Summertime Reading!

Title: The Woman in Blue by Elly Griffiths. 4stars****

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin. Quercia books 356 pp

Genre: mystery, english mystery, murder mystery, historical, mystery, series

Author: Elly Griffiths is a British novelist of the Ruth Galloway forensic anthropologist crime series. The Galloway books need to be read in order for character development and overarching story. Her first book was The Crossing Places, with The Woman in Blue the eighth. This book takes place shortly after the last, but there is not a lot of personal development. These novels were inspired by her husband who became an anthropologist and her summer holidays in Norfolk; they now live in Brighton. She read English at King’s College and worked in publishing. Her writing is often poignant, atmospheric and compelling. Griffiths recently wrote a new 1950s crime series (Stephens and Mephisto The Zig Zag Girl and Smoke and Mirrors) that I also recommend. She also writes Italian novels under the name Domenica de Rosa.  

Story Line: The title is of course the Virgin Mary and we’re back with medieval legends in the religious town of Little Walsingham. Here the lady in blue is also the first victim in a puzzling modern day murder. Familiar characters, Nelson and his team, Cathbad, and Ruth cross paths and collaborate to solve the mystery. There are no old bones for Ruth this time; she’s looking into threatening letters an old college mate turned priest is receiving. She also provides much of the historical and religious insight into the town and characters. Ruth is accomplished, intelligent, a dedicated professional and a single mother. But she is still insecure and less self aware/too critical. She’s 45 with a five year old daughter. I usually enjoy catching up with the characters, but Ruth has not moved on from DI Nelson, and she needs to get a life. I’m beginning to think she’s codependent, not independent. But as always, Cathbad has his Druid moments, but he now is also a family man with wife Judy and their son and a ten week old daughter.

The lovely Norfolk landscape still plays a central role in these novels and l love the wildness, beauty, history and nature. I like that there are real snowdrops in February, justly famous and worth a visit. The British weather (unrelenting wind, rain) is so much more enjoyable from my sunny lounge chair. This is a solid, well written entertaining mystery for an enjoyable summer read.

Read On: 

Mysteries in Norfolk: Elly Griffiths The Crossing Places in order

Simon Beckett Dr David Hunter, forensic scientist in Norfolk in The Chemistry of Death

PD James Devices and Desires Adam Dagliesh (series)

American mysteries: Kathy Reichs Tempe Brennan series, an forensic anthropologist

PBS fans of Midsommer murders, Rosemary and Thyme, Inspector Lewis

Quotes:

Opening lines: Cathbad and the cat look at each other. They have been drawing up the battle lines all day and this is their Waterloo.

Well, if it isn’t Admiral Nelson himself!

Ruth is trying to write….rather to her surprise, she acquired a publisher, an editor and something called a ‘two book deal’…surely it wouldn’t hurt to check her emails….

Perhaps it is better to just believe things, as Cathbad does, without attempting to explain them.

Received gratefully as an ARC ebook from Netgalley.

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Ghostly Summer Read!

Title: The Ghost Fields by Elly Griffiths. 4stars****Publisher: Houghton Mifflin. 385pp. 

Genre: mystery, English mystery, murder mystery, historical, mystery, series

Author:

Elly Griffiths is a British novelist of the Ruth Galloway English crime series. The Galloway books need to be read in order for character development and overarching story. Her first book was The Crossing Places, with The Ghost Fields being the seventh. This book takes place two years after the last (The Outcast Dead), but there is not a lot of personal development. These novels were inspired by her husband who became an anthropologist and her summer holidays in Norfolk; they now live in Brighton. She read English at King’s College and worked in publishing. Her writing is often poignant, atmospheric and compelling. Griffiths recently wrote a stand alone new 1950s crime novel The Zig Zag Girl that I also recommend. 

Story Line:

The title comes from the deserted Air Force bases from WWII, as well as ancient burial sites from the Bronze Age (Galloway’s specialty) to the English Civil War. There were 37 airfields In Norfolk alone, with several shadow fields too. This particular ghost field is near the isolated Blackstone Manor where a WWII airplane, with body onboard, is discovered during an excavation. However, the pilot has a bullethole in his forehead and DNA that matches the local aristocracy. This is a cold case investigation with complications and present danger, of course building to an action packed ending with Ruth being in immediate danger in the terrible St Jude storm. There wasn’t much mystery for me as simple arithmetic would have narrowed the suspects. I think they should have provided the genealogy at the end of the book, not at the beginning. 

Dr Galloway is forensic anthropologist and professor which lives in a Norfolk salt marsh.

Ruth is accomplished, intelligent, a dedicated professional and a single mother. But she is still insecure and less self aware/too critical. She’s 45 with a five year old daughter just starting school. I usually enjoy catching up with these characters, but Ruth has not moved on from DI Nelson, although he remains married. I no longer care about their relationship. And then there seem to be numerous affairs. As always Cathbad has his moments, now a family man living with Judy and their son and new daughter. The Blackstock’s are a positively quirky, eccentric English manor family (I liked that one branch of the Blackstock family had emigrated to Vermont, and should have stayed!)

The bleak, lovely Norfolk landscape still plays a central role in these novels and l love the wildness, beauty, history and nature. The British weather (unrelenting heat to wind, rain and flood) is so much more enjoyable from my sunny summer lounge chair. It’s an easy summer read. Enjoy!

Read On: (mysteries in Norfolk)

Elly Griffiths The Crossing Places  in order

Simon Beckett Dr David Hunter, forensic scientist in The Chemistry of Death

PD James Devices and Desires Adam Dagliesh series

American mysteries: Kathy Reichs Tempe Brennan series, an forensic anthropologist

Quotes:

Opening line: It is the hottest summer for years. A proper heatwave, the papers say.

She thinks of sea sprites …and the ghosts of dead children singing under the sea.

Mrs Galloway was her mother. A formidable born-again Christian living in South London, within sight of the promised land.

The women in that family are worth ten of the men.

I’m sorry Frank, but there’s someone else. I think there always will be. 

Read as an ARC from Netgalley

Purchased as an ebook for a reread. First edition in the Stowe Free Library summer book sale!

Book Review – The House at Sea’s End

The House at Sea’s End
A Review by Kathy Pestotnik

There is nothing better than a good book-friend, and I’m grateful to mine for steering me to The House at Sea’s End by Elly Griffiths.

Ruth Galloway is a forensic archaeologist, university professor and single mom, and she’d be the first to admit that she has no idea which identity is primary. She’s new at the mom game and not entirely convinced that 4 month old Kate even likes her. Ruth is called in to direct a dig on a Norfolk beach when a team studying beach erosion finds human bones wedged in a cleft in a cliff. These are no random bones, but six complete skeletons (well nearly complete…one is missing a finger) with wrists still bound behind them, one still clutching a rosary. When Ruth discovers bullet holes in several of the skulls, the investigation widens to include DCI Harry Nelson, the very-married father of Ruth’s daughter. What follows is a World War II mystery that stirs up the passion and guilt of the living as well as the murky secrets of the past.

I couldn’t put this one down until I finished. Griffiths is a master of using word snapshots and snippets of dialog to create characters so vivid I swear I could point them out on the street. Warning: This is not the first Ruth Galloway mystery, though after a brief, enigmatic beginning, I thought it could easily stand on its own. But for those of you who prefer starting at the beginning, the first title is The Crossing Places, and the second is The Janus Stone. I will absolutely read them, but slo-oo-owly, so I won’t have so long to wait for number four.

This book is available at the Rochester Public Library.  For more information about this book or the author, you can visit the author’s website by following this link.