The House at Seas End by Elly Griffiths: a Book Review

The House at Seas End by Elly Griffiths is the third Ruth Galloway Investigation. I enjoyed the first two more than this last one. I found the use of the present tense in this book grated on me more than the other two and I thought the mystery element less than satisfactory – I solved it straight away! But having said all that it was still an enjoyable book, because of the characters.

It’s all about Ruth, her job as a forensic archaeologist, her baby and its father, and how she copes with juggling work and bringing up a child, or rather how she struggles with it all.

The bones of six people are found in a gap in the cliff, a sort of ravine, where there had been a rock fall at Broughton Seas End. Seas End House stands perilously close to the cliff edge above the beach.

High up on the furthest point of the cliff, is a grey stone house, faintly gothic in style, with battlements and a curved tower facing out to sea. A Union Jack is flying from the tower. (location 51)

These bones aren’t as ancient as those Ruth usually investigates and date back to about fifty or sixty years earlier. Chemical tests indicate they are of German origin and there are local stories about strange happenings concerning the Home Guard during the war. The captain of the Home Guard was Buster Hastings, the father of the current owner of Seas End House, Jack Hastings. Does he know more than he is admitting?  Added to this mystery there is also the death of Dieter Eckhart, an investigative journalist to solve. Who wanted him dead and why?

This brings DCI Harry Nelson into the picture and as in the earlier books Ruth is drawn into great danger as she delves further into both mysteries. Other characters from the earlier books are also here – Ruth’s friends, Shona and Cathbad, the part-time Druid. I found some of the back stories slowed the action down too much for my liking and I just wanted it to move along. I found this at odds with the present tense, which does rush my reading. I really, really do wish these books weren’t written in the present tense!

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 475 KB
  • Print Length: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Quercus (6 Jan 2011)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language English
  • ASIN: B004MME2H4
  • Source: I bought it


8 thoughts on “The House at Seas End by Elly Griffiths: a Book Review

  1. A very fair review Margaret…I like Ruth and Harry and Cathbad so much I’m more forgiving than I would normally be but the plot of this one was not as good as the first two.


  2. Oddly, I thought this one was better than the first two. Each to his own. LOL. I also don’t mind the present tense thing though it is a bit strange I must admit. An odd thing to decide to do when you start writing a book. I agree though that the characters make it, Ruth and Cathbad being the two I like the most.


  3. Margaret – Thanks for this fine review. Like you, I like these characters very much, so I forgave the fact that the plot wasn’t quite as engaging as those of the first two. I go back and forth about the use of the present tense, although I know it does put some people off. In this case, I don’t think I mind it.


  4. You know, Margaret, I never really notice the present tense aspect. Isn’t that funny? While the mystery storyline was not as intricate, I loved the character development. I just finished this last week (after having ordered this book from Book Depository a while back) and I’m so ready for Book #4. That won’t come out until January, I think, in your part of the world. I love Ruth. I love Cathbad. I even love Nelson. Usually, the emotional nature of Nelson and Ruth’s relationship would put me off, since he is married. However, I don’t mind it for some reason. Not sure why. And didn’t the author leave us with a bit of a cliffhanger about the characters? LOL


  5. I agree with your review though I still enjoyed the book a lot for the characters of Ruth and Harry and the great dynamics between them. The present-day mystery plot was dead easy to solve and the historical one not to me credible as it did not gel with all the other things people alive at the time have told me about Britain during WW2 and people’s attitudes/behaviour. I can’t remember if this is the one with the subplot about Ruth’s friend from the former Yugoslavia war zone plus associated back-story – this again was well written but seemed a bit bolted-on.
    Nevertheless I am dead keen to read the next one as Ruth and Harry always seem to end each book on a fascinating emotional cliffhanger! And Ruth is a great character, I love her.


  6. Another vote against the present tense, but I am sure I´ll buy this one no matter what, and I´ll probably also enjoy it for the characters and the setting. It is a relief with a female protagonist who doesn´t have to run about in high heels, perfectly groomed while she solves one mystery after the other.


  7. I haven’t read this one yet but I liked the first two very much, for reasons others have listed.
    I love Ruth’s character because she is like a real person. She’s middle-aged, not sleek and in top physical shape. She doesn’t know five languages or karate, carry a gun or dress glamorously or have her hair done. She’s a middle-aged professor, living alone (well, now with a cat and a baby) and coping with her life situation who stumbles onto murders.
    I will always like this series because of Ruth, one of my top favorite women characters.


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