Elly Griffiths: House at Sea’s End Sunday, Mar 11 2012 

Elly Griffiths has written another intriguing mystery in this third novel set along the remote Norfolk coast.

Grittiths created the crime series featuring forensic archaeologist Ruth Galloway, a character Canadian author Louise Penny called an “inspired creation.” Crossing Places, the series debut, won the Mary Higgins Clark Award. It brought Ruth into contact with DCI Harry Nelson, with surprising results that found Ruth pregnant. Griffiths advanced Ruth’s story in The Janus Stone, with a pregnant Ruth struggling to work and keep her baby’s father’s name to herself.

In The House at Sea’s End, Ruth is just back from maternity leave, learning how difficult it is to juggle being a mother with her demanding work. She’s called in to investigate when other members of her team, logging coastal erosion, investigate a rock fall and find human remains.

Handling childcare arrangements, leaving the infant daughter she’s fallen in love with, and worrying about this new case are all complicated for Ruth by the presence of Nelson, the child’s father. To make matters worse, Nelson’s lovely wife, Michelle, has grown fond of Ruth and enamored of the baby, remembering her two almost-grown daughters.

But back to those bones. Once exhumed, they turn out to be the skeletons of six men with their arms bound behind their backs, shot execution style. When bone testing confirms their age to be approximately seventy years old, Ruth and Nelson are led to investigating the history of the war years along this desolate stretch of coastline. Local Home Guard members patrolled the area at the time, anxious to protect the area from a German invasion.

When Home Guard veteran Archie Whitcliffe reveals a secret exists, he is killed before the details can come to light. Then a German journalist arrives, asking questions about Operation Lucifer. As the deaths mount up, Ruth and Nelson will try to unravel the secret that old soldiers have vowed to protect with their lives.

Griffiths has created an interesting mix with Ruth and Nelson. Ruth isn’t a femme fatale who seduced Nelson. Her feelings as she adapts to motherhood, from fear to delight, are spot on. Nelson, too, struggles with the thought of having created this new child whose life he won’t have involvement in the way he wants to. And then there’s his wife …

The forensic details are interesting and the history and archaeology aspects well researched. Add Ruth’s unusual friends to the mix, and you’ve got a small band of people surrounding Ruth who exasperate her even as they offer their support in well-meaning ways. Griffiths has created flawed people who are decent at heart–unless they are contemplating murder.

Auntie M is amongst the scores of readers who await Griffiths next Ruth Galloway outing, A Room Full of Bones, due this spring.

Simon Beckett: The Calling of the Grave Sunday, Nov 27 2011 

Simon Beckett’s novels featuring forensics expert Dr. David Hunter display the kind of in-depth research that keeps readers like Auntie M coming back. With his painstaking approach to detail Beckett’s novels have a sense of authenticity that at times is eerie, and which applies to other character’s specialties, as well.

When Beckett was writing for the Daily Telegraph Magazine, one assignment took him on a field trip to the world-famous Anthropological Research Facility in Tennessee known as The Body Farm. That visit inspired not only the character of David Hunter, but this recent offering in the series, The Calling of the Grave. “Nothing stays hidden forever” is the last line of the prologue and an apt theme for this absorbing novel that will end in an entirely different way from the reader’s first expectations.

Almost a decade ago a body was found buried on Dartmoor, presumably the work of the psychotic rapist and multiple murderer Jerome Monk. The bodies of two other victims, twin sisters, were never recovered. Called upon to be a part of the recovery team, Hunter is eager to be included in a search of the area when Monk offers to point to where the bodies are buried. The premise allows us to go back into Hunter’s private life as he recalls the the days of the first search, and brilliantly ties those events to others that have severely affected his life.

On the moors Hunter meets Leonard Wainwright, a Cambridge don turned consultant to the police, renowned as a forensics expert, especially in the area of archeology. Part of the team will be the local pathologist, Dr. Pirie, and also Sophie Keller, a Behavioral Investigative Advisor, who will advise on offender’s characteristics and motivations, and will help to plan the strategy and assessment of Monk. DI Terry Connors is a surprise: his wife and Hunter’s own were friends years ago and the men used to see each other socially.

The moor is beautiful described, in all its dark and wild glory, and provides the perfect setting for the shackled prisoner as he arrives after a decoy has shaken reporters off in a different direction. The real prisoner has a hulking presence, powerful presence, with a ghastly congenital indentation in his forehead, “as though he’d been struck with a hammer and somehow survived.” With his crooked mouth and small, empty eyes, the murderer has a chilling effect on those present.  

The the unthinkable happens: a nightmarish scenario develops and Monk tried to escape. With great difficulty the police manage to subdue and contain him, but not before he has ruined the career Sophie Keller. With Monk safely behind bars, Hunter returns to London and his wife and daughter–until his own nightmare begins.

Eight years later, Hunter is surprised to find Terry Connor on his doorstep. Both of their lives have changed, not for the better, and Hunter is not happy to see Connor. Then the detective tells him his news: Jerome Monk had suffered a heart attack, and on transfer to a civilian hospital, managed to break his restraints, subdue his guards, and escape into the night. When a panicked Sophie Keller contacts Hunter a few days later, begging him to visit her, he acquiesces. But Keller fails to show up at the pub where they were to meet, and Hunter drives out to her house, only to find her beaten into unconsciousness.

What happens next will bring Hunter into the realm of a murderer, as the members of the original search team begin to be hunted down and murdered, and Hunter realizes he only knows half the real story of the events of eight years ago.

This is a gripping and solid read, with the pacing ratcheted up as Hunter and Sophie try to flee from a maniac on the loose. Or is the real threat closer to home?

Another solid offering from Simon Beckett.

The Janus Stone Monday, May 30 2011 

I mentioned earlier that I would review the second Ruth Galloway novel by Elly Griffiths, Janus Stone, and one of my readers said it was good as the first. She was not mistaken.

This time the forensic archaeologist  is called in to investigate when builders demolishing a large ancient house uncover what appears to be the skeleton of a child. Bad enough, but its skull is missing. Found under the doorway, Ruth feels this might be a ritual sacrifice. While gathering her samples, DCI Harry Nelson, he of the complicated relationship with Ruth, becomes involved after it is revealed the bones are not ancient, and that the house was once a children’s home. He sets out to interview the Catholic priest who ran the home, who tells him forty years ago two children went missing, a boy and a girl.

When carbon dating proves the child’s bones are from an earlier period, Ruth maintains her ties to the investigation. She’s drawn more deeply into the case when it becomes obvious someone is trying to frighten her off it. They’re doing a good job of it, for Ruth is pregnant herself, and although she’s thrilled and determined to raise the child alone, is still dealing with telling her parents and friends about the baby, who include the child’s father.

Ruth is a grand creation, someone most women can relate to: an earthy, overweight gal who’s happy her pregnancy gives her a reason to stop trying to lose weight. Some of Ruth’s colleagues from the first novel, The Crossing Places, reappear, and add to Ruth’s wry sense of humor, which make these books a treat to read.

Griffiths does a great job of intertwining the emotional with the plot points and keeps them coming as the tension rises. There was one point at first where I thought she’d taken a jog off into the impossible, but her explanation and Ruth’s reaction to these events make that twist believable, and in the end, reasonable. Of course, that just makes me now anxious to read the third installment, due sooner than Ruth’s baby.

A

The Crossing Places Monday, Mar 28 2011 

There’s a wonderful new series out there from author Elly Griffiths, who lives in Brighton on the English coast with her husband and two children. The fact that her protagonist is so far from herself let’s us see this author’s talent immediately.  The Crossing Places introduces forensic archeologist Dr. Ruth Galloway. In her late thirties, Ruth and her two cats live in a remote area of the Norfolk coast on a marshy beach. with few neighbors. Griffiths has given us a Ruth who is overweight and considers herself a spinster. Combined with her wry humor and rare insight into people, readers are inspired to like her right from the start.

Ruth’s quiet life is about to change. Detective Chief Inspector Nelson enlists Ruth’s aid when a child’s bones are found on the beach. Nelson believes they are the remains of Lucy Downey, a child missing for over ten years. The unsolved case that has haunted him begins to haunt Ruth, and an unlikely alliance is formed. Along the way we meet Ruth’s colleagues at the college where she lectures, learn about her family and her mentors from the past, and meet her previous lover. The story is strong and suspenseful, with Nelson receiving taunting letters from Lucy’s abductor, containing bizarre allusions to the Bible and ritual sacrifice. Then a second child goes missing, and search intensifies.

The Crossing Places is atmospheric, with a distinct sense of place and layers of plot that have me already ordering the second in the series, The Janus Stone. A third is due out shortly. With first-rate characters and a chilling climax, the richness of this novel portends a distinctive addition to crime fiction.

CSI et al Friday, Apr 11 2008 

TV at our house is a mixed bag, now that our favorites are returning.

Doc politely suffers through all the CSI’s and Criminal Minds in return for Number3 and Speed channel; we both enjoy Bones and NCIS.  I use those forensic shows for my mystery novels and they’ve given me some neat ideas when they’re in the realm of possibility.

There is no question HOUSE is the favorite at ours, although Hugh Laurie’s still out until next week.  A new addition to the loaded DVR schedule is Canterbury’s Law, ending this week already, but quite good with the emotional and tough Julia Margolies as an unusual defense lawyer with a jumbled personal life.  Did I mention Aiden Quinn plays her husband?

Doc’s Nascar on Sunday afternoon’s  is nicely balanced by my BBCAmerica and Masterpiece Theatre at night.  And of course, the occasional Ace of Cakes on the Food Network.

To see this all, it would seem we are glued to the TV, but mostly we watch the DVR’s stuff in bed,  relaxing in comfort after a hard day of other chores, and amidst other thoughts…but that’s another topic entirely~

Lee Lofland

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Lee Lofland

The Graveyard Shift

S L Hollister, author

Welcome to Leeward

Liz Loves Books

The Wonderful World of Reading

The Life of Guppy

the care and feeding of our little fish

dru's book musings

Reading is a wonderful adventure!

JoHanna Massey

"I tramp the perpetual journey." Walt Whitman

MiddleSisterReviews.com

(mid'-l sis'-tǝr) n. the reader's favorite sister

My train of thoughts on...

Smile! Don't look back in anger.

K.R. Morrison, Author

My author site--news and other stuff about books and things

The Wickeds

Wicked Good Mysteries

John Bainbridge Writer

Indie Writer and Publisher

Some Days You Do ...

Writers & Writing, my own & other people's; movies, art, music & the search for a perfect flat white - the bits & pieces of a writing life.

Gaslight Crime

Authors and reviewers of historical crime fiction

Crimezine

#1 for Crime

Mellotone70Up

John Harvey on Books & Writing - his own & other people 's - Art, Music, Movies, & the elusive search for the perfect Flat White.

A thrilling Murder-Mystery...

...now being made into a radio drama

Past Offences: Classic crime, thrillers and mystery book reviews

The best mystery and crime fiction (up to 1987): Book and movie reviews