Now in paperback, the highly acclaimed fourth book in the bone-chilling series by Elly Griffiths.
Set in Norfolk, England, A Room Full of Bones embroils, once again, brainy Ruth Galloway, 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 tactics 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, dangerous 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. 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 solve the mystery in time?
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ELLY GRIFFITH's Ruth Galloway novels are inspired by the work of her husband, who gave up a job in finance to train as an archaeologist, and by her aunt, who lives on the Norfolk coast and who filled her niece's head with the myths and legends of that area. Griffiths and her husband now have two children (twins) and live near Brighton.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
Doctor Ruth Galloway, Head of Forensic Archaeology at the University of North Norfolk, is not thinking about coffins or journalists or even about whether she will encounter DCI Harry Nelson at the Smith Museum.
Instead, she is racing through the King’s Lynn branch of Somerfield wondering whether chocolate fingers count as bad mothering and how much wine four mothers and assorted partners can be expected to drink. Tomorrow is Ruth’s daughter’s first birthday and, much against Ruth’s better judgement, she has been persuaded to have a party for her. ‘But she won’t remember it,’ Ruth wailed to her best friend Shona, herself five months pregnant and glowing with impending maternity. ‘You will though,’ said Shona. ‘It’ll be a lovely occasion. Kate’s first birthday. Having a cake, opening her presents, playing with all her little friends.’
‘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.
As Ruth races past the soft drinks aisle, she becomes aware for the first time that the supermarket has been taken over by the forces of darkness. Broomsticks and cauldrons jostle for shelf space with plastic pumpkins and glow-in-the-dark vampire fangs. Bats hang from the ceiling and, as Ruth rounds the last bend, she comes face to face with a life-size figure wearing a witch’s cloak and hat and a mask – based (rather convincingly, it must be said) on Munch’s The Scream. Ruth stifles her own scream. Of course, it’s Halloween. Kate only just escaped being born on 31 October, which, when combined with having a Pagan godfather, might have been one augury too far. Instead, her daughter was born on 1 November, All Saints’ Day according to a Catholic priest who, to Ruth’s surprise, is almost a friend. Ruth doesn’t believe in God or the Devil but, she reflects, as she piles her shopping onto the conveyor belt, it’s always useful to have a few saints on your side. Funny how the Day of the Dead is followed by the Day of the Saints. Or maybe not so funny. What are saints, after all, if not dead people? And Ruth knows to her cost that the path between saint and sinner is not always well defined.
She packs her shopping into her trusty, rusty car. Two o’clock. She has to be at the museum at three so there’s not enough time to go home first. She hopes the chocolate fingers won’t melt in the boot. Still, the day, though mild for October, is not exactly hot. Ruth is wearing black trousers and a black jacket. She winds a long green scarf round her neck and hopes for the best. She knows there’ll be photographers at the museum, but with any luck she can hide behind Superintendent Whitcliffe. She’d never normally get to go to an event like this. Her boss, Phil, adores the limelight so is always first in line for anything involving the press. Two years ago, when Time Team came to a nearby Roman dig, Phil muscled his way in front of the cameras while Ruth lurked in a trench. ‘It wasn’t fair,’ said Shona who, despite being in a relationship with Phil, knows his faults. ‘You were the expert, not him.’ But Ruth hadn’t minded. She hates being the centre of attention; she prefers the research, the backroom stuff, the careful sifting of evidence. Besides, the camera is meant to put ten pounds on you, which Ruth, at nearly thirteen stone, can well do without.
But Phil is away at a conference so it’s Ruth who is to be present at the grand opening of the coffin. It’s the sort of thing she would normally avoid like the plague. She dislikes appearing in public and she feels distinctly queasy about opening a coffin live on Prime Time TV (well, Look East anyhow). ‘Beware of disturbing the dead,’ that’s what Erik used to say. Erik Anderssen, Erik the Viking, Ruth’s tutor at university and for many years afterwards her mentor and role model. Now her feelings about Erik are rather more complicated, but that doesn’t stop his voice popping into her head at alarmingly regular intervals. Of course, disturbing the dead is an occupational hazard for archaeologists, but Ruth makes sure that no matter how long-dead the bones are, she always treats them with respect. For one nightmarish summer she excavated war graves in Bosnia, places where the bodies, sometimes killed only months earlier, were flung into pits to fester in the sun. She has dug up the bones of a girl who died over two thousand years ago, an Iron Age girl whose perfectly preserved arm still wore its bracelet of dried grass. She has found Roman bodies buried under walls, offerings to Janus, the two-faced God, and she has unearthed the bones of soldiers killed only seventy years ago. But she never lets herself forget that she is dealing with people who once lived and were once loved. Ruth doesn’t believe in an afterlife which, in her opinion, is all the more reason to treat human relics with respect. They are all we have left.
The wooden coffin, believed to be that of Bishop Augustine Smith, was discovered when builders began work on a new supermarket in King’s Lynn. The site, for many years derelict industrial land, had once been a church. The church, rather romantically called Saint Mary Outside the Walls, had been bombed in the war and, in the Fifties, was levelled to make way for a fish-canning factory. The factory itself fell into disrepair and now a shiny new supermarket is being built on top. But because of the site’s history, the builders were obliged to call in the field archaeologists who, as was only to be expected, discovered the foundations of a medieval church. What was less expected was another discovery below what was once the high altar, of a coffin containing the remains, it was thought, of the fourteenth-century bishop.
The discovery was newsworthy for several reasons. The church was mentioned in the Domesday Book and Bishop Augustine himself features prominently in a fourteenthcentury chronicle kept at Norwich Cathedral. In fact, Augustine, one of the earliest bishops, was always supposed to have been buried at the cathedral. What was he doing, then, buried under a fairly minor parish church in King’s Lynn? But inscriptions on the coffin and dating of the wood pointed definitely to Bishop Augustine. The next step was carbon dating of the bones themselves, and somewhere along the line the decision was made to open the coffin in public – watched by the great and the good, including members of the Smith family.
And that’s the other reason. The Smith family are still alive and well and living in Norfolk. Along the way they have been Catholic martyrs and Protestant traitors, ennobled by Elizabeth I, and involved in a doomed attempt to hold King’s Lynn for the Royalists in the Civil War. Lord Danforth Smith, the current title holder, is a racehorse trainer and unwilling local celebrity. His son, Randolph, usually to be found draped around an American actress or Russian tennis player, is more relaxed about being in the public eye and is a regular feature of the gossip columns. Previous Smiths have been rather more serious-minded and evidence of their philanthropy is everywhere in Norfolk. As well as the museum there is the Smith wing in the hospital and the Smith Art Collection at the castle. Ruth’s university even has a Smith Professor of Local History, though he hasn’t been seen in public for years and Ruth thinks he may well be dead.
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Book Description Paragon, 2012. Book Condition: Fair. Large type edition. Ships from the UK. Former Library book. Shows definite wear, and perhaps considerable marking on inside. Bookseller Inventory # GRP97470121
Book Description Paragon, 2012. Book Condition: Good. Large type edition. Ships from the UK. Former Library book. Shows some signs of wear, and may have some markings on the inside. Bookseller Inventory # GRP69841989