Review 1858: The Night Hawks

D. I. Harry Nelson calls forensic archaeologist Ruth Galloway to a site on the coast where a body was discovered nearby by some metal detectorists. The same detectorists, a club called the Night Hawks, have also found a trove containing a skeleton.

Ruth, as the new department head, has hired her replacement, David Brown, who is already irritating her. She finds him coming along to excavate the skeleton despite herself.

Although the young man found along the coast turns out not to have drowned, and in fact, is a local ex-con, the cause of his death is not immediately apparent. Shortly thereafter, two of the Night Hawks report hearing shots at a remote farm. A young policeman is the first onto the scene, where he discovers what appears to be the murder/suicide of a scientist and his wife, Douglas and Linda Noakes. A few days later, the young policeman is dead from an apparent virus, the same as, it turns out, killed the young man found by the sea.

This novel mixes in local folklore with an intriguing mystery. Further, it seems to be moving along Ruth’s relationship with Nelson, the married father of her child, even though they don’t actually spend much time together in this one. I’m still finding this series enjoyable.

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Review 1832: The Lantern Men

Anthropologist Ruth Galloway has taken a job at Cambridge, and she and her daughter Kate are living with Frank, the American historian she met several books ago. She has made this move for a promotion but also to make a break from Harry Nelson, Kate’s father and her married occasional lover.

But fate pulls her back to Norfolk and the Saltmarsh, which she dearly misses. Nelson has got a conviction against Ivor March for two murders of beautiful tall blond women, but he thinks March murdered two more women whose bodies were never found. Although the two women’s bodies were found in the backyard of March’s girlfriend, Chantal Simmonds, and his DNA found on them, he has insisted he is innocent, and he has several acolytes who believe him.

Now March has told Nelson he will divulge the burial place of the other two women on the condition that Ruth perform the forensics rather than Ruth’s ex-boss Phil. Ruth agrees, and when she disinters the bodies, she finds three, not two.

The deaths seem to center around a group of people who used to live in a commune. The men called themselves the Lantern Men and went out to rescue lost women. But the legend of the Lantern Men is more sinister.

This series continues to be excellent, both in the mysteries and in the private lives of the recurring characters. Although Griffiths pulls a little bit of a fast one in the identity of one character, I didn’t hold it against her. My only regret is that when I read this book I only had one more book to read in the series until the next one came out.

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Review 1789: The Postscript Murders

This second Harbinder Kaur novel begins with the apparently natural death of 90-year-old Peggy Smith. Peggy was a sprightly old lady with an interest in crime fiction who used to record everyone who passed her apartment.

Her carer, Natalka, thinks there might be something wrong about Peggy’s death. When she and a neighbor, Benedict, are packing up some of Peggy’s things, they notice that several mystery writers have thanked Peggy for her help. Then someone holds them up with a gun and takes a copy of an old murder mystery.

Dex Challoner is one of the writers who thanked Peggy. Natalka, Benedict, and Peggy’s friend Edwin talk Harbinder into attending a book event for Dex, and he admits that Peggy used to help him come up with interesting murders. He makes an appointment to meet with them later, but the next day he is found dead, shot in the head in his home.

This novel was certainly a page turner, so much so that I read most of it in one day. It has a light cozy feel to it, and clues galore. I found it an enjoyable read.

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Review 1770: The Stone Circle

Forensic archaeologist Ruth Galloway is called back out to the wooden circles on the Norfolk coast because bones have been discovered there, along with a hagstone. Ruth thinks they are quite likely those of Margaret Lacey, who went missing at the age of 12 in 1981. And so they prove to be. Ruth is also sure the bones have been moved recently from a more loamy soil.

Ruth has received a letter similar to the ones that arrived during her first case set near the stone circle. So has DCI Nelson, Ruth’s occasional lover and the father of her daughter Kate. Nelson had decided to leave his wife Michelle for Ruth when Michelle announced that she was pregnant. Nelson’s son Charlie has just been born.

One of the suspects in Margaret’s disappearance had been John Mostyn, but his crippled mother gave him an alibi. Now John lives by himself, a hoarder and a collector of stones, but Margaret’s family think he is harmless. Soon, though, he is found murdered.

The Stone Circle is another excellent mystery by Elly Griffiths. I am even more interested in Ruth’s private life, and the mystery itself is a good one.

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Review 1727: The Dark Angel

Here’s another review for RIP XVI!

Forensic anthropologist Ruth Galloway has been having a rough time lately. On the same day that it looked like Harry Nelson, the father of her daughter Kate, might split up with his wife Michelle for her, Michelle told him she was pregnant. Ruth’s mother died shortly thereafter. Now, after Detective Tim Heathfield sees her at a colleague’s wedding, he confesses to her that he is in love with Michelle and her baby might be his.

So, when she gets a call from colleague Angelo Morelli asking her to come look at some bones in Italy, she decides to go there for vacation. Angelo will put her and Kate up in an apartment in Castello degli Angeli, and her friend Shona decides to come along with her young son.

Ruth finds that Angelo’s request is mostly a ploy to get the producers of a television show he hosts interested again in his dig. However, she finds the atmosphere of the little medieval town strange, still full of enmities dating back to World War II.

For his part, Nelson is mildly concerned about the release from prison of Micky Webb, a man who paid to have his wife and children burned to death in their house. Nelson has seen Webb lurking in his neighborhood, but when he confronts him, Webb claims to be following a program that requires him to beg forgiveness of those he has wronged. He says he came to do that with Nelson but didn’t have the courage to knock. Soon, however, Nelson’s attention to this problem shifts when he learns there has been an earthquake in Italy where Ruth and Kate are staying. He and Cathbad jump on a plane for Italy.

In this novel, the emotional dynamics seemed almost more important than the mystery. However, I continue to find these characters interesting and enjoyed this installment in the series.

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Review 1683: The Chalk Pit

Forensic anthropologist Ruth Galloway is asked to look at some human bones that were discovered in old chalk mining tunnels below Norwich. Although at first glance she believes they may be medieval, they also show signs of having been boiled. Tests show them to be more modern, perhaps 10 years old or less.

Around the same time, a homeless man named Eddie visits DCI Harry Nelson because he is worried about his friend Babs, who has not been around for two weeks. As the team asks around for Babs, Judy talks to another homeless man named Bilbo, who says Babs may have gone underground. Within a day Eddie is found stabbed to death in front of the police station and Bilbo has disappeared.

The team’s attention is taken away from these events by the disappearance of Sam Foster-Jones, a suburban housewife who vanished from her home after someone came to the door, leaving her four small children alone. Nelson has a feeling that this disappearance is related to that of Babs and the deaths of Eddie and Bilbo.

This series, always entertaining, has improved steadily, especially in regard to the difficulty of guessing the solution. Ruth remains a likable character, and I still enjoy all the secondary characters in the series.

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Review 1663: The Woman in Blue

Elly Griffiths is getting much better at fooling me than she was in the first few Ruth Galloway books, so that is all to the good.

Ruth’s friend Cathbad is house- and cat-sitting in Walsingham when the cat gets out one night and runs into the cemetery. There, Cathbad sees a young blond woman wearing a blue cloak. He is about to offer help when the cat trips him up and the woman disappears. The next morning she is found strangled.

That day Ruth has an appointment to meet Hilary, an old school friend, for lunch in Walsingham. She is astonished to find that her friend has become a priest. Hilary shows her some threatening letters she’s received, apparently because she’s a female priest.

When Ruth gives DCI Nelson the letters, he seems inclined to think they might be connected to the murder. A few nights later, the women priests, who are attending a conference, go out to dinner, a dinner to which Ruth is invited. Afterwards, one of them is found strangled.

Although Ruth uncovers a clue, she is not directly involved in the solution of the murders. That’s okay, though, because Griffiths has created an ensemble cast of strong characters. If Ruth isn’t out there sleuthing in every book, Griffiths gets around the problem of the unlikelihood of an amateur sleuth being involved in so many murders. The Ruth Galloway series continues to be interesting and engaging.

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Review 1639: The Ghost Fields

Detective Harry Nelson calls forensic archaeologist Ruth Galloway when a bulldozer at a housing development digs up an American World War II airplane. In the plane is a dead man. Ruth is fairly sure the body was moved there, because its state indicates it was buried in different soil. Oh, and the man was shot in the head.

The American Air Force identifies the body through dental records as Fred Blackstock. The problem with that is that Fred was reported missing from a flight over the channel, in a different plane.

The investigative team finds that Fred’s brother George is still alive, although slightly dotty. His other brother, Lewis, returned from a Japanese prison camp with PTSD and eventually disappeared and is presumed dead. George lives in a desolate family mansion with his son George and George’s wife Sally. Their grown children are Chaz, a pig farmer, and Cass, an actress.

Ruth hears that her friend Frank, a TV historian, will be returning to the U. K. to film a show about Fred. Her feelings are mixed because they haven’t been in touch for a while.

A memorial service for Fred brings his daughter Nell and her family from the United States. During the reception, Ruth finds a likely disturbed area with the right soil in the family pet cemetery and believes it may be Fred’s original burial place. Ruth and another guest also spot a mysterious stranger on the grounds of the house.

I had some inklings about some of the threads of this mystery but ultimately did not guess the truth. It remains another perplexing mystery and thriller by Griffiths and satisfactorily advances the course of Ruth’s private life. My only fear about the series is that Griffiths seems to be advancing it at about two years in the characters’ lives per year in real life, which could result in a premature end of the series because of Ruth’s old age.

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Review 1619: The Outcast Dead

Elly Griffiths has always been good with characterization, but her mysteries are getting harder to solve, too. So, all is good with the series so far.

Forensic archaeologist Ruth Galloway is working on a TV series after her discovery during the excavation of castle grounds of a skeleton that may belong to “Mother Hook,” a Victorian childminder who was famously executed for murdering the children in her care. The show’s historian, Frank Barker, believes, however, that Jemima Green may have actually been innocent.

For Inspector Nelson’s part, he and his team are investigating the death of Liz Donaldson’s baby son. Her two other sons died as babies, but the deaths were found to be from natural causes. Something feels off about this one, though, and the forensics team finds indications of smothering.

The Donaldson case isn’t going very well when the baby of another couple disappears. This time, the police find a note saying that the baby is with the Childminder. Then another child disappears.

This time, I figured this one out about the time that one of the detectives did. Griffiths’ novels are always atmospheric and entertaining, and I continue to be interested in the characters.

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Review 1597: A Dying Fall

One day after forensic archaeologist Ruth Galloway hears of the death in a fire of an old school friend, Dan Golding, she receives a letter from him asking her to come look at some bones he’s found. He also expresses fear but does not say what he’s afraid of.

Ruth asks DCI Harry Nelson if he would find out whether there was anything suspicious about Dan’s death. He finds that Dan was murdered, flammable material stuffed through his letterbox and his front door locked on the outside.

Ruth then receives a call from Dan’s department head, Clayton Henry, asking her to look at the bones. The university is near Blackpool, and Ruth is embarrassed to learn that Harry is going there for a vacation with his family, but she decides to go anyway. She immediately begins receiving threatening texts.

When Ruth arrives at the university with her daughter Kate and friend Cathbad, she soon learns that Dan thought he found the bones of King Arthur in the ruins of a Roman town. The tomb is certainly convincing, but when Ruth sees the bones, she realizes they’ve been switched. So, where are the original bones and what’s going on?

This jaunt out of Norfolk is atmospheric, and the idea for the mystery is clever and original. I guessed the identity of the murderer but only because the person seemed the least likely suspect. It looks like there will be some shifting around of recurring characters, too, which happens in real life but seldom in mystery series and should be refreshing. As usual, I enjoyed this mystery.

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