I could just say the same things each time Elly Griffiths has a new book out: that I love all of them, but my secret favourites are the Dr Ruth Galloway mysteries. How I bought the first one when it came out in paperback, and the NEXT DAY (having finished it) bought the 2nd one in hardback. Every subsequent one I have read immediately on (or before) publication. It is my favourite current crime series, and Nelson was long ago named (by me) as the thinking woman’s policeman.
Griffiths does great plots and the books are full of fascinating details of life and of history and archaeology and folklore. The Lantern Men of the title are terrifying – men who appear on the marshes (a continuing feature of the book) and lure people away with their lamps. It looks like there might be a modern-day version. The book starts with a successful trial: one man has been convicted of murdering some young women. But there are other women who went missing – might he be responsible, and if so can he be persuaded to reveal the whereabouts of the bodies?
Ruth – having now moved on both in life and geographically
– is living in Cambridge (left her cottage!), but gets pulled in to the North Norfolk case anyway. The convicted murderer used to live in a semi-commune, and his various ex-partners and friends are all on the scene, and keep turning up all over the case. It is a very tense story with a very cleverly-done air of unease at all times. Surely the convicted man cannot be innocent? But what were all those people up to in the shared house, and can we trust anything they say? Were they all as calm about events there as they claim?
So great plot. And still no final resolution on the question of Ruth and Harry. Will they ever be happy together… Elly G is pushing it ever onwards, but so long as she keeps writing the books, I will forgive her.
And there was a hint on social media that she has started the next one, thank goodness. I dread her finishing the series. Because (almost) beyond the plots and the riveting storylines, what I would miss is those moments that fill you with pleasure and make you laugh because of the way Ruth and her friends have had their characters built up over this long series of books.
‘I suppose I just freaked out a little.’
‘That’s understandable,’ says Nelson, in his ‘good with women’ voice which always makes Ruth want to throw something at him.And (requiring all 12 books to get the full effect)
It’s news to Ruth that Phil has ever worked too hard…They are all such complete, rounded characters – and it may even be that Cathbad is the best of them all: such an unusual person, but I find as I go through normal life I occasionally think ‘that’s very Cathbad’, it’s a useful defining trope. Anyone who has read the books will know exactly what I mean.
‘Thank you Cathbad. You should go on Mastermind. Specialist subject: General Weirdness.’
Cathbad laughs, obviously taking this as a compliment.Then later:
‘[We were] very respectful. My partner said some prayers.’
‘Is he a vicar?’ asks Denise.
‘No’ says Judy, feeling inadequate at the thought of describing Cathbad. ‘But he’s very spiritual.’He is wonderful, they all are, I love them all.
Roll on next year’s book. Along with whatever extra ones EG manages to fit in – she is extremely productive, while keeping to very high standards. Click on the label below to find her many entries on the blog.
My lantern men are American in fact, from a 19th century book called The Lure of the Black Hills by D Lange, via Internet Archive Book Images. No hills in the fens, but they had the look…
The books always have great covers, and I thought this new one was particularly atmospheric.
Now, Ruth famously doesn’t feel she has great clothes sense. So I was absolutely delighted to find a Pinterest page which might almost be called dress like an archaeologist – if I’d found it before I would have used it for Ruth every time (that's it above, and the woman in the practical clothes, picture higher up, is also from this page). NOTHING could be less like the Ruth we know and love, but of course I can give her some nice styles, I hope Elly G agrees. This page is GOLD for Ruth-fans. We know she likes Indiana Jones – and now look below at the shorts suits on this one (from Indiana Jones-Nerd Style by apreciativenonartist).
Just the job for a cold, muddy wet dig in North Norfolk. You go, Ruth.