Combine a splash of Alan Bradley with a pinch of Kathy Reichs and you have a gripping new Ruth Galloway Mystery -- a good-hearted mystery series with a dark edge.
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?
Forensic anthropologist Dr. Galloway's fourth exploit, set in 2009 in Norfolk, England after The House at Sea's End, is another solid puzzle, matching crafty plotting with living and breathing characters readers will invest in. With her boss away, Galloway is representing the University of North Norfolk at the opening of a coffin believed to belong to 14th-century bishop Augustine Smith. What should be a routine duty turns out to be anything but. Griffiths's wry understatement is perfect for Galloway's grim discovery the "Local History Room seems to be empty apart from a coffin on a trestle table, and a body lying beside it." The corpse belongs to museum curator Neil Topham. There's no obvious cause of death, but the police soon find evidence of foul play in the form of a threatening letter discovered in the dead man's desk. The deductions and story developments are first-rate, and will certainly lead many first-timers to seek out other Galloway books.