Guy suggests meeting on the Central Pier in Blackpool. It seems an inappropriately cheery choice of venue, heightened by the fact that it is the first really sunny day since Ruth arrived in Lancashire. The beach is filling up and on the pier the big wheel is already going round. Ruth and Guy sit outside the ice-cream parlour with mugs of tea and watch the children playing on the sand below, which, this morning, stretches far beyond the end of the pier. In fact, if Ruth strains her eyes, she can just see Cathbad and Kate building what looks like a sand henge. Kate is in her pink sun-suit with Hello Kitty hat and Cathbad has his trousers rolled up like a proper holiday-maker…
Guy tells Ruth that he is Lancashire born and bred... ‘I never expected to come back but I met Elaine and …’ Ruth waits. Guy looks up at the cloudless sky for a moment. Are you meant to look to the left or right if you’re lying? Ruth can never remember.
observations: Elly Griffiths’ detective books featuring Ruth Galloway, a forensic archaeologist, are quite wonderful. The parameters make them sound like many other series and heroines and investigators, but Ruth stands out a mile: she is a marvellous creation, funny, smart and self-deprecating, and so is Nelson, the policeman she keeps getting tied up with. Both of them can be very unexpected, and Griffiths’ style of allowing a stream of consciousness to any number of characters works very well, and allows for many, many jokes -
‘Coffee?’ he asks, showing her into his office.
‘That would be lovely.’
That’s what you think, Sandy tells her silently.
- plus even-handed reflections on various PC considerations and crime-solving tropes, and quick mean comments. The Elaine mentioned above will later say: ‘I’d been applying for jobs…but no one seemed to want to employ me.’ She looked at Ruth out of mad blue eyes. ‘I don’t know why.’
They have excellent plots too, and a raft of interesting regular characters. There are five books now – this latest one takes most of the characters from the usual setting on the Norfolk coast to Blackpool, for a complicated go-round of the Pendle witches (these are not by any means supernatural thrillers, but there is often some hint of another world), white supremacists, King Arthur, and a C-list university.
Links on the blog: What young people wear on the beach is discussed here – an early appearance of ‘sort of three-quarter length slacks.’ Gerty in Ulysses shows herself and her legs off to Leopold Bloom on the beach. This couple got married on the beach (and the woman in the picture has a faint look of ‘mad blue eyes’.)
This book was recently reviewed at Raven Crime Reads.
The picture, of Blackpool (a very traditional seaside resort in the NW of England) in approx. 1890, is from the Library of Congress collection.