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Elly Griffiths' Ruth Galloway series of novels is one of the most popular British mystery series in recent years. The series follows Dr. Ruth Galloway, a forensic archaeologist, as she works with the police (particularly DCI Harry Nelson) in cases where her expertise can be of use.
Griffiths' books blend archaeology, mystery, and crime with an ongoing storyline about the life of the late 30s (initially) protagonist. In terms of grit, we'd place it squarely in the middle – neither cosy nor especially gritty. Though the forensic nature of her position means there are some descriptions of dead bodies, it's not one of those series where you'll be reading in-depth descriptions of some serial killer's misogynistic sexual fantasies.
Content warning: The first book includes the killing of a companion animal – so you may wish to skip that one.
All of Elly Griffith's Ruth Galloway Books in Order
Ruth Galloway Book 1 | The Crossing Places
This book introduces us to Dr. Ruth Galloway, a forensic archaeologist in her late thirties who lives alone in a remote bit of Norfolk with her two cats. This land, blurring the lines between land and sea, was once considered holy by its Iron Age inhabitants.
Ruth's days are peaceful, filled with the task of unearthing ancient relics and bones. However, that peace is shattered when a child's remains surface on a lonely beach nearby.
Detective Chief Inspector Nelson reaches out to Ruth for assistance. He's been getting peculiar letters that intertwine ritualistic sacrifice, Shakespeare, and biblical references. The situation escalates with the vanishing of another girl and a subsequent letter, eerily mirroring those linked to the first child.
Is this the act of the original perpetrator? Or could it be a copycat with links to the area?
Ruth Galloway Book 2 | The Janus Stone
Archaeologist Ruth Galloway's expertise is sought once again when workers, in the process of tearing down an old Norwich mansion, unearth the skeletal remains of a child under a doorway. Missing its skull, the immediate question is whether this is a relic from the Roman times, or if this is the work of a more recent perpetrator.
Working alongside Detective Harry Nelson, Ruth is eager to unravel the mystery.=. Upon learning that the building once functioned as a children's home, they consult with Father Hennessey, its former overseer. He reveals a disturbing past: two children, a boy and a girl, vanished from the institution about four decades ago, never to be found.
When carbon dating indicates that the discovered remains predate the children’s home era, the mystery deepens.
Ruth Galloway Book 3 | The House at Sea's End
Ruth's now-busy personal life is further complicated when she's summoned to examine human remains discovered on a secluded Norfolk beach. The skeletal remains, identified as six men with tied arms, are traced back to World War II, a period of great tension along this particular section of coastline.
While Ruth and Nelson look deeper, they learn of a clandestine pact the aged soldiers swore to defend at all costs. When more people start dying, they have to ask – what was Operation Lucifer, and why are people still so determined to protect it?
Ruth Galloway Book 4 | A Room Full of Bones
When attending the unveiling of a coffin holding the remains of a medieval bishop, Ruth Galloway is met with a chilling scene: the dead body of the museum's curator. Even worse, the museum's weatlthy owner is later discovered dead in his stables.
DCI Harry Nelson is summoned to unravel the events, and what follows is a complex web of threatening letters, illicit drug trades, and Aboriginal skulls. Getting to the bottom of it will not only put them in danger – it will test their loyalties to each other.
Ruth Galloway Book 5 | A Dying Fall
When Ruth hears her of her old university colleague Dan Golding's untimely demise in a house blaze, she's overcome with shock. Then, she comes across a letter from Dan, penned shortly before his death and expressing concerns for his own safety in light of a recent discovery.
His only hint is a reference to the Raven King, an archaic title associated with King Arthur. Heading to Lancashire, Ruth learns that the bones not only redefine the narrative about King Arthur, but they've also disappeared.
The unfolding mystery draws in DCI Nelson, and the stakes rise sharply as it becomes evident that someone is willing to resort to murder to keep the secrets of the bones under wraps.
Ruth Galloway Book 6 | The Outcast Dead
Every year in Norwich, the Outcast Dead ceremony pays homage to souls laid to rest in local paupers' graves. Having recently discovered the remains of the infamous Mother Hook, Ruth is particularly interested in this year's event.
Hook was executed in 1867 at Norwich Castle after murdering several children. With her new find, Ruth finds herself somewhat unwillingly in the limelight, appearing in a TV documentary alongside historian Dr. Frank Barker.
Meanwhile, DCI Harry Nelson is working on a chilling case: three children found lifeless in their home. The situation worsens with another child's abduction. An individual, identifying themselves as the “Childminder,” takes responsibility for the kidnapping. Could the Childminder also be the murderer?
Ruth Galloway Book 7 | The Ghost Fields
During a hot, dry summer in Norfolk, a construction team makes an unexpected discovery: a World War II American fighter plane buried underground with remains inside. Ruth Galloway, a forensic archaeologist, quickly determines that the skeleton isn't that of the pilot.
DNA tests reveal the man to be Fred Blackstock, a prominent local once believed dead—a revelation that unsettles his surviving family. The situation becomes even murkier when a TV crew begins filming the abandoned air bases in Norfolk, known as the ghost fields. These fields have been repurposed by the Blackstock family into a pig farm.
As filming gets underway, Ruth spots a strange person around Fred Blackstock's memorial service. Soon after, more human remains are discovered. With flood-level rains in the forecast, the race is on: Can Ruth and the team solve the mystery before nature takes over?
Ruth Galloway Book 8 | The Crossing Places
When Cathbad, a druid and a friend of Ruth, spots an apparition of the Virgin Mary in a nearby graveyard, he doesn't think much of it. Given Walsingham's historical ties to Mary, he assumes visions are part and parcel of his spiritual calling. However, the subsequent discovery of a dead woman the following day suggests a more earthly and grim reality.
DCI Nelson soon learns the victim was a recovering addict, receiving treatment at a nearby private clinic.
Ruth, a staunch atheist, has never felt drawn to Walsingham despite her long residence in Norfolk. This changes when her old university acquaintance, Hilary Smithson, requests a meeting there. To Ruth's astonishment, Hilary is now an ordained priest.
She tells Ruth about the mysterious and threatening letters she's been receiving. These letters, targeted at female priests, intriguingly blend local archaeological references with poignant mentions of a “woman in blue, mourning for the world.”
Soon, another murder is reported—this time of a female priest. As the village gets ready for its annual re-enactment of the Crucifixion, it becomes even more important to find the culprit before he or she takes another victim.
Ruth Galloway Book 9 | The Chalk Pit
When Ruth is called to look at a set of remains, she's surprised to find them nearly translucent, suggesting they had been boiled shortly after the victim's demise. Simultaneously, DCI Nelson is on the search for a missing homeless woman who may have gone missing in local underground tunnels. Could there be a link between her and the remains Ruth has found?
As Ruth and Nelson probe deeper into the case, they hear whispers of clandestine societies, tales of cannibalism, and ritualistic murders. They realise the labyrinth could be hiding more secrets than they know…
Ruth Galloway Book 10 | The Dark Angel
When fellow archaeologist Angelo Morelli invites Ruth to the scenic Fontana Liri in Italy to assist in identifying some unearthed bones, she jumps at the chance. Picturing a relaxing blend of work and leisure, she brings her daughter along. But as they settle in, Ruth begins senses the shadows of a deep-rooted secret among the locals. Could these historical echoes somehow relate to the remains Angelo discovered?
Her contemplation is disrupted by the unexpected arrival of DCI Nelson, whose reasons for being there remain an enigma. The stress increases when Ruth's investigations unveil a connection to a contemporary homicide. What seemed like a nice getaway quickly turns into a suspenseful quest to unravel the sinister mysteries of Fontana Liri.
Ruth Galloway Book 11 | The Stone Circle
DCI Nelson has been receiving menacing letters. Though anonymous, the tone is eerily similar to a set of letters that pulled him into a case several years back.
At the same time, Ruth gets a letter claiming to be from the very individual who introduced her to Nelson – her erstwhile mentor – except he's supposed to be dead. Or so they thought.
Ruth Galloway Book 12 | The Lantern Men
Life has taken a turn for Ruth Galloway. She's stepped away from her role as the go-to forensic archaeologist for North Norfolk police…until a proposition from convicted killer Ivor March draws her back in.
DCI Nelson has always believed March was responsible for more murders than he was charged with. Now, March acknowledges this and proposes to lead Nelson to the other victims' resting places—but only if Ruth oversees the excavation.
Intrigued yet cautious, Ruth accepts. March claims to have taken the lives of four additional women, burying them near a fen-bordering village reputed to be haunted by the Lantern Men—eerie figures with lights said to mislead travelers to their doom.
Could March be one of these Lantern Men, calling Ruth back to Norfolk's mysteries?
Ruth Galloway Book 13 | The Night Hawks
After returning as the head of archaeology at the University of North Norfolk, Ruth finds herself embroiled in a mystery when a local group of metal detector enthusiasts, known as the Night Hawks, discover ancient Bronze Age items on the beach near a dead body.
Later, the group discovers the aftermath of an apparent murder-suicide at a farmhouse, a place steeped in local lore due to tales of the Black Shuck, a massive black dog said to be an omen of death. As DCI Nelson looks into these puzzling situations, their connections seem to deepen and lead back to David Brown, a new lecturer Ruth recently appointed.
Strangely, David seems to appear wherever Ruth is…
Ruth Galloway Book 14 | The Locked Room
Three years after her mother's death, Ruth begins the difficult task of sorting through her belongings. There, she stumbles upon a dated photograph of her Norfolk cottage, taken long before she called it home, with an enigmatic note inscribed on the back.
Intrigued, Ruth heads back to the cottage to decode the mystery just as the initial wave of COVID-19 hits Norfolk and forces Ruth and her daughter into quarantine. They fight the monotony of isolation by joining nightly applause for healthcare heroes and striking up a distant but warm friendship with a neighboring lady named Zoe.
Meanwhile, DCI Nelson finds himself investigating a string of mysterious female deaths that might be suicides. One case ties back to an archaeological find, prompting Nelson to risk breaking lockdown to seek Ruth's expertise. As Nelson digs deeper, the trail seems to lead to Ruth's secluded cottage.
Around that time, Ruth, Zoe, and Kate vanish without a trace, leaving Nelson in a desperate race against time to locate them.
Ruth Galloway Book 15 | The Last Remains
When a construction crew stumbles upon human remains during a café renovation, Ruth's expertise is requested. The unearthed bones are identified as modern, specifically those of Emily Pickering, a budding archaeology student who vanished in 2002. Attention soon shifts to Emily's Cambridge professor and another passionate archaeologist who had spent time with her a weekend prior to her disappearance—none other than Ruth's friend, Cathbad.
As Nelson investigates further, he uncovers a mesh of intricate ties within the archaeology circle, aiming to connect them with the café where Emily's remains were found. But when Cathbad suddenly goes missing amid the inquiry, it adds an element of urgency.
With time ticking away, Ruth and DCI Nelson share two primary goals: locate Cathbad and vindicate him. But can they do it in time?
Will There be More Ruth Galloway Books?
Sadly, no. Author Elly Griffiths (real name Domenica De Rosa) has been very clear about the fact that book #15, The Last Remains, is the last Ruth Galloway novel.
She's explained that she didn't want to turn into one of those authors who continue to write a series and grow to hate their character. She's given readers a sense of closure in the final novel, and she will continue writing new books with new characters.