After 15 years of investigating dastardly deeds in deepest, darkest Norfolk, fictional forensic archaeologist Dr Ruth Galloway is about to tackle her last historical whodunit.

But, reassures award-winning crime writer Elly Griffiths, it won’t be the last that readers see of the popular character.

Elly is teaming up with Norwich department store Jarrold to bring this chapter of Ruth’s story to a close with the launch of the fittingly named The Last Remains at St Andrew’s Hall this Thursday, February 2. 

“I’m very excited for people to read this book, but I’m also a little bit sad because it’s the end, but only the end for now,” says Elly.

Book 14 in the series, The Locked Room, was set during the pandemic, which, she says was a time of reflection for Ruth and DCI Harry Nelson.

“I suppose like a lot of people, not, of course, the people on the front line who were so busy and put their lives on the line, I had time to think – and I think Ruth and Nelson in the book had time to think. And it had reached the point where the next book had to be the last and had to really bring the will-they-won’t-they story to a conclusion,” she says.

“I know some people are cross with me for having finished it, but I think they’d be even crosser if I dragged it out any longer and said at the end of the book ‘I’ve got something to say…’

“I feel really lucky to have been able to write 15 books – I think I only had a two-book deal at the beginning.”

The Last Remains starts in King’s Lynn, where builders working on a new café find a body buried behind one of the walls and Ruth is called in.

“She knows the body’s quite modern because she sees a pin in its ankle and it turns out to be that of a student from Cambridge who went missing about 20 years ago,” says Elly.

“So Ruth’s drawn into that investigation, not least because the girl was an archaeology student – and also the girl was a friend of [Ruth’s druid friend] Cathbad’s, which brings Cathbad’s past into the present.”

And that isn’t the only mystery which needs to be unravelled.

“I would say Ruth has a lot of decisions to make in this book,” continues Elly. 

“Partly, because her department at the made-up University of North Norfolk is under threat of closure. I wanted to bring that in because so many wonderful archaeology departments are being closed and I think it’s really terrible, so Ruth has that on her plate. 

“And also she has the future – what does she do with Nelson? But the story, I hope, does lead all the characters full circle.”

For the last book, Elly wanted to bring the story back into Ruth’s heartland. 

While the location the character lives in is quite vague, she has always imagined her cottage to be near Titchwell or Holme. And the university is just outside King’s Lynn.

“Also, I was in King’s Lynn, doing an event at the Duke’s Head, and I passed the Exorcist’s House and it set me thinking about ancient King’s Lynn and how the town really has had lots of incarnations and how I could dig down a bit, if you’ll forgive the pun, into its layers,” she says.

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Elly lives just outside Brighton – where she has set another series of crime novels – but has always loved Norfolk where her grandmother and aunt, Marjorie, lived.

A storyteller from a young age, she wrote her first crime novel – an Agatha Christie-style story called The Hair of the Dog – when she was 11, followed by stories inspired by her TV favourites Starsky and Hutch. 

She studied English at university and went on to work in publishing for HarperCollins – but that urge to write never left her.

As well as writing crime fiction, she has written romances under her real name, Domenica de Rosa.
“We used to spend quite a lot of time with my aunt, having holidays in Norfolk on her boat,” she says. 

“Marge was a very good storyteller and quite often told rather ghostly stories about Norfolk – the gorier the better, Marge loved a gory story. So Norfolk was already in my mind, with the holidays and happiness, but also that mysterious side.

“But really the whole Ruth Galloway series started when I was walking with Andy, my husband, and our children who were quite little then, across Titchwell Marsh.       

“Andy’s an archaeologist and he mentioned that prehistoric people thought that marshland was a sacred place because it’s neither land or sea, but kind of something in between. They thought it was a link to the afterlife, and that’s why you get bodies buried there, the so-called bog bodies. 

“And in that instant the entire plot of The Crossing Place came to me. And I saw a character called Ruth Galloway, who I knew would be an archaeologist - and where better place for an archaeologist to live than Norfolk?

"I think it’s the place that has more archaeological sites than certainly anywhere else in the country, but must almost be anywhere else in the whole of Europe. The oldest human footprints outside Africa were found at Happisburgh, people have lived in Norfolk a very long time.”

Elly has loved delving into Norfolk’s folklore and spooky stories while writing the Ruth Galloway novels – she’s a big fan of the Weird Norfolk podcast and has been inspired by the legends of the ghostly dog Black Shuck, the Lantern Men and the Sheringham Mermaid among others.

And it’s at this point in the conversation Elly reveals the exciting news for fans that in the autumn her archaeologist protagonist will be returning with her own guide to Norfolk.

“My publishers are going to be bringing out a book called Ruth Galloway’s Norfolk, which has some of these stories in: about the archaeology and history and some beautiful pictures. There’s an exclusive, it’s the first time I’ve mentioned it,” she says.

“It’s been an idea that’s been in all our heads for a long time and I’ve been doing the research as I go - I’ve got a whole file of stories about Norfolk that haven’t made it into the books. And having a bit of a pause with Ruth has given me time to put it together.

“I think that because people have lived in Norfolk for a very long time, and tend to stay once they’re in Norfolk, stories are passed down in a way they maybe aren’t in other parts of the country. There’s a great folk memory in Norfolk.

“It seems to me that writing about Norfolk you never run out of archaeology and you never run out of ghosts.”

The Last Remains By Elly Griffiths is published by Quercus Books and will be launched at St Andrew’s Hall, Norwich, on Thursday February 2, at 6.30pm, in conjunction with Jarrold.

Tickets cost £27, including a copy of the book. To book, contact