by Elly Griffiths
This is a wonderfully atmospheric book about a university-based forensic archeologist, Dr. Ruth Galloway, who is brought in by the police to assess some bones found in the marshland near where she lives.
The burial site is near an excavation of a wooden henge that she participated in with her mentor, colleagues and friends during an idyllic summer years earlier.
That summer, she fell in love and was on the fringes of a controversy about removing the remains of the henge to a museum for protection. The local Druids violently opposed it.
Now, the police need help deciding how old the found bones are. The chief detective, Harry Nelson, both hopes and dreads that the bones will be those of Lucy Downey, a child abducted 10 years ago and never found.
As Ruth delves deeper into the mysteries of the marshes, the reader is led into the liminal spaces between sea and earth, earth and sky, ritual and science and myth and fact.
Ruth is an interesting character, independent, unattached and satisfied with her life at the threshold of 40. She’s not thin; she’s not fit; she doesn’t dress to attract or entrap. She lives in the center of a 100-year-old triplex cottage that has an unbroken view of the marshes, the beach, the ocean and the sky.
Giffiths is at her best when she’s describing the landscape, which almost becomes a character itself, hiding evidence in potentially fatal shifting sands and unpredictable tides.
The other books in the Ruth Galloway series are:
- The Janus Stone, 2010. Ruth is called in when builders tearing down an old house in Norwich uncover the bones of a child — minus the skull — beneath a doorway. Is this an ancient ritual sacrifice — or murder?
- The House at Sea’s End, 2010. A team of archaeologists investigating erosion on the north Norfolk coast unearth six bodies at the foot of a cliff. Ruth and DCI Nelson are brought together again to unravel what happened and when.
- A Room Full of Bones, 2012. Ruth is attending a special Halloween event at the King’s Lynn history museum — the opening of a coffin contained the bones of a medieval bishop. But she actual finds the body of the museum’s curator lying beside the coffin. Soon the museum’s wealthy owner is also dead.
- Ruth’s First Christmas Tree, 2012. With her daughter Kate now a year old, Ruth has decided it’s time to celebrate Christmas properly. But as she cleans house, buys a tree and presents, including one for the man who may or may not be her boyfriend, she discovers the best laid plans don’t always work out.
- Dying Fall, 2012. Dan Golding, one of Ruth’s old friends, wrote to tell her he had made a ground-breaking archeological discovery — then he dies in a house fire. Ruth goes to Blackpool to investigate. She soon finds herself embroiled in a mystery that involves the Pendle Witches, King Arthur — and Nelson’s mother.
- The Outcast Dead, 2014. Ruth excavates a body from the grounds of Norwich Castle, once a prison. The body may be that of Victorian child-killer Jemima Green. DCI Harry Nelson is investigating the cases of three infants found dead at home. When another child goes missing, Ruth and Nelson begin asking if there is a link to Jemima Green.
- The Ghost Fields, 2015. When a bullet-ridden body is unearthed from a buried World War II plane, DCI Nelson calls in Ruth to investigate. She soon realizes that it couldn’t be the pilot. DNA tests identify the body as that of Fred Blackstock, a local aristocrat who had been reported dead at sea. Adding stress to the situation, a TV company wants to make a film about Norfolk’s deserted air force bases, the so-called Ghost Fields.
- The Woman in Blue, 2015. Cathbad, the local Druid who has become Ruth’s friend after she cleared his name in The Crossing Places, sees a vision of the Virgin Mary in a white gown and blue cloak in the graveyard next to the cottage he is house-sitting. But when the body of a woman in a blue dressing gown is found dead the next day in a ditch, it becomes clear that Cathbad’s vision was more substantial than it appeared. One of Ruth’s university friends, now a priest, asks for her help when vitriolic anonymous letters targeting women priests begin appearing.
- The Chalk Pit, 2017. Ruth is asked to investigate a set of human remains found in one of Norwich’s many old chalk-mining tunnels. When she sees the bones she realizes they were boiled soon after death. Meanwhile DCI Nelson is searching for a missing homeless woman who rumors report has gone “underground.” Could there be a connection?
- The Dark Angel, 2018. Ruth is asked to come to Italy to help identified bones found in a tiny hill top town. Soon after her arrival, she begins to hear rumors of the town’s strong resistance movement during World War II and senses a deeply buried secret. Then, a modern day murder occurs.
- The Stone Circle, 2019. The past reaches out for both Ruth and DCI Nelson in the form of letters purporting to be from Ruth’s former mentor and the reason she started working with Nelson. But that person is dead — or is he?
- The Lantern Men, 2020. Ruth has changed her life — until convicted murderer Ivor March offers to make a deal and reveal where four, never-found victims are buried. The catch is that he will only do so if Ruth does the digging.
- The Night Hawks, 2021. When some amateur archaelogists with metal detectors uncover Bronze Age artifacts on the beach, Ruth is brought in. But alongside the artifacts is a recently deceased body just washed ashore. Not long after, the same group of amateurs stumbles across a murder-suicide involving a scientist and his wife.
Elly Griffiths is the pen name of Domenica de Rosa. She wrote her first book, a murder mystery set in Rottingdean when she was 11. In secondary school, she wrote fan fiction episodes of the television series “Starksy and Hutch.”
Born in London but raised in the Brighton area, Griffiths read English at King’s College London. She worked in a library, for a magazine and as a publicity assistant at HarperCollins. She eventually became editorial director for children’s books at HarperCollins.
She started writing a novel when she was on maternity leave in 1998. It became her first published novel, The Italian Quarter. Three other books, all about Italy, families and identity followed.
The plot of The Crossing Places came to her as she and her husband Andy, who had just given up his city job to become an archeologist were walking across Titchwell Marsh. Her husband mentioned that prehistoric man thought that marshland was sacred because it was neither land nor sea. They saw it as a bridge to the afterlife. Her aunt, who lives on the Norfolk coast, was also an inspiration by telling Griffiths myths and legends from the area.
In addition to the Ruth Galloway series, Griffiths has a second series featuring Detective Inspector Edgar Stephens and magician Max Mephisto, which is set in Brighton during the 1950s.
The books in this series (in order) are The Zig Zag Girl (2015), Smoke and Mirrors (2016), The Blood Card (2017), The Vanishing Box (2018), and Now You See Her (2019).
She also wrote the stand-alone mystery, The Stranger Diaries.
She and her husband live near Brighton but often holiday on the Norfolk coast. They have two children and a cat.