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 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 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 1579: A Room Full of Bones

Dr. Ruth Galloway is asked to attend the opening of a coffin that was found in the remains of a medieval church. It is marked as if it is the coffin of St. Augustine Smith, but the saint was supposedly buried in the cathedral. However, that coffin was found to be empty.

When Ruth shows up for the ceremony at the little museum belonging to Lord Smith, she at first thinks no one is there. Then she finds the body of the curator, Neil Topham, lying next to the coffin.

There are several plots in this novel, but Ruth isn’t as directly involved in them as in previous books. There is the mystery of who killed the curator. Then, an Australian indigenous man named Bob Woonunga rents the house next to Ruth’s while he attempts to get Lord Danford Smith to return some aboriginal skulls. Later, Lord Smith mysteriously dies after a short fever and hallucinations. While the police investigate these deaths, they are also trying to find the source of some high-quality drugs in the area.

Ruth herself has been keeping away from DCI Harry Nelson, the father of her daughter, since his wife Michelle figured out the situation. She runs into Max, an archaeologist who was interested in her when she was pregnant, and begins a tentative relationship.

This mystery was much more difficult to guess because of its many plot threads. Actually, it wasn’t so much a mystery as a thriller, with the police in danger instead of Ruth. Still, I remain interested in these characters and happy to read another in the series.

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Review 1535: The House at Sea’s End

Forensic archaeologist Ruth Galloway is called in by DCI Harry Nelson when a group of archaeologists studying a Norfolk cliff find a collapsed cleft containing bones. There are six bodies, their hands bound. Ruth thinks they are recent, within the last hundred years, and all men.

Ruth’s university determines that the men were German, and Harry’s team begins concentrating on a time during World War II when the Home Guard of the village, Broughton Sea’s End, was preparing for a German invasion. The Home Guard men were led by Buster Hastings, father of the current owner of Sea’s End House, near where the body was found.

In the meantime, Ruth is struggling with the balance between her work, at the university and for the police, and her baby daughter, Kate. She is also concerned because Michelle, Harry’s wife, has been trying to befriend her, unaware that Kate is the result of a harrowing night during Ruth’s first case with Harry.

Aside from one ridiculously easy clue, I found this mystery much harder to guess than the first two. I continue to be interested in the characters and the setting, although it looks like we may be in for major melodrama in the next book. I like the concept of this series, which is inspired by the profession of Griffith’s husband.

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Review 1528: The Janus Stone

In the second Ruth Galloway mystery, Ruth is called to a dig at a site of a mansion being converted to luxury flats, because bones are discovered under a doorway. The bones are a child’s, and Ruth is inclined to believe that the grave is more recent than otherwise.

DCI Harry Nelson begins looking at the building’s past as a children’s home. During that time, a teenage boy and his five-year-old sister disappeared. But the teeth put the death a little earlier, when the original family resided there.

This case hits Ruth a little more personally because she is pregnant. The child is Harry’s, the result of an emotional night during the last case, but Harry is married. Then someone begins leaving unpleasant surprises for Ruth.

Like with the first book, I easily guessed who the culprit was, in fact, almost as soon as the character appeared. It is hard for me to tell whether this would be obvious to most readers. I am interested in the characters, though, so I enjoyed the novel and look forward to reading more of the series.

I do want to say something about my Quercus paperback edition, which was not impressive. About halfway through the book, I came across a sticker that was printed over by the text of the book. Later, a half page cut zigzag fell out of the book. When I turned to that page, I found that half of the text was on the zigzag page and half was on the page fastened into the book, which was whole, leaving a zigzagged half-blank page. If the loose half page had fallen out of the book before I got it, I would not have been able to read that page.

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Review 1411: The Crossing Places

Even though I often tire of series fiction, I still enjoy finding a promising series, and Elly Griffiths’ Ruth Galloway series is off to a good start. I selected this mystery to have a suitable review near Halloween and also for Readers Imbibing Peril.

Ruth Galloway is a forensic archaeologist who lives by the Saltmarsh near Norfolk and teaches at the nearby university. Detective Inspector Harry Nelson asks her to help him with some bones that were found on a beach near where she participated in a dig five years ago. Harry Nelson was involved in the case of the disappearance of five-year-old Lucy Downey several years ago and fears they are her bones, but Ruth finds they are from the Iron Age.

A few months later, another little girl disappears from the area. Nelson begins consulting Ruth about the case, showing her the letters he received during the first case. Now, new letters are arriving.

Around this time, friends from the dig five years ago begin to resurface. Ruth’s professor Erik travels in from Norway, and her old boyfriend, Peter, reappears.

This novel is very atmospheric, using the bleak Saltmarsh effectively as a setting. The characters also are colorful yet believable. Although I guessed the identity of the criminal fairly early, Griffiths threw in some interesting red herrings. I’ll gladly read another Ruth Galloway book.

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