I am currently reading my way through a long list of science fiction and fantasy titles. (http://www.npr.org/2011/08/07/138938145/science-fiction-and-fantasy-finalists if you are interested in the list).
When she’s not digging up bones or other ancient objects, quirky, tart-tongued archaeologist Ruth Galloway lives happily alone in a remote area called Saltmarsh near Norfolk, land that was sacred to its Iron Age inhabitants - not quite earth, not quite sea.
When a child’s bones are found on a desolate beach nearby, Detective Chief Inspector Harry Nelson calls Galloway for help. Nelson thinks he has found the remains of Lucy Downey, a little girl who went missing ten years ago. Since her disappearance he has been receiving bizarre letters about her, letters with references to ritual and sacrifice.
The bones actually turn out to be two thousand years old, but Ruth is soon drawn into the Lucy Downey case and into the mind of the letter writer, who seems to have both archaeological knowledge and eerie psychic powers. Then another child goes missing and the hunt is on to find her.
As the letter writer moves closer and the windswept Norfolk landscape exerts its power, Ruth finds herself in completely new territory – and in serious danger.
I’m still analyzing why I enjoyed this little mystery as much as I did. There are several factors, but I think I’m starting to put my finger on the appeal.
This book was like a cross between Lyn Hamilton’s Lara McClintoch mysteries and Steve Burrows' Birder Murder Mysteries. Like Hamilton’s main character, Lara McClintoch, Griffiths’ Ruth Galloway is an archaeologist. Like Steve Burrows’ main character, Domenic Jejeune, Ruth lives in Norfolk, in an isolated house on the saltmarsh.
Griffiths’ writing falls somewhere in between the two, not unusual for a first crime novel. Thankfully, she is much closer to Burrows in quality and her characters make up for a plot that lurches a bit from suspect to suspect.
Ruth Galloway is a wonderful main character. She is very, very good at her job (Iron Age archeology) but she is pushing 40, weighs more than she would like to, and is a bit sensitive about all the people around her who seem to think that marriage and children are the only possible fulfilling things in a woman’s life. I hear you, Ruth! Our Western culture has certainly decided that we women cannot possibly be happy without husbands and children and yet there are many of us out here who are doing just fine, thank you very much!
So, I obviously identify with Ruth, I adore reading about archaeology, I love Norfolk (although I have only visited there once), and I found the writing decent. The book encompasses both Christmas and New Year’s Eve, making it a wonderful little read during my Christmas vacation days from work. I will definitely be reading more about Ruth in the future!