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).
Forensic archeologist Dr. Ruth Galloway is back, this time investigating a gruesome World War II war crime. Now the beloved forensic archeologist returns, called in to investigate when human bones surface on a remote Norfolk beach.
Just back from maternity leave, Ruth is finding it hard to juggle motherhood and work. The presence of DCI Harry Nelson—the married father of her daughter, Kate—does not help. The bones turn out to be about seventy years old, which leads Nelson and Ruth to the war years, a desperate time on this stretch of coastland. Home Guard veteran Archie Whitcliffe reveals the existence of a secret that the old soldiers have vowed to protect with their lives. But then Archie is killed and a German journalist arrives, asking questions about Operation Lucifer, a plan to stop a German invasion, and a possible British war crime. What was Operation Lucifer? And who is prepared to kill to keep its secret?
This is an example of what I truly enjoy in a mystery series--the combination of the mystery in each book and the relationships between the main characters that carry on between the books. Griffiths is developing a number of the secondary characters too. I am particularly fond of the Cathbad, the druid, with his penchant for showing up unexpectedly but at just the right moment.
The main character, Ruth, is juggling an academic career and a baby and is finding the balancing act difficult. As an older mother and a woman who really didn’t ever spend any time in her life dreaming of weddings or babies, she feels out of step with the other mothers around her. And there are always people willing to judge without knowing the circumstances--just ask any mommy blogger! This is the reality that even married women with careers must face, that they will be judged for going back to work instead of devoting themselves to full-time motherhood. Frankly, I’d rather stick needles in my eyes than get relegated to domesticity, so I’m pretty sympathetic to Ruth’s situation.
Harry isn’t the guy that I would choose. He kind of isn’t the guy that Ruth would choose either, it just happened. But you know, I like him a lot better when I see him trying to bond with this baby! Maybe he’s not the complete jerk that I have been imagining for the first two books.
If you enjoy the setting for this series, I would also recommend A Siege of Bitterns by Steve Burrows. It also takes place in the Norfolk area, with the same darkly looming environment. It’s protagonist, Domenic Jejune is also a specialist, just in birds not archaeology. If it’s the relationships that entice you, try In the Bleak Midwinter, the first book in Julia Spencer-Fleming’s The Rev. Claire Fergusson and Russ Van Alstyne mystery series. Like this series, Spencer-Fleming’s series keeps me reading to find out where Claire and Russ are headed.
I like all three series, so if we have similar reading tastes, I would encourage you to sample them all.