Elly Griffiths’ Ruth Galloway is one of Auntie M’s favorite characters. Griffiths has created an original, smart woman who is very recognizable to readers as very, very human. In this seventh outing, THE GHOST FIELDS, Ruth is enjoying a summer dig with her archeology students when DCI Nelson asks her to view a crime scene. Seconded to North Norfolk’s Serious Crimes Unit as a forensic archeologist has had a profound effect on Ruth’s personal life in more ways than one.
Nelson explains that a builder, Edward Spens, had equipment digging for a new development in the fields and has found a plane, probably WWII, buried in a field–with a pilot is still inside. The plane is American, probably from the nearby Lockwell Heath airbase, but Ruth feels the dirt around the plane has been more recently disturbed and that the dead man has been posed in the cockpit.
Then Ruth announces that this was not an incident of a downed plane during the war: the pilot sports a bullet hole through the middle of his forehead.
The pilot and the land tie in to the Blackstock family, a disparate group with several generations living in the nearby manor house, others emigrated to the US, and a grandson running a pig farm, which comes into play in a particularly grisly manner.
Complicating Ruth and Nelson’s investigation is the appearance of American documentarian Frank Barker, the academic who Ruth met when filming the program Women Who Kill. Despite an attraction at the time, it’s been over a year since Ruth has heard from Frank, yet here he comes across the pond to head up an American film company and star in a documentary about Norfolk’s deserted airfields, those Ghost Fields as they’re known, and to muddle up Ruth’s investigation and her life.
It will take all of Ruth and Nelson’s smarts and his team’s efforts to unravel the complicated situation that is at the bottom of this mess once it becomes apparent there’s a murderer still on the loose in the Ghost Fields.
Griffiths adds to our interest with a nice interweaving of the lives of repeat characters besides those of Ruth and Nelson. They enhance rather than detract from the business at hand, a meeting of old friends as it were, and add a texture to the very human dramas that play out against the investigation. These atmospheric novels are strong, wonderful reads for any mystery lover. Highly recommended.