Source: Review copy:
Publication: 7 February 2019 from Quercus
DCI Nelson has been receiving threatening letters telling him to ‘go to the stone circle and rescue the innocent who is buried there’. He is shaken, not only because children are very much on his mind, with Michelle’s baby due to be born, but because although the letters are anonymous, they are somehow familiar. They read like the letters that first drew him into the case of The Crossing Places, and to Ruth. But the author of those letters is dead. Or are they?
Meanwhile Ruth is working on a dig in the Saltmarsh – another henge, known by the archaeologists as the stone circle – trying not to think about the baby. Then bones are found on the site, and identified as those of Margaret Lacey, a twelve-year-old girl who disappeared thirty years ago.
As the Margaret Lacey case progresses, more and more aspects of it begin to hark back to that first case of The Crossing Places, and to Scarlett Henderson, the girl Nelson couldn’t save. The past is reaching out for Ruth and Nelson, and its grip is deadly.
And so it has come to pass. The baby has been born. And just as when Nigel fell off the Lower Loxley roof 8 years ago, this one is going to have repercussions for years to come. Forgive me if you are not an Archers fan, but in the best possible way I always equate the Ruth Galloway series with my favourite radio programme.
They have so much in common. Including lots of fabulously interesting characters in whom it is impossible not to be invested. The Ruth Galloway books have domestic dramas, children who grow up and develop characters of their own and lots to talk about outside of the main event. Just as I feel ready to relax into my radio programme every weekday evening, so I get the same satisfied feeling when I open a new Ruth Galloway novel.
You can read this book as a stand- alone, but as ever, I think you will get a great deal more from it if you read these books in series order. As it happens, The Stone Circle actually references events in the first book in the series, Crossing Places. Readers of this series may remember Erik Anderssen, who had been Ruth’s mentor.
Now dead, it is as if Erik’s ghost has returned, this time in the form of his son Lief. Leif Anderssen is heading up a Bronze Age dig in the saltmarshes not far from Ruth’s cottage. When old bones of a young girl are found, Ruth is called in to give her expert forensic archaeologist’s opinion. It’s not long before another set of bones is discovered, this time they are clearly more recent and DNA returns a match to Margaret Kirk, a young girl who went missing at a street party to celebrate Charles and Diana’s wedding in 1981.
A murder investigation is launched, and suspects at the time of Margaret’s disappearance are re-interviewed. DCI Harry Nelson is puzzled when he receives a letter like the one Erik sent in Crossing Places, and then Ruth, too receives a similar letter and the reader can’t help wondering if the presence of Lief’s son is more than coincidental.
For Ruth and Nelson, this case brings up so many memories of their first case together when their personal relationship began. That, too, was a case involving a child and it seems as if their relationship has somehow come full circle whilst at the same time they have to recognise that so many things have changed with the birth of Michelle’s baby.
Heading up the Serious Crimes Unit, DCI Nelson, together with Judy, Clough and Tanya are determined to find Margaret’s killer and find some closure for the family after so many years grieving for their missing child. And then a child goes missing and it is brought home to us how much of life is all about the children.
The Stone Circle has so many echoes and reflections that it is hard to resist going back in time to the early days of Ruth and Nelson’s relationship, and to reflect on what might have been. Now though, it is all about the children and how things will move forward. As ever in an Elly Griffiths book, nothing is as clear cut as all that, but I sense that there are opportunities here for Ruth if she is bold enough to take them. I am so looking forward to the next one.
Griffiths melds the past and present together to tell a rounded, fascinating story.
Verdict: A police procedural woven through with atmospheric locations and the fabulous characters we have come to love .
Elly Griffiths is the pen name of Domenica de Rosa and she has written four books under her own name. She was born in London in 1963 though her family moved to Brighton when she was five. She wrote her first book when she was a 11, a murder mystery set in Rottingdean, near the village where she still lives.
Elly read English at King’s College London and, after graduating, worked in a library, for a magazine and then as a publicity assistant at HarperCollins. She became Editorial Director for children’s books at HarperCollins.But it wasn’t until she was on maternity leave in 1998 that she wrote what would become her first published novel, The Italian Quarter.
Three other books followed, all about Italy, families and identity. By now Elly had two children and her husband Andy had just given up his city job to become an archaeologist. They were on holiday in Norfolk, walking across Titchwell Marsh, when Andy mentioned that prehistoric man had thought that marshland was sacred. Because it’s neither land nor sea, but something in-between, they saw it as a kind of bridge to the afterlife. Neither land nor sea, neither life nor death. Elly says “As he said these words the entire plot of The Crossing Places appeared, full formed, in my head and, walking towards me out of the mist, I saw Dr Ruth Galloway. I didn’t think that this new book was significantly different from my ‘Italy’ books but, when she read it, my agent said, ‘This is crime. You need a crime name.’ And that’s how I became Elly Griffiths.”