by Cloggie Downunder (Wollongong): A Room Full Of Bones is the fourth book in the Ruth Galloway series by award-winning British author, Elly Griffiths. Curator of the Smith Museum in Kings Lynn, Neil Topham is excited to receive the coffin of a fourteenth Century ancestor, Bishop Augustine Smith, due to be opened later in the day to great fanfare and media attention. When archaeologist Dr Ruth Galloway arrives, a little early for the opening, she’s shocked to find Neil, fatally injured, on the floor beside the coffin.

While it’s not clear if Neil has expired naturally or been murdered, DCI Harry Nelson attends the scene and questions the only witness, his first encounter with Ruth since his wife discovered that he is the father of Kate, Ruth’s now-one-year-old daughter. He finds it very distracting, as does Ruth.

In Neil’s desk, he discovers a bag of white powder, and threatening letters. It seems someone wants their ancestors’ remains, taken by museum founder, Percival Lord Smith, and held by the museum, returned. When he mentions the threats to current owner of the museum, wealthy horse trainer, Danforth Lord Smith, the peer admits to ignoring similar correspondence from a group calling themselves The Elginists: his ancestor brought the bones here, and they belong in the museum.

Meanwhile, Ruth finds she has a new neighbour: Bob Woonunga is an indigenous Australian poet and author currently lecturing at the University of East Anglia, and a friend of local druid, Cathbad. Her cat Flint seems taken with him, and Kate is fascinated when he plays the didgeridoo. But does he have a hidden agenda?

When the Bishop’s coffin is eventually opened, there’s quite a surprise inside, and after they meet, Danforth asks Ruth if she will examine the bones Lord Percival collected to determine if they are all human bones. He’s especially proud of the four Australian Aborigine skulls, which he has no intention of relinquishing. Ruth is appalled to find that Percival’s haul is kept, unlabelled, in boxes that fill a forgotten basement room of the museum.

As he makes little progress with the drug trafficking case occupying the team, Nelson is a little concerned at how uncharacteristically quiet his best DS, Judy Johnson is, but then his attention must go to the second death associated with the museum. It surely can’t be coincidence?

In this instalment: Nelson’s difficulty with political correctness has him biting his tongue multiple times; Cathbad performs a ritual to remove a curse he’s convinced has been put on someone important to them all; Judy is having trouble with her marriage vows; Nelson’s wife, Michelle makes a surprising request from Ruth; and Clough has a closer encounter with horseflesh that he ever desired. There’s an excellent twist, and Judy is both very smart and very dumb when she’s put in charge.

The question of where excavated bones belong is explored, and Ruth tentatively reconnects with U of Sussex archaeologist, Max Grey. Horses feature, and snakes play a large part, although archaeology takes a bit of a back seat. The Aboriginal mysticism won’t appeal to all, and while some relationship issues are (sort of) resolved, others seem to be getting more complicated. The free filler short story that follows this, Ruth’s First Christmas Tree, is lots of fun, and #5, The Dying Fall is eagerly awaited. An addictive series.