The Last Remains: A Mystery (Ruth Galloway Mysteries, 15)
“By positioning a vital threat to Cathbad, the most mysterious and loyal and honorable person in the series, Griffiths creates heart-wrenching power within what might otherwise be a relatively routine investigation for Ruth Galloway.”
The Golden Age of British crime fiction is marked with authors Agatha Christie, Dorothy L. Sayers, John Dickson Carr, and Josephine Tey, among others. Today, American readers benefit from quick cross-Atlantic publication of British work, as well as masterful translation of Nordic, French, German, and Spanish works, and from authors in African and Asian nations.
The “special relationship” of America and Britain reinforces the power of top-notch British mysteries and espionage today. With the 15th title in the Dr. Ruth Galloway series from Elly Griffiths, the continued growth and deepening of both Griffiths and her characters enhance a thoroughly satisfying mystery: The Last Remains.
Ruth Galloway is an archaeologist who’s developed a forensic side-specialty, thanks in part to being the primary researcher in the field for her area of Britain, one rich with artifacts from the ever-fascinating Druids. Her efforts for the police have also grown in significance because of her personal relationship with the local investigator, DCI Nelson.
So when builders renovating a café find a skeleton hidden behind a wall of bricks, Dr. Ruth Galloway gets an immediate summons to the scene—and it only takes her a few minutes to declare it a crime scene and don her forensics hat, along with involving Nelson and his team.
At the core of this series, beyond Ruth’s complicated relationship with DCI Nelson, has been her friend and ally Cathbad, a modern Druid opening up ancient ways and bringing both tenderness and wisdom into the circle of friendship that includes Ruth and Nelson. Cathbad’s allegiance to both the pagan past and the children he and Ruth nurture parallels his dual nature of ferocity and caregiving.
The Last Remains amps up the tension when Cathbad becomes a person of interest in the teen’s death, then vanishes without warning. However, he has written a farewell and a will, a terrifying aspect that suggests the time to find and save him could be very short, or even nonexistent. His life partner Judy is a police officer but can’t investigate because she’s too close. Desperately she suggests, “Maybe he decided to go on a pilgrimage? The only things is . . .” her face crumbles, “why wouldn’t he tell me?” DCI Nelson hopes Cathbad, suffering the blurring effects of “Long Covid,” may have amnesia and will turn up. Ruth, however, has increasing reason to doubt such a happy result.
By positioning a vital threat to Cathbad, the most mysterious and loyal and honorable person in the series, Griffiths creates heart-wrenching power within what might otherwise be a relatively routine investigation for Ruth Galloway. There will be no putting down this compelling mystery until Cathbad’s disappearance can be solved. And in classic heroic manner, to get to that point will require Ruth to risk her own life, even as she struggles to define her future and her daughter’s.
It's remarkable to realize that The Last Remains is the 15th book in this series, which began with The Crossing Places. Where Griffiths’ early books offered quirky and lightly twisted plots, this latest one suggests that, a century after the original Golden Age, British crime fiction exhibits a second surge of development underway.