The Night Hawks by Elly Griffiths
A dead body is found on the shoreline by a group of amateur metal detectorists who call themselves the Night Hawks. It is quickly linked to the deaths of two people at a nearby farm that has a rather dark history in the local community. Once again DCI Nelson finds himself with a complicated and confusing investigation on his hands, whilst battling his personal feelings and emotions around his family and of course, Ruth. Throw in a local legend of Black Shuck, a satanic dog that is the size of a small pony who foreshadows death and the threat posed to Ruth from a new upcoming colleague at the university, this is a book that is multi-layered with tonnes of interest.
Who are the main characters?
The main characters are Nelson and Ruth, but there is a large supporting cast of returning characters with the introduction of one or two new ones that keep the book familiar and fresh at the same time.
Where is it set?
As with the other books in the series, this is set in and around Norfolk, England in the present day.
Writing style, technicalities
It took me a while to get used to the writing style in this series of books, and even now, 13 books in it can jar a little bit sometimes. The main thing is that the narrative style is in the present tense, which on the whole makes me feel as a reader that I’m in there with the action, that the story is unfolding in real time but can be a bit disconcerting until you get used to it. That the narrator is telling us as things happen helps me as a reader feel that the ending of the story has not been revealed yet and literally anything can happen. It works on the whole but now and again a sentence feels a bit forced and the urgency of the present tense feels a bit clunky and false. However, it’s a great technique for helping that sense of “what’s going to happen next?” for the reader.
My thoughts on the book:
I have waited a long time for this book to come out (I think I pre-ordered it about 4 months ago) and I was absolutely thrilled when it landed on my Kindle this morning. The previous book in the series felt a bit tired and I feared that this one might have continued in that same way, but I was delightfully relieved to find that this was back on form. I love the way that the author spins two timelines in these books – the book-by-book story of body/death/murder/investigation/solution – and the overarching storyline of the main characters. I have to admit that I started reading this at about 9am today, and by teatime I had finished it. It has been a long time since I read a full novel in such a short space of time, but this one kept me reading long past the time when I should have been doing other things. There is just enough of everything to keep my interest in the story. Just enough technical jargon, just enough blood and guts, just enough thrill and wonder, just enough folk lore, just enough history, just enough mysticism, just enough romance… The thing is with all of these I wish there were more of each one, but that’s the gift of Elly Griffiths that she knows just how much rope to play out for us to become ensnared in the plot for it to be just enough and it leaves us wanting MORE.
Will I read the next in the series?
Absolutely YES! There is a big cliff-hanger at the end of this one regarding one of the main characters and I have to find out what their decision is.
Would I recommend it to my friends?
I would recommend it as a standalone, yes, but for anyone to get the full effect of this I would recommend that you read the others in the series first. There is enough description for a new reader to understand the references, but it’s like anything that is so far deep into a series like this, it is impossible for a new reader to understand all the nuances of relationships between the characters and the subtle subtext that is going on beneath the surface etc. The stories will stand on their own, but it’s better if they are understood in the context of the whole series.
A final word on this
I would absolutely love to see this series being made into a TV series one day. I don’t know if this has been in the mind of Elly Griffiths at all, but the way she writes about the wonderful, ethereal coastline of Norfolk and the larger than life characters within this police procedural style story just lends itself so perfectly for visual representation on screen. I just hope that if it does make it to TV the integrity of the written stories stays intact. It would be a shame to see them go the way that other successful book series’ have gone, such as Vera, DCI Banks, Shetland, Bones, Rizzoli and Isles, Wire in the Blood etc have all gone.
A couple of things tend to happen –
- the TV series quickly catches up with and then overtakes the book series and the episodes begin to grow away from the storylines in the books (I’m thinking of Vera or Morse here), or
- the other thing is that the writer begins to change the characters within the books to reflect the way they are portrayed on screen (I fear the Harry Potter books went down this route), or
- the TV series takes the characters and then loosely bases their series on the characters in the books and the reader ends up reading completely parallel but unconnected stories about their favourite characters (Rizzoli and Isles and Bones I’m looking at you here!).
So while I would love to see this series on screen, maybe it’s better not to push for that and to keep it perfect and intact as it is now. Hurry up Elly and write the next one!!