Friday, 24 February 2017

The Chalk Pit by Elly Griffiths

 
published 2017
 
 
Chalk Pit 2


They drive through King’s Lynn with Kate singing ‘Will you won’t you, won’t you join the dance’ all the way. Ruth decides to go back along the quayside which is beautiful in the evening as well as being a shortcut. As she stops at the lights near the Vancouver Centre she sees an odd sight: a metal trolley being pushed by a large man in a yellow shirt, a slight woman with her hair in a ponytail and a druid in a purple cloak. That must be Cathbad and Judy. Who are they with and what are they doing? But the car behind her hoots impatiently and she moves on.


Chalk Pit


commentary: The Dr Ruth Galloway mysteries just get better and better.

The Chalk Pit is about underground tunnels in Norwich, about some dead men and some missing women. It is about Harry and Ruth and their tumultuous relationship, about Ruth and her parents and about Ruth and her daughter. All the regulars have their parts to play, and there is the usual quota of jokes and witty remarks and commentary on people’s differing lifestyles.

I had to sit and read the final third of the book in one go, tensed up and completely involved. I was glad of two things – that Griffiths gave the aftermath of the events in the book a full followup (it drives me mad when authors simply cut off the story and don’t tell you what became of most of the characters) and that it wasn’t as harsh as it might have been.

I cared hugely about the fate of those involved, and the resolution of the main plot was very moving, and actually had me shedding tears. And that’s before we got to the final events in people’s personal lives… oh no, do we have to wait a year to find out what happens next?

As ever, I could quote from it endlessly…
- Nelson’s boss Jo Archer is a tremendous character: ‘Ruth isn’t going to be bossed about by a woman in tight trousers who thinks she’s Helen Mirren playing Jane Tenison.’ 

- Nelson finding the presence of his 20-something daughter awkward: ‘Damn Laura with her kindness and domesticity. Shouldn’t she be out at a rave with an unsuitable boyfriend? Where did they go wrong as parents?’ 

- Ruth knows that the camera is meant to add ten pounds but in her case it felt more like fifty. When she appeared on screen in her white coat it looked like there had been an avalanche.

But the book is also, below its dancing quick-witted plot, about the way we operate as a society, about the poor and under-privileged, about those who aren’t coping with modern life, about the homeless and their helpers. It’s about the way women are perceived and treated, about the values we live by and would wish to live by, about the contrasts in our daily lives. It is an amazing achievement.

I wish there was a new Elly Griffiths book every month.

The tunnels in the picture are beneath Nottingham, but look like the Norwich ones sounded. The young people digging are part of a WPA project in the USA in the 1930s.













21 comments:

  1. So glad you enjoyed this one, Moira. I think you've hit on part of what makes these books work so well. Griffiths makes you really care about the characters. You want to know what becomes of them. And I have enjoyed the evolution of the main characters over time.

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    1. Elly Griffiths can do no wrong for me! I look forward to many more books by her...

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  2. Not tried this author, nor is she in the tubs. Tangentially speaking I have read up on the tunnels of Cu Chi, albeit a long time ago!

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    1. Mysterious tunnel talk! This isn't the most noir series, perhaps not your thing, but I'm sure you'd enjoy if you ever did read her.

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  3. I love Ruth and Harry and Cathbad and generally enjoy the stories but must admit to being a bit 'over' the whole Ruth/Harry/Michelle/Whatsisname melodrama element of the series. But you've convinced me not to give up on it all.

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    1. You're a hard woman Bernadette! I'd read them if there was no crime, I just do want to know more about the mysterious love quadrangle. But I can see others might feel differently, I suppose you are allowed your view....

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    2. I have a friend who reads this series too - we take it in turns to buy the next one in the series then loan it to each other - I skim read the love quadrangle bits and she skims the crime solving bits :)

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  4. Would you say it's worth starting with this one? Or do you think I should really go back to the first in the series? TIA.

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    1. Oh no, you must start earlier to gather all of the character threads. I read these books as I could find them, of course out of order, and missed some of the nuances.

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    2. I've only read the first couple, then I've had to jump to this one as I'm reviewing it, and it is VERY funny. Like you, I marked lots of quotable bits - including the one about the rave! I love the way that Ruth brings a salad into work but ends up eating something else for lunch!

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    3. Paula: You would get more out of them if you read them in order, but you don't have to.
      Aubrey: I do know what you mean - I did some re-reading of the books recently, and it was strange to see early versions of the characters.
      Linda: I know - this happens to me all the time, I get a review copy of a new book before catching up on the series. Always a dilemma!

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    4. O.k., there are eight books, plus The Chalk Pit?

      BTW, it was driving me crazy trying to read the writing on the WPA photo. Do you have a source with a larger version? It looks like it says LA County, so I was wondering where it was. Maybe an old Chumash dig???

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    5. Yes, eight books + Chalk Pit - though she also has another series (Mephisto, Brighton). Stick to Ruth Galloway for now.
      The picture came from the Orange County Register, does that make sense to you? I cannot track down the link right now. And (as you've discovered) it's a tiny image, hard to enlarge.

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    6. Thanks and thanks. Yes, the Orange County Register is a newspaper. I would guess they don't have a larger image either, but I'll look.

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  5. I probably say this every time, but I do plan to try the next two books in the series (The Janus Stone and The House at Sea's End). At least one of them fairly soon, I hope.

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    1. Go for it Tracy! (If only there weren't so many other books for all of us... )

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  6. I usually do not say this about series, but I'd start at the beginning and follow the order. There are too many developments and relationships that need to be unraveled in these books with affairs, births, divorces, etc.

    I love Ruth Galloway's character and her relationship with her daughter and friends.

    Am glad to see a new book out, will have to check in with the library. I'd go anywhere with Ruth, but the eastern coast of England is good enough for now.

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    1. Thanks! I've bought (and pre-ordered) all the books. Looking forward to them.

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    2. Yes, I don't mind when Ruth travels, but she has made me very aware of her home territory, an area I used to know a little.

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