I’ve long admired Elly Griffiths’ brand of unshowy but emotionally complex crime fiction. The lead character, forensic archaeologist Ruth Galloway, has a close relationship with DCI Harry Nelson of the Norwich police force, and each volume in the series introduces new twists into their lives. It’s one of the few series that acknowledges the realities of blended families, affairs, child care and elderly parents, in the lives of the investigators. The series also switches between town life (in Norwich) and rural settings, and this episode, “The Chalk Pit”, is set in town, or under it – a series of chalk tunnels under the city appear to have been the setting for at least one crime. Ruth has been called to investigate some bones, that are too recent to be of archaeological interest.
At the same time, a number of rough sleepers have been murdered soon after speaking to the police, with one being found dead on the steps of the police station itself. The police are also investigating a series of women who have gone missing with startling abruptness. The connections between these events are teased out, until a final battle leaves one of the main characters fighting for their life.
I shouldn’t be calling this “country crime”, but my excuse is that Ruth, with her isolated home on the saltmarsh, is a countrywoman regardless of where the crime takes place. It’s a shifty excuse, but any excuse to read a Griffiths. With each successive novel, the touch is more sure, and as this is the 9th in the series, this is accomplished and absorbing writing.