A Dying FallPrehistoric man would have gone to bed when the sun set and not risen until it was high in the sky. And what makes us think they were so uncivilised? On days like this, when the alarm goes off at six, I think they probably got it right. It’s just wrong to get up when it’s still dark. But then I think that prehistoric woman may have told a different story. She was probably up at five cleaning the cave and feeding the pet mammoth.

My name is Ruth Galloway and I teach forensic archaeology at the University of North Norfolk. This means that I’m an expert on disease, decay and death. It also means that the police sometimes consult me in the course of their more gruesome work. This was how I first met DCI Harry Nelson, who was investigating bones found on the lonely marshland near my house. The bones turned out to be over two thousand years old but they led me into a case that involved very modern child abduction and murder. They also led me into a rather complicated relationship with the aforementioned Nelson.

I live in a cottage on the North Norfolk coast with my cat Flint and my daughter Kate. For most of the year my only neighbours are the wild birds that winter on the marshes and the crazed twitchers who will travel miles across the treacherous sands just to stare at them. Kate’s father is married (I told you it was complicated) and I’m not looking for another man in my life. I have my friends: Cathbad, a part-time druid, Shona, a fey English lecturer and Bob Woonunga, an Indigenous Australian poet. They’re not exactly typical Norfolk residents.

I feed Kate and Flint (one is a neat eater, the other usually gets cocoa pops in my hair), I drink coffee and try not to eat a third piece of toast. I got my figure back after having Kate, which is a shame as I was rather hoping to get someone else’s. Eight o’clock. Time to leave. I put my lecture notes in my rucksack (heavy because it’s full of flint arrowheads) and gather up Kate. I need to drop her at the childminder’s at eight-thirty. She – the childminder – is one of those women who make me feel inferior because she’s always perfectly groomed and made-up despite looking after three children under five. I have one child and it’s the most I can do to brush my hair. I do so now and wind a scarf round my neck in a pathetic approximation of chic. As I stagger out to the car, tripping on the trailing scarf, I try not to hope that my day will include, not just the vagaries of my students and the idiocies of my boss, Phil, but a visit from Nelson and the words: ‘We need your help, Ruth.’

Meet the author
Elly Griffiths was inspired to write about Ruth Galloway when her husband gave up a city job to retrain as an archaeologist. Previously she published four books under her real name, Domenica de Rosa (which she knows sounds completely made up). The Crossing Places, the first book in the series, won the Mary Higgins Clark award in 2010. The fifth book, A DYING FALL, will be published in March 2013. Elly has two children and lives in Brighton, on the south coast of England. Visit Elly at her website

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