- Author: Elly Griffiths
- Published: February 2017 by Quercus
- Category: Crime, Mystery, Book Review, Books, Reading
Boiled human bones have been found in Norwich’s web of underground tunnels. When forensic archaeologist Dr Ruth Galloway discovers the bones aren’t as old as originally thought, it’s time for DCI Nelson to launch a murder inquiry. What was initially just a medieval curiosity has taken a much more sinister nature…
This is the ninth book in the Ruth Galloway mysteries. As there’s little to no chance of me catching up with every book, I’ve read enough to get a good sense of the characters and their stories. Dr Ruth Galloway is a forensic archeologist, teaching at the University of North Norfolk and living in an isolated cottage on the edge of the windswept Norfolk Saltmarsh.
DCI Harry Nelson, a plain speaking northerner with a soft side and an advocate of old fashioned policing, originally meets Ruth when he requests her input with a case he’s working on. An attraction builds between the two of them and although Nelson is married with grown up children, they have an affair which leads to a complicated relationship between Ruth, Nelson and Michelle, Nelson’s wife, centring around Kate, Ruth and Nelson’s six year old daughter.
It’s nothing to do with you, Ruth wants to say. Nelson is Kate’s father but, as Ruth elected to bring her up on her own, she doesn’t feel that he has any right to interfere. When Kate was born, Ruth was determined to go it alone: Nelson’s name isn’t on Kate’s birth certificate and Ruth has never taken a penny from him. But Nelson wanted to be involved and, thanks to Michelle’s magnanimity, he is now officially part of his daughter’s life. That doesn’t mean that he can decide on her extra-curricular activities though. To change the subject, Ruth says, ‘You were asking about the bones found under the Guildhall.’
The Chalk Pit finds Ruth investigating the discovery of bones in the chalk tunnels below Norwich, excavating and testing the bones to calculate their age. They appears to more recent than anticipated and DCI Nelson is called into the investigation. Running concurrently is the police investigation into the disappearance and murders of rough sleepers in the Kings Lynn area. The plight of the homeless, the unpredictable nature of their situation, how they are viewed by others is a main focus of the storyline and was approached objectively, with thoughtfulness. The concept of an underground community and history of the Norwich tunnels is sad and fascinating at the same time and the combination of social and criminal issues, plus historical facts works well.
I love the characterisations in this series, which is as much a part of the stories as the investigations and crimes. Ruth and Nelson aren’t your typical protagonists. Ruth is reserved, slightly overweight, a bit scruffy and highly intelligent. Nelson, impatient with certain office politics and procedures, he’s committed to doing his job preferably with the least possible amount of red tape. Both are completely realistic. Although their interactions are now that of friends, there’s still an obvious spark there as well as the bond due to their love for Kate. They’ve both grown and evolved with the progression of the series, as have the supporting characters, with more revealed about developments in their private lives and personalities.
Although the pace begins slowly it soon builds and maintains throughout. Vividly described locations add to the overall reading experience…’The Saltmarsh is beautiful in the afternoon sun, pale pink with sea lavender, criss-crossed by countless sparkling streams.’
Looking forward to the next instalment after the surprising twists and hints at the end of the book.
Elly Griffiths was born in London. The inspiration for her books about forensic archaeologist Ruth Galloway came from her husband who gave up a city job to train as an archaeologist. Elly lives near Brighton but often spends holidays on the wild Norfolk coast. She has two children and a cat.