Elly Griffiths is celebrating TEN years of Dr. Ruth Galloway mysteries, one of Auntie M’s favorite series. She takes Ruth from her Norwich salt marsh to Italy in her newest, The Dark Angel. And while she brings us complex mysteries to unravel at home and abroad, Griffiths keeps Ruth’s voice entertaining, with her own wry humor that brings her close to her readers.

When Ruth is contacted by a colleague she once spent the night with, the memory of Angelo Morelli comes back with a vengence. A fellow archeologist, his impeccable English overlaid with that sexy Italian accent, he invites Ruth to appear on his television program at a dig in the Liri Valley, not far from Rome.

He hints at anomalies in bones he recently found on a dig, and offers the use of a family apartment for a two-week holiday before Ruth’s classes start again. She can bring her friend, Shona, whose young son Louis could be a playmate for her Kate.

Once they are off to Italy, to the chagrin of DCI Nelson, whom Ruth has not told of the trip, she tries to relax and enjoy the mix of work and vacation, even as she wonders what Nelson will think. Nelson is Kate’s father, and his wife is in the midst of an unexpected pregnancy. With two grown daughters, the new baby has kept Nelson at home with Michelle, when he was on the verge of leaving for Ruth.

It’s a complicated life and readers who know the series look to the familiarity of these characters as much as they do the mysteries that envelop Ruth. For once in the little town of Castello degli Angeli, Ruth becomes aware that the secretive town does not look kindly on strangers.

The Liri Valley is connected to tales of a strong resistance movement during World War II, but Ruth can’t think why these stories would have an implication for her work on the newly discovered bones. She quickly becomes involved in the people and traditions she meets, to our delight, and befriends a young horse rider.

Then a murder occurs in the small town, rocking its foundations, and Ruth finds herself involved. When Nelson appears, bringing along Ruth’s druid friend Cathbad, things become even more complicated. And at home, things go seriously, badly wrong.

One of the pleasures of reading a strong series is the chance to follow the characters we’ve grown to love. Griffiths does a wonderful job of keeping the threads of all of these familiar souls alive, and makes a heartbreaking choice with one of them.

This is a clever and complex book, which resonates on so many levels with readers. Highly recommended.

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