists the help and company of her Druid friend Cathbad. Before she can leave home there's a threatening message on her mobile phone warning her not to get involved.

At Pendle University the situation quickly expands with a secret society called the White Hand somehow involved, distinctly odd people with odder relationships, and news of an unusual if not wrong handling of the bones. When Ruth finally is able to examine them, they are not only not King Arthur's bones: they are not even the bones Dan dug up. The threats and the danger escalate from there and the police, in the person of DCI Harry Nelson, Ruth's erstwhile lover and her baby's father, move in to solve the murder and provide protection.

For fans of Ruth Galloway (this is the fifth in the series) this continuation of the adventures may be a welcome addition. It probably will not appeal to readers lacking the background provided in the earlier books; there are simply too many characters, relationships, and situations that are insufficiently explained.

For an American unfamiliar with British law concerning the handling of artifacts, the ending is confusing and does not seem likely -- a more detailed explanation of how it could work would help.

All of that aside, fans of this terrifically popular mystery series will welcome this continuation of Ruth's story, probably love it, and look eagerly for the next.

Diana Borse is retired from teaching English at Texas A&M University-Kingsville and savoring the chance to read as much as she always wanted to.

Reviewed by Diana Borse, February 2013

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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