At this point in the series, it’s impossible to review a book in it without spoilers from previous books, so do yourself a favor and don’t read this review if you’re just starting the series, and for goodness sake, you will want to read them from the beginning anyway. They’re too good to skip any.
So, the big bombshell in the book before this one, The Chalk Pit, was that Michelle, DCI Harry Nelson’s wife, is pregnant at age 46. With Nelson’s pull towards Ruth Galloway, the star of this series and forensic archeologist, and trouble in his marriage, the pregnancy is a stunner to all. And, then there’s the matter of Michelle’s lover, Tim, who used to be on Nelson’s serious crime team. Oh, what a tangled web indeed. But, with such great crime stories contained in the Ruth Galloway series, isn’t the romantic storyline just a minor part. NO! Well, I may be a little over involved with these fictional characters.
The storyline in this thrilling new book take us to Italy’s Liri Valley when Ruth is asked by a fellow archeologist Angelo Morelli to come to Italy and help him identify some bones he has uncovered. He is hoping that Ruth’s expertise will help lure back a television filming of the event. For Ruth, who is still reeling from the news of Michelle’s pregnancy, it is an opportunity to take a much-needed vacation while still working. So, she and her six-year-old daughter Kate, Ruth’s friend Shonna, and Shonna’s four-year-old son Louis take off for a couple of weeks of relaxation and fun. But, all is not fun and games for Ruth as she discovers that the small hill towns of Italy have long memories that affect their attitudes toward everything, including archeological digs.
Castello degli Angeli is a town that is particularly sensitive concerning WWII memories and stories, when the Nazis occupied their area and the Resistance fought valiantly against the enemy. Even the apartment where Ruth and company are staying, an apartment that had belonged to Angelo’s grandfather, seems to hold dark secrets from that war. When someone is murdered in the town, Ruth’s work vacation becomes a little too reminiscent of her crime solving involvement back in Norfolk. The unexpected appearance of Harry Nelson in this Italian setting really brings home, well, home.
Nelson has left a worrisome situation back in Norfolk, although it’s one he thinks he has under control. Mickey Webb, a criminal convicted of murdering his wife and children, has been released from prison. Mickey threatened to get even with Nelson, who arrested Mickey, and before Nelson’s spur-of-the-moment trip to Italy, he spies the ex-convict walking in his neighborhood. But, a talk to Webb convinces Nelson that the man has gotten the message to stay away. There, of course, is more to deal with here in a subplot of unexpected danger.
In the previous novel, The Chalk Pit, there is a move towards Ruth and Nelson facing their feelings for one another. Michelle’s pregnancy throws a real monkey wrench into that. But, The Dark Angel continues the examination of feelings and commitments. The issue of whether the baby Michelle is carrying is Nelson’s or Tim’s and just what Michelle’s feelings are for Tim gives some room to still hope for a Ruth and Nelson pairing. But don’t expect any easy or final solutions to feelings in this book. You can expect a major shock at the end though.
The Dark Angel doesn’t come out in the U.S. until May 15th, but it is already out in the UK. I was fortunate to receive an ARC from the publisher and thus read it before its U.S. arrival. I’m publishing the review now and again right before the May publication date. There will be plenty of time for fans of this consistently thrilling series to pre-order Ruth Galloway #10. Fans will be rewarded with a tenth anniversary firecracker of a read.