This is a continuation of the Ruth Galloway series, and this book centres around the discovery of two sets of bones in very close proximity to each other in the Norfolk saltmarshes. Along the way a baby is kidnapped and a cold case is resolved, but not before another murder takes place.
Who are the main characters?
The two main protagonists are DI Harry Nelson and Dr Ruth Galloway from previous books, and they are supported by Harry’s family (Michelle, Laura and Rebecca), Ruth’s daughter Katie, and the police officers from previous books too, namely Judy, Cloughie and “Super Jo” , the boss. This book sees more of the supporting characters given a prominent role though, and it is less centred on Ruth and Nelson than previous ones.
Where is it set?
It is mainly set in Norfolk, although some of the (irrelevant) action takes place all the way across the country near Salisbury.
My thoughts on the book:
I have very mixed feelings about the book, so let me explain myself. First I have to say that I love this series, and would love to see them on TV, and the characters of Nelson, Ruth, Kate, Cathbad, Judy et al are all superbly drawn and utterly compelling and believable.
But – and it’s a big but – this book suggests that the series has run out of steam and the author has run out of plots and ideas of what to do with the characters. The plot of this one relies heavily on the first one of the series, and there are many similarities between this one and a couple of others that it feels like an updated version of them rather an a standalone, new novel. A buried child, a cold case, a baby’s kidnapping, a “will they won’t they” moment between Nelson and Ruth etc. It seems to have lost some of its mysticism that I love, where Cathbad (Michael) has turned into a boring house-husband now instead of the wonderfully colourful character he has been previously.
Another thing is that it is all written in the present tense, which gets a bit tiresome and difficult to read now and again. I applaud Elly Griffiths’ success in writing her novels in the present tense – I know how difficult it is to do that for any length of storytelling – but I wish that she wouldn’t stick to that particular style. For me, it doesn’t achieve the effect that she is probably aiming for, which is a sense of immediacy and urgency, and a feeling of being right there with the characters as they themselves find out the story as it goes along. Instead, I find myself irritated more times than I like to be that certain sentences or paragraphs would be better not written in the present tense because they sound so simplistic and contrived.
Finally, I am slightly disappointed in this book. Not only because it seems to revisit old plots and situations, but that it just didn’t seem to go anywhere and lacked a bit of oomph. I would have liked it to have been longer too because it felt like it had only just got going by the time it had ended.
It is a lesson to me as an aspiring writer that the characters are more important than the action and the plot. I love the characters as I have already said, but the plot in this one leaves a bit to be desired I’m afraid.
Will I read the next in the series?
Yes I will. I would hope that Elly Griffiths does a better plotting job next time, but yes please, give us more Ruth and Nelson!!!
Would I recommend it to my friends?
Yes, absolutely. If you haven’t read any of this series, then it’s best to read them from book 1 so you get the full ins and outs of the characters and their relationships, and it is great for anyone who likes crime, thrillers, archaeology etc. Nothing gory, not too heavy on procedural or forensics (hurrah!) and plenty about believable characters and believable actions and outcomes. Read them, please do.
Books in the series:
The Crossing Places – book 1
The Janus Stone – book 2
The House at Sea’s End – book 3
A Room Full of Bones – book 4
Ruth’s First Christmas Tree – short story
A Dying Fall – book 5
The Outcast Dead – book 6
The Ghost Fields – book 7
The Woman in Blue – book 8
The Chalk Pit – book 9
The Dark Angel – book 10
The Stone Circle – book 11