Source: Review copy, Netgalley
Publication: 6th February 2020 from Quercus
Everything has changed for Dr Ruth Galloway.
She has a new job, home and partner, and is no longer North Norfolk police’s resident forensic archaeologist. That is, until convicted murderer Ivor March offers to make DCI Nelson a deal. Nelson was always sure that March killed more women than he was charged with. Now March confirms this, and offers to show Nelson where the other bodies are buried – but only if Ruth will do the digging.
Curious, but wary, Ruth agrees. March tells Ruth that he killed four more women and that their bodies are buried near a village bordering the fens, said to be haunted by the Lantern Men, mysterious figures holding lights that lure travellers to their deaths.
Is Ivor March himself a lantern man, luring Ruth back to Norfolk? What is his plan, and why is she so crucial to it? And are the killings really over?
I adore Elly Griffiths’ character driven Dr. Ruth Galloway series. A large part of the charm is getting to know these characters in great detail; finding out about their relationships, their children and how their personalities bring different things to the cases they investigate.
If you are a regular reader of this series, I guarantee that, like me, you will have urged Ruth to move on from her on/off relationship with the married D.C.I. Nelson, and shouted at her when she seems unable to do so. Not because Nelson is married, but because Ruth deserves so much more. Nelson doesn’t like Frank; he’s far too smooth and American for his liking and he’s not happy that Frank is so close to his and Ruth’s daughter, Kate.
So for me, it was something of a relief to find that in this 12th book, Ruth has literally moved on. She’s accepted a new job in Cambridge University and she, her current partner Frank and her daughter Kate are now living in Cambridge. Frank is kind and supportive and Ruth has recently finished a book, enabled by Frank to take time out at Grey Walls, a writers and artists retreat, run by Crissy Martin.
Though she doesn’t want to admit it, despite all of Frank’s attentions, Ruth misses her salt marsh cottage almost as much as she misses her regular interactions with Nelson.
So when Nelson is prompted to ask Ruth for help with a case, she can’t help but jump at the chance.
Ivor March has been convicted of the murder of two young women, found buried in his girlfriend’s, garden. But two women are still missing and Nelson knows that Ivor is responsible. He visits him in prison, looking to get Ivor to say what he has done with their bodies.
March agrees to co-operate, but only if Ruth is involved in the excavation. The previous forensic archaeology work on Ivor’s case had been carried out by Phil Trent, Ruth’s former boss. Predictably, Ruth jumps at the chance to be involved.
When it transpires that Ruth’s involvement is partly a result of her visit to Grey Walls, it’s clear that this artists retreat has a larger role to play in the disappearance of these two women than either Ruth or Nelson could have guessed. Weaving myth and folklore of the marshes with these cases, Griffiths evokes the Lantern Men of yore in this tale of women lead across the marshes to their deaths.
As Ruth digs for the truth, more than one life will be put in jeopardy before this case is over.
All of our favourite series characters are here, even Cloughie, who now has a patch of his own. Cathbad is in his element, dealing with the spirits of the marshes and never failing to be the solid dependable Druid.
Verdict. Unmissable for all Galloway fans. Griffiths cast of likeable and fabulously drawn characters come together again to solve a neatly plotted and elegantly told mystery.
Elly Griffiths was born in London. She worked in publishing before becoming a full-time writer. Her bestselling series of Dr Ruth Galloway novels, featuring a forensic archaeologist, are set in Norfolk. The series has won the CWA Dagger in the Library, and has been shortlisted three times for the Theakston’s Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year. Her Brighton-based mystery series is set in the 1950s and 1960s. She lives near Brighton with her husband, an archaeologist, and their two grown children.