The Night Hawks by Elly Griffiths

Quercus| 4 February 2021|e-book| Print Length 321 pages| My own copy| 4*

Synopsis:

Dr Ruth Galloway returns to the moody and beautiful landscape of North Norfolk to confront another killer. A devastating new case for our favourite forensic archaeologist in this acclaimed and bestselling crime series.

The Night Hawks, a group of metal detectorists, are searching for buried treasure when they find a body on the beach in North Norfolk. At first Nelson thinks that the dead man might be an asylum seeker but he turns out to be a local boy, Jem Taylor, recently released from prison. Ruth is more interested in the treasure, a hoard of Bronze Age weapons. Nelson at first thinks that Taylor’s death is accidental drowning, but a second death suggests murder.

Nelson is called to an apparent murder-suicide of a couple at the isolated Black Dog Farm. Local legend talks of the Black Shuck, a spectral hound that appears to people before they die. Nelson ignores this, even when the owner’s suicide note includes the line, ‘He’s buried in the garden.’ Ruth excavates and finds the body of a giant dog.

All roads lead back to this farm in the middle of nowhere, but the place spells serious danger for anyone who goes near. Ruth doesn’t scare easily. Not until she finds herself at Black Dog Farm …

My thoughts:

The Night Hawks is the 13th book in the Dr Ruth Galloway books. I’ve enjoyed the earlier books, despite the fact that they are written in the present tense. But it’s been a while since I last read one, 5 years to be precise and I’ve missed a few of them as the last one I read was the 9th book, The Chalk Pit.

So, Ruth’s life has moved on the three books I haven’t read! There is a Who’s Who of the main characters at the end of the book giving their backstories which helps if you haven’t read the earlier books, and reminded me of who they all are and their relationships.

Ruth, the central character, is now Head of the Department of Archaeology at her old university, the fictional University of North Norfolk, having been promoted after the retirement of her old boss, Phil Trent. Her replacement as the archaeology lecturer is David Brown, who Ruth finds annoying. She doesn’t really know why as they have the same academic speciality, the prehistoric era, particularly as that is partly why she employed him to teach the courses that she used to teach. She is also a special advisor to the north Norfolk police.

Her complicated relationship with Detective Chief Inspector Nelson, the father of her daughter, Kate, now ten years old, continues in this book. Nelson thinks of himself as an old-fashioned policeman. But Superintendent Jo Archer is keen to bring the force into the twenty-first century and wants him to retire. He dismisses that idea, maintaining that the police force needs his experience and know-how. He has no plans to retire and avoids talking to her whenever he can.

A body is found on the beach at Blakeney Point, a young man who Nelson guesses is an illegal immigrant, an asylum seeker, and then a skeleton, buried in a mound of what appears to be Bronze Age weapons, discovered by the group known as the Night Hawks when they were searching for buried treasure.

The police are also investigating what at first appears to be a case of murder-suicide at Black Dog Farm, an isolated farm said to be haunted by the Black Shuck. Shuck is the name given to an East Anglian ghostly black dog that is said to roam the coastline and countryside of East Anglia, a large, shaggy dog said to be an omen of death. And there had been quite a few sightings of such a dog near Black Dog Farm.

I was thoroughly entertained by this mystery, glad to get re-acquainted with Ruth, her family and her friends and colleagues. There is a really strong sense of place, so much so that I could easily visualise the scenes and gain a sense of what it’s like to be there at the beach, with the shingle and the sand dunes at Blakeney Point and the north Norfolk countryside.

I hope to read books I’ve missed, namely The Dark Angel, The Stone Circle and The Lantern Men, before too long, and then the 14th in the series, The Locked Room.

Book Beginnings & The Friday 56: The Lantern Men by Elly Griffiths

Every Friday Book Beginnings on Friday is hosted by Gillion at Rose City Reader where you can share the first sentence (or so) of the book you are reading, along with your initial thoughts about the sentence, impressions of the book, or anything else the opener inspires.

I’ve been looking through my TBR books on my Kindle and came across The Lantern Men by Elly Griffiths, the 12th in her Ruth Galloway series. I’ve read most of the series, so, I think I’ll read this next.

It begins with a Prologue:

10 July 2007

She has been walking for a long time. It’s funny but she hadn’t thought that there was so much space in England.

Also every Friday there is The Friday 56, hosted by Freda at Freda’s Voice. *Grab a book, any book. *Turn to Page 56 or 56% on your  ereader . If you have to improvise, that is okay. *Find a snippet, short and sweet, but no spoilers!

These are the rules:

  1. Grab a book, any book.
  2. Turn to page 56, or 56% on your eReader. If you have to improvise, that is okay.
  3. Find any sentence (or a few, just don’t spoil it) that grabs you.
  4. Post it.
  5. Add the URL to your post in the link on Freda’s most recent Friday 56 post.

Page 56:

It’s a note, scrawled on a folded piece of lined A4 paper.

‘If you want to know more about Ivor March meet me at The Hanged Man on Newnham Rd tonite at 7.30. Ask for John.’

Blurb:

Everything has changed for Dr Ruth Galloway.

She has a new job, home and partner, and is no longer North Norfolk police’s resident forensic archaeologist. That is, until convicted murderer Ivor March offers to make DCI Nelson a deal. Nelson was always sure that March killed more women than he was charged with. Now March confirms this, and offers to show Nelson where the other bodies are buried – but only if Ruth will do the digging.

Curious, but wary, Ruth agrees. March tells Ruth that he killed four more women and that their bodies are buried near a village bordering the fens, said to be haunted by the Lantern Men, mysterious figures holding lights that lure travellers to their deaths.

Is Ivor March himself a lantern man, luring Ruth back to Norfolk? What is his plan, and why is she so crucial to it? And are the killings really over?

Of course, now I want to know more. Do you?

Throwback Thursday: 3 June 2021

I’m linking up today with Davida @ The Chocolate Lady’s Book Review Blog for Throwback Thursday. It takes place on the Thursday before the first Saturday of every month (i.e., the Thursday before the monthly #6Degrees post). The idea is to highlight one of your previously published book reviews and then link back to Davida’s blog.

This month I’m looking back at my review of The Crossing Places by Elly Griffiths which I first posted on 8 June 2010. It’s the first book in the Ruth Galloway Mystery series.

Here’s the first paragraph::

When I started reading The Crossing Places by Elly Griffiths I nearly didn’t bother carrying on because it’s written in the present tense, but I’m glad I did because I did enjoy it and at times didn’t even notice the tense. This is a debut crime fiction novel, even though it’s not the author’s first book.

Click here to read my full review

Elly Griffiths was born in London in 1963. Her real name is Domenica de Rosa and she’s written four books under that name. Her first crime novel The Crossing Places is set on the Norfolk coast where she spent holidays as a child and where her aunt still lives. Her interest in archaeology comes from her husband, Andrew, who gave up his city job to retrain as an archaeologist. She lives in Brighton, on the south coast of England, with her husband and two children.

She has written 13 books in the Ruth Galloway Mystery series. The 14th book, The Locked Room is due to be published in February 2022.

The next Throwback Thursday post is scheduled for 3 July 2021.

My Friday Post: The Stone Circle by Elly Griffiths

Every Friday Book Beginnings on Friday is hosted by Gillion at Rose City Reader where you can share the first sentence (or so) of the book you are reading, along with your initial thoughts about the sentence, impressions of the book, or anything else the opener inspires.

At the moment I’m reading The Stone Circle by Elly Griffiths, the 11th book in the Dr Ruth Galloway mystery series. One of the reasons I’m enjoying it is because it has links to the 1st book in the series, The Crossing Places, and another is that I’m fascinated by standing stones and in particular by stone circles.

It begins:

12 February 2016

DCI Nelson,

Well, here we are again. Truly our end is our beginning. That corpse you buried in your garden, has it begun to sprout? Will it bloom this year? You must have wondered whether I, too, was buried deep in the earth. Oh ye of little faith. You must have known that I would rise again.

Also every Friday there is The Friday 56, hosted by Freda at Freda’s Voice. *Grab a book, any book. *Turn to Page 56 or 56% on your  ereader . If you have to improvise, that is okay. *Find a snippet, short and sweet, but no spoilers!

These are the rules:

  1. Grab a book, any book.
  2. Turn to page 56, or 56% on your eReader. If you have to improvise, that is okay.
  3. Find any sentence (or a few, just don’t spoil it) that grabs you.
  4. Post it.
  5. Add the URL to your post in the link on Freda’s most recent Friday 56 post.
  1. Grab a book, any book.
  2. Turn to page 56, or 56% on your eReader. If you have to improvise, that is okay.
  3. Find any sentence (or a few, just don’t spoil it) that grabs you.
  4. Post it.
  5. Add the URL to your post in the link on Freda’s most recent Friday 56 post.

Page 56:

Clough’s face gives nothing away. He hands over a Starbuck’s cup, which probably completely violates the karma of the dig, and looks around the trench with apparent interest. Ruth drinks the coffee gratefully.

~~~

Description:

DCI Nelson has been receiving threatening letters telling him to ‘go to the stone circle and rescue the innocent who is buried there’. He is shaken, not only because children are very much on his mind, with Michelle’s baby due to be born, but because although the letters are anonymous, they are somehow familiar. They read like the letters that first drew him into the case of The Crossing Places, and to Ruth. But the author of those letters is dead. Or are they?

Meanwhile Ruth is working on a dig in the Saltmarsh – another henge, known by the archaeologists as the stone circle – trying not to think about the baby. Then bones are found on the site, and identified as those of Margaret Lacey, a twelve-year-old girl who disappeared thirty years ago.

As the Margaret Lacey case progresses, more and more aspects of it begin to hark back to that first case of The Crossing Places, and to Scarlett Henderson, the girl Nelson couldn’t save. The past is reaching out for Ruth and Nelson, and its grip is deadly.

The Postscript Murders by Elly Griffiths

Quercus Books| 1 October 2020| 352 pages| Review copy| 4*

From the sleepy seaside town of Shoreham to the granite streets of Aberdeen, The Postscript Murders is a literary mystery for fans of Anthony Horowitz, Agatha Christie and anyone who’s ever wondered just how authors think up such realistic crimes..

PS: Trust no one.

My thoughts:

I enjoyed Elly Griffiths’ first DS Harbinder Kaur book, The Stranger Diaries, so I was keen to read the second book, The Postscript Murders. It’s very different, in a much lighter style and I think Elly Griffiths was enjoying herself writing this poking fun at crime fiction writers and the book world, with book bloggers and a literary festival. I really enjoyed it. It’s very readable, cleverly plotted, with interesting and well defined characters.

Peggy Smith is ninety, living in a retirement flat at Seaview Court in Shoreham. The book begins as she is ‘lurking’ in a bay window watching the world go by and writing down details of everyone she sees. But when Natalka, Peggy’s Ukranian carer, finds her sitting in her armchair by the window, she knows immediately that she is dead and suspects that something is wrong, especially when she finds a business card – ‘Mrs M Smith, Murder Consultant’. For Peggy is a woman with a past, who helps crime fiction writers with their plots and gory ways for people to die.

But Peggy had a heart condition and DS Harbinder Kaur certainly sees nothing to concern her about her death and initially she does not feature much in the book. Natalka enlists the help of Peggy’s friends, ex-monk Benedict, the local cafe owner and Edwin, who also lives at Seaview Court to help her investigate. When they find sinister notes with the threatening message We are coming for you, and Natalka and Benedict are threatened by a mysterious gunman who bursts into Peggy‘s flat, both D S Kaur and D S Neil Winston then take on an active role.

Their investigations lead them to Peggy’s author friends and another murder victim. Then Natalka, Benedict and Edwin then travel from Shoreham to Aberdeen to a literary festival to warn another of Peggy’s author friends, J D Monroe, Julie, that she too might be in danger, thinking she is the next victim. From then on the mystery deepens, and the suspects increase. There are plenty of red herrings and twists and turns, that kept me guessing throughout.

Many thanks to the publishers and NetGalley for my review copy.

The Stranger Diaries by Elly Griffiths

The Stranger Diaries

Quercus |1 November 2018|410 pages|Hardback|Library Book|3*

I knew very little about The Stranger Diaries before I opened the book beyond the fact that it is a standalone novel by Elly Griffiths, a murder mystery with a Victorian Gothic feel. It sounded different from her other books that I’ve read, so I was intrigued. 

It begins with the opening of the Victorian Gothic writer R M Holland’s short story, The Stranger, a ghost story set at midnight at Halloween. Clare Cassidy, an English teacher at Talgarth High, where Holland once lived, runs short courses for adults on his work. She is also writing his biography, hoping to discover the truth behind the stories that his wife fell to her death down the stairs, (there are rumours that her ghost haunts the building). Was his wife killed, or was her death suicide or an accident? And was the mysterious ‘Mariana’ his daughter? There is no record of either her birth or her death. 

But the main plotline is the modern mystery – that of the murder of Ella,her friend and fellow English teacher. A line, ‘Hell is empty!‘ from Holland’s story is found in a note beside her body. Ella, however, is only the first murder victim and gradually it becomes clear that the motivation for the killings centres around Clare. Is she a suspect or a potential victim? The story has three narrators, each one clearly distinguishable – Clare, her teenage daughter Georgia, and Detective Sergeant Harbinder Kaur, giving different perspectives on events. Excerpts from The Stranger are interspersed between the chapters along with Clare’s diary, in which she records her suspicions and fears that could hold the clue to the killings, and those about the police investigation. 

Overall, I did enjoy The Stranger Diaries. I liked the literary references to Victorian literature and the details about R M Holland (a fictional character).  I thought the characters were interesting, especially Detective Sergeant Harbinder Kaur. But I didn’t find either the short story, The Stranger, or the atmospheric setting particularly spooky and I thought the murder mystery was rather unconvincing, especially the ending. Maybe my expectations were too high – or maybe it’s the wrong time of year to read it, and Halloween and November would be more appropriate!

Reading Challenges: Calendar of Crime (the main action takes place in November) and the Virtual Mount TBR challenge.

 

My Friday Post: The Stranger Diaries by Elly Griffiths

Book Beginnings Button

Every Friday Book Beginnings on Friday is hosted by Gillion at Rose City Reader where you can share the first sentence (or so) of the book you are reading, along with your initial thoughts about the sentence, impressions of the book, or anything else the opener inspires.

I’m currently reading The Stranger Diaries by Elly Griffiths.

The Stranger Diaries

‘If you’ll permit me,’ said the Stranger, ‘I’d like to tell you a story.’

Also every Friday there is The Friday 56, hosted by Freda at Freda’s Voice.

30879-friday2b56These are the rules:

  1. Grab a book, any book.
  2. Turn to page 56, or 56% on your eReader. If you have to improvise, that is okay.
  3. Find any sentence (or a few, just don’t spoil it) that grabs you.
  4. Post it.
  5. Add the URL to your post in the link on Freda’s most recent Friday 56 post.

Page 54 and page 56:

Ty could be drunk or on drugs for all I know. high on something, the modern equivalent of opium, like Wilkie Collins.

Blurb:

A dark story has been brought to terrifying life. Can the ending be rewritten in time?

Clare Cassidy is no stranger to murder. As a literature teacher specialising in the Gothic writer RM Holland, she teaches a short course on it every year. Then Clare’s life and work collide tragically when one of her colleagues is found dead, a line from an RM Holland story by her body. The investigating police detective is convinced the writer’s works somehow hold the key to the case.

Not knowing who to trust, and afraid that the killer is someone she knows, Clare confides her darkest suspicions and fears about the case to her journal. Then one day she notices some other writing in the diary. Writing that isn’t hers…

What do you think? Would you keep reading?

My Friday Post: The Dark Angel by Elly Griffiths

Book Beginnings Button

Every Friday Book Beginnings on Friday is hosted by Gillion at Rose City Reader where you can share the first sentence (or so) of the book you are reading, along with your initial thoughts about the sentence, impressions of the book, or anything else the opener inspires.

The book I’m featuring this week is The Dark Angel by Elly Griffiths, one of the books I wrote about in my New Additions post on Tuesday.

The dark angel

Prologue

‘This grave has lain undisturbed for over two thousand years.’ Professor Angelo Morelli speaks directly to the camera. ‘This countryside has been the scene of invasion and battle from the Neolithic times until the Second World War, when the German troops fought Italian partisans in the Liri Valley. In all that time, this body has lain under the earth. Now we are going to exhume it.’

Also every Friday there is The Friday 56, hosted by Freda at Freda’s Voice.

30879-friday2b56These are the rules:

  1. Grab a book, any book.
  2. Turn to page 56, or 56% on your eReader. If you have to improvise, that is okay.
  3. Find any sentence (or a few, just don’t spoil it) that grabs you.
  4. Post it.
  5. Add the URL to your post in the link on Freda’s most recent Friday 56 post.

Page 56:

It’s still warm, but at least the murderous heat has gone out of the sun. She’s able to appreciate the beauty of the evening, the glimpses of the valley through archways and across rooftops, the scent of lemon trees and wild garlic, so deliciously un-English.

Blurb:

Dr Ruth Galloway is flattered when she receives a letter from Italian archaeologist Dr Angelo Morelli, asking for her help. He’s discovered a group of bones in a tiny hilltop village near Rome but doesn’t know what to make of them. It’s years since Ruth has had a holiday, and even a working holiday to Italy is very welcome!

So Ruth travels to Castello degli Angeli, accompanied by her daughter Kate and friend Shona. In the town she finds a baffling Roman mystery and a dark secret involving the war years and the Resistance. To her amazement she also soon finds Harry Nelson, with Cathbad in tow. But there is no time to overcome their mutual shock – the ancient bones spark a modern murder, and Ruth must discover what secrets there are in Castello degli Angeli that someone would kill to protect.

~~~

This is the 10th Dr Ruth Galloway Mystery and the first one to be set in Italy. I like the mix of archaeology, mystery and crime fiction in Elly Griffiths’s books and also the continuing story of Ruth and the other regular characters. Cathbad is one of my favourite characters and I’m hoping that he will have a bigger role in this book than he did in the last one, The Chalk Pit.

What do you think? Would you keep reading?

 

The Vanishing Box by Elly Griffiths

Publication date: 2 November, 2017, Quercus Books

Source: review copy via NetGalley

My rating: 3*

Blurb:

Christmas 1953. Max Mephisto and his daughter Ruby are headlining Brighton Hippodrome, an achievement only slightly marred by the less-than-savoury support act: a tableau show of naked ‘living statues’. This might appear to have nothing in common with DI Edgar Stephens’ investigation into the death of a quiet flowerseller, but if there’s one thing the old comrades have learned it’s that, in Brighton, the line between art and life – and death – is all too easily blurred…

My thoughts:

This is the fourth book in the DI Stephens and Max Mephisto series. Known as the ‘Magic Men’ they had been part of a top-secret espionage unit during the War.

It is set in 1953 at Christmas just a few months after the previous book in the series, The Blood Card and magician Max Mephisto is still sceptical about performing magic on TV with his daughter Ruby in a show called Magician and Daughter. Meanwhile his old friend, DI Edgar Stephens and his team are faced with solving the murder of Lily Burtenshaw, who had been strangled and found in her room tied to a chair, leaning forward and pointing to an empty crate with ‘King Edward Potatoes’ written on the side.

Max and Ruby are performing at the Brighton Hippodrome using a human sized version of the Vanishing Box in their act. The variety show also includes an act called the Living Tableaux, showing scenes from famous paintings or classical statutory, posed by a troupe of showgirls, naked apart from skimpy flesh coloured pants. Two of the showgirls, Betty and Janette, have become friends with Lily and are lodging at the same boarding house, but Edgar wonders if there is another connection between Lily and the Living Tableau? There is something so theatrical about the way the body was posed. Edgar and his two sergeants, Emma Homes and Bob Willis, begin their search for the killer, looking for motives and suspects. Then more murders are discovered and it becomes a desperate hunt to find the killer before he/she strikes again.

I enjoyed this book but for me there is too much focus on the main characters and their relationships. Edgar is engaged to Ruby, although Max is still not too happy about it.  However, his work means he isn’t able to spend much time with her. Meanwhile Emma’s feelings for him are getting stronger and their relationship deepens as she is drawn into deadly danger. Max’s relationship with Mrs M, his landlady in Brighton, is winding down and he is attracted to Florence, another one of the showgirls.

I liked the insight into the 1950s, particularly the theatre life. Illusion and misdirection play a large part – from the acts in the variety show to the murders, and all is not what it seems. The misdirection in the form of several twists and turns threw me off course.The clues are there, if you can but see them, yet I still had little idea who the killer could be until very near the end.

My thanks to Quercus Books and Netgalley for an advance review copy of this book ahead of publication on 2nd November.

New Books

Over the last few months I’ve been lucky enough to receive copies of these books for review. I’ve finished some of them and am currently reading a few, with more yet to start:

Birdcage Walk by Helen Dunmore – first published 2 March 2017 – set in 1792, Europe is seized by political turmoil and violence. Lizzie Fawkes has grown up in Radical circles where each step of the French Revolution is followed with eager idealism. Weaving a deeply personal and moving story with a historical moment of critical and complex importance, Birdcage Walk is an unsettling and brilliantly tense drama of public and private violence, resistance and terror.

The Square and the Tower: Networks, Hierarchies and the Struggle for Global Power by Niall Ferguson – publication date 5 October 2017 – non fiction. Most history is hierarchical: it’s about popes, presidents, and prime ministers. But what if that’s simply because they create the historical archives? What if we are missing equally powerful but less visible networks – leaving them to the conspiracy theorists, with their dreams of all-powerful Illuminati? I’m currently reading this book.

Fair of Face by Christina James – publication 15 October 2017. This is set in the Fenlands of South Lincolnshire, where a double murder is discovered in Spalding. The victims are Tina Brackenbury and her baby daughter. Her 10 year-old foster daughter, Grace has escaped the killer because she was staying at her friend, Chloe Hebblethwaith’s house at the time. Four years earlier Chloe had escaped the massacre of her family. DI Yates and his team face a series of apparently impossible conundrums.

Katharina: Deliverance by Margaret Skea – publication 18 October 2017.   A compelling portrayal of Katharina von Bora, set against the turmoil of the Peasant’s War and the German Reformation … and of Martin Luther, the controversial priest at its heart. The consequences of their meeting in Wittenberg, on Easter Sunday 1523, has reverberated down the centuries and throughout the Christian world. I have finished reading this book – my review will follow in the next few days.

The Last Hours by Minette Walters – publication date 2 November 2017. Historical fiction set in 1348 about the Black Death. In the estate of Develish in Dorsetshire, Lady Anne quarantines the people, including two hundred bonded serfs, by bringing them with the walls.  Ignorant of what is happening in the world outside they fear starvation but they fear the pestilence more. Who amongst them has the courage to leave the security of the walls? I’m currently reading this book.

The Vanishing Box by Elly Griffiths – publication date 2 November 2017. The fourth book in the Stephens and Mephisto mystery series. It’s Christmas 1953, Max Mephisto and his daughter Ruby are headlining Brighton Hippodrome, an achievement only slightly marred by the less-than-savoury support act: a tableau show of naked ‘living statues’. This might appear to have nothing in common with DI Edgar Stephens’ investigation into the death of a quiet flowerseller, but if there’s one thing the old comrades have learned it’s that, in Brighton, the line between art and life – and death – is all too easily blurred… I have finished reading this book – my review will follow.

The Hanged Man by Simon Kernick – publication date 16 November 2017. This is the  second in The Bone Field series, featuring DI Ray Mason and PI Tina Boyd. A house deep in the countryside where the remains of seven unidentified women have just been discovered. A cop ready to risk everything in the hunt for their killers. A man who has seen the murders and is now on the run in fear of his life. So begins the race to track down this witness before the killers do.