Published by Quercus,
3 February 2022.
ISBN: 978-1-52940-965-9 (HB)
Being in lockdown was a strange experience for most people, and for forensic archaeologist Ruth Galloway and her eleven-year-old daughter Kate it threatens to be a lonely one in their remote cottage on the Norfolk saltmarsh, at least until they make friends with new neighbour Zoe. And of course, there’s always Cathbad on Zoom; morning yoga becomes part of their daily routine.
Meanwhile, for Ruth’s married lover, DCI Nelson of the serious crime squad, it’s business as usual. A suicide victim has been found in a room locked from the outside.
Mystery follows mystery for both Ruth and Nelson. What is the story behind an ancient skeleton found in Tombland, an area of Norwich rumoured to be haunted? Is there something linking a series of suicides, all women of a certain age who had previously shown no tendency towards self-harm? Why was there a fifty-year-old photograph of Ruth’s cottage among her recently dead mother’s belongings when she claimed to hate the place? And who exactly is Zoe?
A new Ruth Galloway novel is always a pleasure, and this one no less than the previous baker’s dozen. Dedicated fans get to meet up with old friends: Cathbad the druid and Judy his life partner, who is also a DI; spiky detective sergeant Tanya; Nelson’s daughter Laura; even Cloughie drops in for a visit, bending the rules as usual. For newcomers (are there any left?) it’s a good introduction.
As well as the mystery, which is a real puzzle right to the end, there are developments in the complicated relationship which links Ruth, Kate, Nelson and his wife. And plenty of spooky action around Tombland, especially are the story gathers pace towards the end, when the locked room theme takes on a whole different meaning. There’s even a missing persons thread, when two of Ruth’s students disappear from the hall of residence where they are meant to be spending lockdown; and the threat of tragedy waiting in the wings when one of the main characters falls victim to Covid.
The locked room has long been
something of a trope in mystery fiction, but if there’s one author who can be
relied on to find a new twist on it, that author is Elly Griffiths. The series
gets better and better, and this is one of the best.
Reviewer: Lynne Patrick
Elly Griffiths is the author of a series of crime novels set in England’s Norfolk County and featuring forensic archaeologist Ruth Galloway. The first in the series, Crossing Places, earned a good deal of praise both in Griffiths’ native country, England, and in the U.S. The Literary Review termed it “a cleverly plotted and extremely interesting first novel, highly recommended. Since then, Elly has written thirteen further novels featuring forensic archaeologist Ruth Galloway. The most recent is The Night Hawks. Recently she has written a second series set in the 1950’s featuring magician Max Mephisto and DI Stephens. There are six books in the new series. The Midnight Hour is the latest.
Lynne Patrick has been a writer ever since she could pick up a pen, and has enjoyed success with short stories, reviews and feature journalism, but never, alas, with a novel. She crossed to the dark side to become a publisher for a few years and is proud to have launched several careers which are now burgeoning. She lives in Oxfordshire in a house groaning with books, about half of them crime fiction.