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Tuesday 17 October 2023

‘The Last Remains’ by Elly Griffiths

Published by Quercus
2 February 2023.
ISBN: 978-1-52940-971-0 (HB)

I’ve followed Ruth Galloway’s career, both professional and personal, ever since I first discovered her nearly fourteen years ago. Imagine my dismay, then, when I learned that The Last Remains brings the adventures of this most relatable of heroines to a close.

It’s a book to be read slowly – but not because the prose is dense, or the story is meaty; like everyone in the series, it’s complex, witty, visual, full of interesting characters, everything that makes fiction engaging and readable and leaves you wanting more. This time I didn’t want to get to the end because it really was the end. I’m going to allow myself one spoiler, which will be a relief to Ruth’s multitude of fans: she doesn’t die. That’s not how Elly Griffiths has wrapped things up. In fact, despite that firm declaration on the cover, the door is still very slightly ajar for future cases. 

All the usual suspects are there; Ruth of course, Nelson, their daughter Kate, Cathbad the druid, now recovering very slowly from his near-death from Covid in the last book, and the varied bunch of family, friends, colleagues and police officers’ we aficionados have come to know and love, or not, as the case may be. And there’s a body, or rather a skeleton, discovered behind a wall in a cafe: old bones, which are Ruth’s speciality in her role as forensic archaeology consultant to the police. It turns out to belong to an archaeology student who went missing more than twenty years ago, and as the case progresses, one can’t help feeling that if DCI Nelson had been around at the time there would have been a proper investigation with the right outcome.

As it is, Nelson and the team find plenty of suspects even more than two decades later, and Elly Griffiths does an excellent job of pointing the finger first at one then at another. She places clues with her usual subtle deftness, wraps up a suspenseful subplot involving Cathbad with a wonderfully tense episode, and keeps the reader, at least this one, guessing until the big reveal at the last possible moment. In addition, there’s plenty of mystery of the will-they-won’t-they kind, not to mention a highly topical university-based strand, in the ongoing story of Ruth and Nelson’s relationship. And all I’m saying about that is they’re both still there at the end. 

I shall miss Ruth Galloway, but no doubt Elly Griffiths has other plans. I look forward to watching them unfold.
Reviewer: Lynne Patrick

Elly Griffiths is the author of a series of crime novels set in England’s Norfolk county and featuring forensic archaeologist Ruth Galloway. The first in the series, Crossing Places, earned a good deal of praise both in Griffiths’ native country, England, and in the U.S. The Literary Review termed it “a cleverly plotted and extremely interesting first novel, highly recommended.  Since then, Elly has written fourteen further novels featuring forensic archaeologist Ruth Galloway.  The most recent is The Locked Room. Recently she has written a second series set in the 1950’s featuring magician Max Mephisto and DI Stephens. There are six books in the new series. The Midnight Hour is the latest.

Lynne Patrick has been a writer ever since she could pick up a pen, and has enjoyed success with short stories, reviews and feature journalism, but never, alas, with a novel. She crossed to the dark side to become a publisher for a few years and is proud to have launched several careers which are now burgeoning. She lives in Oxfordshire in a house groaning with books, about half of them crime fiction.

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