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by Elly Griffiths
Quercus, January 2013
400 pages
14.99 GBP
ISBN: 085738886X

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Elly Griffiths's Ruth Galloway series contains much of what I dislike it crime fiction present tense writing, a heroine hung up on her weight and a small child centre stage. So it's kudos to Griffiths that I leap on each new book with eager anticipation and inhale it at speed.

Her strength is the characters, who feel incredibly real, even Cathbad the druid. To the mix this time we have Lancashire cops Sandy and Tim, one the old dinosaur, the other the young careerist, and a handful of bizarre academics.

DYING FALL moves Ruth, toddler daughter Kate and best friend Cathbad out of their Norfolk comfort zone and up to Lancashire where Ruth's university friend Daniel Golding has died in a suspicious house fire. A letter from Dan, which arrives after his death, summons Ruth up to the University of Pendle to look at bones. He's apparently made the find of his career and needs her help.

DCI Harry Nelson follows them up there, ostensibly for a holiday with long-suffering wife Michelle, who knows by now that he's the father of Ruth's daughter Kate. But it's his old patch, so before long he's caught up in the chaos which involves the mysterious Raven King, neo-Nazis and wizards.

Ruth's world isn't the hallowed spires of Oxford or Cambridge. Griffiths's new universities are realistic, as are many of the people staffing them! In DYING FALL, the University of Pendle is hidden behind a cigarette factory and the history lot are very much the poor relations.

The series has threatened, at times, to topple into cutesy or woo-woo. But Griffiths keeps a firm hand on proceedings and knows just when to pull back. Her writing can be deceptively casual in fact, there's a rod of steel through the book and DYING FALL is nicely creepy and tense. This is book five and again it offers a slightly leftfield take on archaeology, folklore and history.

Please allow me one small quibble, though, with an inaccuracy that's starting to get annoying across the genre. Some easy research would have told Griffiths that female police constables haven't been WPCs since dinosaurs walked the earth.

Sharon Wheeler is a UK-based journalist, writer and lecturer.

Reviewed by Sharon Wheeler, March 2013

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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