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Archeology has always fascinated me because there is so much to learn from the past. And it is all around us, just waiting to be uncovered.

Granted, there is a lot more past under the ground in Norfolk, England than there is here in Twentynine Palms, CA. But then, people have been living there for a lot longer than they have been able to survive out here in the open desert. Not to say that there haven't been cultures here in the past, but the climate is not as amenable to village and community growth.

Britain has known thousands of years of settlements. So there is a lot more for archeologists to uncover. Dr. Ruth Galloway is one of those who love to work in the dirt and the trenches of history. Lest I confuse anyone, Dr. Galloway is not real, but a figment of the lively immagination of Elly Griffiths and the star of a mystery series set in the Norfolk area of East Anglia.

Elly Griffiths' novels are filled with a very strong sense of place. Much like Ian Rankin's Edinburgh, the north Norfolk shore is another character of the story. However, that is about all that her novels share with Ian Rankin. There is a lighter weight in these books that aim to entertain, and regularly hit their target.

I began this series with the first book, The Crossing Places and was disappointed with how quickly I solved the mystery. As much as I enjoyed the characters and the setting, I found the plot too simple for my tastes and decided to give up on the series. But then, as the days passed I found myself drawn back by the characters and the setting and for some reason read yet another book in this series, The Janus Stone.

In the Janus Stone, the plotting was much stronger and the characters were as engaging as they were in the introductory novel. And by the third novel, The House at Sea's End, I was completely hooked. Here was a series that did not encroach into my dreams at night but focused my attention firmly enough to allow total escape while being read.

I think this reviewer, Jack Batten, writing for The Toronto Star captured much of Elly Griffiths charm:

With the Elly Griffiths novels, the appeal lies in her books’ tone. Griffiths, a pseudonym for an Englishwoman named Domenica de Rosa, has found a writing voice that comfortably accommodates murder, romantic hijinks that veer close to soap opera and mysterious events of a sort favoured by writers of cozies. It sounds like a load that might make an ordinary little crime novel bend at the knees.

Yet as a writer, Griffith is far from ordinary — and a long way short of exotic. Working in her lightly comic style, she soon conveys the idea that, while serious business is often afoot in her books, along with fairly twisty yarns, it’s not anything worth losing sleep over. What we have here, Griffith keeps reminding us in her very personal way, is an entertainment. So, she’s saying, don’t go all gloomy on me.

On the other hand, she has no problem in painting a rather gloomy, landscape filled with
mysterious whispers of past lives.
“Everything is pale and washed out, grey-green merging to grey-white as the marsh meets sky. Far off is the sea, a line of darker grey, seagulls riding in on the waves. It is utterly desolate and Ruth has absolutely no idea why she loves it so much.”

The Crossing Places

From her website:

When a child’s bones are found on a desolate Norfolk beach, Detective Chief Inspector Harry Nelson calls in forensic archaeologist Dr Ruth Galloway.  Nelson thinks he has found the remains of Lucy Downey, a little girl who went missing ten years ago. Since her disappearance he has been receiving bizarre letters about her, letters with references to witchcraft, ritual and sacrifice.

The bones actually turn out to be two thousand years old but Ruth is soon drawn into the Lucy Downey case and into the mind of the letter writer, who seems to have both archaeological knowledge and eerie psychic powers. Then another child goes missing and the hunt is on to find her. As the letter writer moves closer and the windswept Norfolk landscape exerts its power, Ruth finds herself in completely new territory – and in serious danger.

Written in clear, straightforward prose, The Crossing Places introduces us to the characters in an easy mystery. The haunting landscape, and its secondary characters, including a Druid, help draw you into this tale.

Ruth Galloway is an overweight, unmarried, 40 year-old professor of forensic archeology at the North Norfolk University who loves Bruce Springsteen's music and Ian Rankin's novels. She lives with her two cats in an isolated cottage on her cherished marsh on the north coast.

Detective Chief Inspector Harry Nelson is from Blackpool, married to a drop dead blonde with two teen-aged daughters. He hates the Norfolk coast. The interaction between Ruth and Harry create predictable (and enjoyable) sparks.

Again, from Elly Griffiths' website:

When a child’s body is found buried under a Victorian mansion, Ruth is called in to investigate.  The police, led by Detective Chief Inspector Harry Nelson, discover that the house used to be a Catholic children’s home. Nelson finds out that, forty years ago, two children went missing from the home. Is the body one of the missing children or does it go back to the days when the building housed an eccentric but very influential family?

Meanwhile, Ruth is involved with the excavation of a Roman villa in the Norfolk countryside. There the archaeologists find a child’s bones buried under a doorway. They think the child may have been a ‘foundation sacrifice’, an offering to Janus, the two-faced Roman God of doorways. The God of endings and beginnings.

Ruth finds herself getting close to another archaeologist on the dig but her relationship with Nelson is also becoming increasingly tense.  Then strange things start happening – headless animals are found on the site and Ruth’s name appears, written in blood. Finally, an even more gruesome discovery makes Ruth realise that someone still believes in the old, savage Gods. Someone who is prepared to kill...

This is where Griffiths' plotting becomes stronger and more complex. Also more satisfying. The fact that Ruth discovers she is pregnant adds weight to her character as well as her frame.
Broughton Sea’s End is the end of the line, a lonely seaside village slowly being destroyed by coastal erosion. A team of archaeologists studying the erosion comes across human skeletons buried below Sea’s End House, the fortress home of eccentric local MEP Jack Hastings.

Forensic archaeologist Ruth Galloway is called in to investigate. Ruth has just returned to work after the birth of her daughter and is finding it hard to combine work and motherhood. Ruth discovers that the bodies date from the Second World War.

This means a police investigation is needed, which means that Ruth will come face-to-face with Detective Inspector Harry Nelson, something she has been trying hard to avoid. Ruth and Nelson start to uncover the secrets of the war years at Broughton Sea’s End and it soon becomes clear is that someone is still alive who will kill to protect those secrets.

Trapped at Sea’s End House is a snow storm, Ruth and Nelson realise that the danger is very close indeed. Their only hope lies in Nelson’s colleague Judy and a local druid named Cathbad....
Website

This novel deals with family. With how we treat each other as family members, how hard it is to balance work and family, and how we remember each other.

Speaking of family, Elly Griffiths' husband gave up a successful career in finance to become an archeologist. It was during a story that he told her that the inspiration for this novel came to her as she discusses in this short video clip:

 

It’s Halloween and Ruth is attending a bizarre ceremony at a local museum – the opening of a coffin containing the bones of a medieval bishop. When Ruth arrives early she finds the museum’s curator lying dead beside the coffin. Nelson is called in to investigate; a difficult encounter as it’s the first time Ruth has seen Nelson since his wife learnt the truth about Kate’s parentage. Nelson discovers that the museum houses a collection of Aborigine bones and that the curator had been receiving threatening letters demanding the return of the relics. When the museum’s owner, aristocratic racehorse trainer Lord Danforth Smith, is found dead, events take an even more sinister and surreal turn...
I haven't gotten to this one yet, but it is on my short list of books to be read (yes, I now have a short list as well as a long list of books to be read). Judging by her past works, I would freely recommend this one as well. Even unread.

Engaging series, sort of cozy with lots of suspense and little to no graphic violence.

Readers & Book Lovers Series Schedule

DAY TIME (EST/EDT) Series Name Editor(s)
SUN 6:00 PM Young Reader's Pavilion The Book Bear
Sun 9:30 PM SciFi/Fantasy Book Club quarkstomper
Bi-Monthly Sun Midnight Reading Ramblings don mikulecky
MON 8:00 PM Monday Murder Mystery Susan from 29
Mon 11:00 PM My Favorite Books/Authors edrie, MichiganChet
alternate Tuesdays 8:00 AM LGBT Literature Texdude50, Dave in Northridge
Tue 10:00 PM Contemporary Fiction Views bookgirl
WED 7:30 AM WAYR? plf515
Wed 8:00 PM Bookflurries Bookchat cfk
THU 8:00 PM Write On! SensibleShoes
alternate Thu 11:00 PM Audiobooks Club SoCaliana
FRI 8:00 AM Books That Changed My Life Diana in NoVa
SAT (fourth each month) 11:00 AM Windy City Bookworm Chitown Kev
Sat 9:00 PM Books So Bad They're Good Ellid

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Comment Preferences

  •  These sound like my kind of mysteries ~ (10+ / 0-)

    Thanks, Susan!

    I love archaeology.  Especially in books.  But the only archaeological detective series I've read extensively is the Emily Peabody novels of Elizabeth Peters (Barbara Mertz, who was actually an Egyptologist before she became a novelist).

    To make the argument that the media has a left- or right-wing, or a liberal or a conservative bias, is like asking if the problem with Al-Qaeda is do they use too much oil in their hummus. Al Franken

    by Youffraita on Mon Aug 20, 2012 at 05:57:48 PM PDT

  •  BTW, I'm well aware (5+ / 0-)

    that this sentence

    the only archaeological detective series I've read extensively is the Emily Peabody novels
    seems to have a subject/verb agreement problem.  Thing is, "is" is the proper verb form for "series."  It's the subsequent "novels" that throws everything seemingly out of whack.  If anyone can tell me how to better formulate that, I'm all eyes, b/c it looked weird to me even in preview but I couldn't figure out a fix that wouldn't make it worse.

    Grammarian Kossacks, have at it!

    To make the argument that the media has a left- or right-wing, or a liberal or a conservative bias, is like asking if the problem with Al-Qaeda is do they use too much oil in their hummus. Al Franken

    by Youffraita on Mon Aug 20, 2012 at 06:01:27 PM PDT

  •  Interesting take on this series (10+ / 0-)

    I think I would agree although I have read only The House at Sea's End.   I liked the characters and the setting, and the tie-in to WWII and the German sailors who were murdered, but I think I found the ending somewhat unsatisfying, and I do not honestly remember why.  I think I read it because I spent a week in a cottage in the Norfolk area, and have driven along the coast a few times.

    I think Akin would not believe that Ruth became pregnant since she had sex one time only with Harry Nelson, and she must be lying about who the father is.

    Last week finished the latest Susan Hill mystery, The Betrayal of Trust. The series, for those not familiar, stars Chief Superintendent Simon Serrailler, a bachelor who is involved with an interesting extended family, most of whom are involved with the medical professions.  His sister, Cat, a doctor who champions palliative care, usually has an important role.  In this case, the sub-theme revolves around the subject of euthanasia and assisted suicide. Like your diary tonight, the case includes two sets of bones that have been washed out of their hiding places due to a tremendous rain storm.  Those of a 15 year-old girl are identified easily, but the other skeletal remains much less so, and the question of their connection and all that means forms the basic structure of the plot.  

    And Serrailler falls in love!  A pretty good series, by a well-known writer who has been nominated for the Booker prize and has won the Whitbread award for her literary fiction, none of which I have read.

    I think I shall try another Griffiths' mystery, and I will let you know what I think.

    Always appreciate this series and the work you put into it, Susan.  

    Right now I am attempting a mystery, What Alice Knew, about Henry, William, and Alice James and their entanglements with the mystery of Jack the Ripper.

    Cheers, and a good evening to you out there amongst 29 palms.  

     

    Just waitin' around for the new Amy Winehouse album

    by jarbyus on Mon Aug 20, 2012 at 06:03:34 PM PDT

    •  I found it strangely attractive. I don't really (5+ / 0-)

      know how to explain it, except that I liked her people and her setting. It was almost like a guilty pleasure in that it didn't have the heft I was used to.

      But I still liked it.

      I think I read about What Alice Knew, but haven't read it yet. Be interested in your take.

      Susan Hill sounds intriguing. Mysteries written by literary authors are always alluring.

      "I cannot live without books" -- Thomas Jefferson, 1815

      by Susan Grigsby on Mon Aug 20, 2012 at 06:19:05 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Thanks, Susan! (8+ / 0-)
    Here was a series that did not encroach into my dreams at night but focused my attention firmly enough to allow total escape while being read.
    Your thought fits very neatly with my Bookflurries for this week which has the theme of Escape...

    The best I can tell, my mother's ancestors came from Norfolk.  

    Somewhere, I have the name of the village and a cousin of my mother's actually visited it quite a while ago.

    I feel the same way about the Martin Walker mystery books set in France.   The first one was not that exciting, maybe, but I liked Bruno so I am going to read them all.

    I know what you mean about having different lists, too.

    I have learned that if I get really intrigued with a title that I should go and put it on my B&N wish list right away.   :)  It is my shorter list, but it has more than 200 books on it.

    Join us at Bookflurries-Bookchat on Wednesday nights 8:00 PM EST

    by cfk on Mon Aug 20, 2012 at 06:03:59 PM PDT

  •  You know me. I'm going to check the a-books out! (7+ / 0-)

    Thx Susan :)

  •  Another awesome dairy Susan, (6+ / 0-)

    thank you!

    I've been wondering about this series and was delighted to see your good report.

    The late Lyn Hamilton's Lara McClintoch was an antiques dealer but often was involved in archaelogical-type things.

    Yet another series that came to mind are the Em Hansen books by Sarah Andrews, although her amateur detective is a forensic geologist. Perhaps she was called in to assist at a dig in one book or another. She did seriously date a Mormon for a bit but Mummy didn't approve as she wasn't of the same faith.

  •  Didn't know about (6+ / 0-)

    this series, but it sounds interesting.

    I'm not a great fan of Amelia Peabody's, however, as they seem terminally arch. And I've never been much of an Egyptologist.

    I did finish reading Martin Walker's Bruno, Chief of Police, about the Dordogne. Fun, with lots of local history included. He's not a natural fiction writer, and you can see the information dumps, but the research is good and well done, so I didn't mind so much.

    I tried Bruno's method of making an omelet, and it was excellent. So I'll be looking for the others in the series.

    Yesterday's weirdness is tomorrow's reason why. -- Hunter S. Thompson

    by Mnemosyne on Mon Aug 20, 2012 at 06:57:24 PM PDT

    •  Ruth Galloway series lacks that arch tone. (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Youffraita, Louisiana 1976, Aunt Pat

      (First time I've read of a book being recommended for its recipes but I find that intriguing and I love omelets.)

      On a one to five star system I would give this series somewhere between a three and a four. It's entertaining.

      "I cannot live without books" -- Thomas Jefferson, 1815

      by Susan Grigsby on Mon Aug 20, 2012 at 07:06:29 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  The Dordogne is, in part, (3+ / 0-)

        known for its cooking.  It abuts the Bordeaux district, and is home to Lascaux Caverns.  I had the privilege of spending a few days there one August, and it's exquisite -- fantastic food, beautiful scenery...we spent an afternoon canoeing down the Vezere River....

        There were fields of sunflowers, and mountains with gorgeous overlooks of river valleys, the aforementioned cave paintings, Cap Blanc, and at the Hotel Cro-Magnon, heart-shaped truffle slices on the pate.

        If you ever have the chance, do go.  It's wonderful.

        To make the argument that the media has a left- or right-wing, or a liberal or a conservative bias, is like asking if the problem with Al-Qaeda is do they use too much oil in their hummus. Al Franken

        by Youffraita on Mon Aug 20, 2012 at 07:21:48 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  I wasn't recommending (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Susan from 29, Youffraita, Aunt Pat

        the Walker book just for the recipe(s). He does rather cleverly work the concept of slow food in throughout the narrative, and it works because good food is so important in France.

        Yesterday's weirdness is tomorrow's reason why. -- Hunter S. Thompson

        by Mnemosyne on Mon Aug 20, 2012 at 08:05:05 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  I didn't think you were, but it is what jumped out (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Youffraita, Aunt Pat, Mnemosyne

          to me, which says more about me than it does about the book or your comments ;-)

          "I cannot live without books" -- Thomas Jefferson, 1815

          by Susan Grigsby on Mon Aug 20, 2012 at 08:23:40 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Some college friends and I (3+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Susan from 29, Aunt Pat, Mnemosyne

            went to Pittsburgh for the weekend -- this was while we were all still in college, ergo many decades ago.

            Anyway, there was an arts/crafts show in some park/public space downtown, and so we went.

            There was a food truck.  Making omelets.  I stood there for, like, twenty minutes while my friends were browsing the handmade artistry.

            I was watching the guys on the truck make omelets.

            My friends had to come back and drag me away when it was time to go.

            Learned a bunch of stuff from watching, but the most important thing is, the eggs have to be at room temperature, and you have to learn the technique.  Oh, and NEVER let anyone else EVER use your omelet pan b/c they WILL ruin it.  (No, didn't learn that from watching, learned that from having some idiot ruin my omelet pan.)

            To make the argument that the media has a left- or right-wing, or a liberal or a conservative bias, is like asking if the problem with Al-Qaeda is do they use too much oil in their hummus. Al Franken

            by Youffraita on Mon Aug 20, 2012 at 08:33:16 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

  •  For some strange reason..... (0+ / 0-)

    I have an strong aversion to books written in the present tense.  So when I read "Everything is pale and washed out..." I want it to read instead:  "Everything was pale and washed out...."

    I'm not sure why this bothers me so much but I know I would be too distracted by it to read this series.  Otherwise it sounds like something I would enjoy.

    Human beings, who are almost unique in having the ability to learn from the experience of others, are also remarkable for their apparent disinclination to do so. Douglas Adams

    by Texnance on Mon Aug 20, 2012 at 10:21:43 PM PDT

    •  I tried reading one of them (0+ / 0-)

      And it was distracting.  I personally dislike present tense narration, which is a big reason I haven't read The Hunger Games and probably won't.

      •  I thought it was just me........ (0+ / 0-)

        And I used to dislike 1st person books too but got over that a long time ago.  Now I think more than half of the books I read are first person.....but never present tense.

        Human beings, who are almost unique in having the ability to learn from the experience of others, are also remarkable for their apparent disinclination to do so. Douglas Adams

        by Texnance on Tue Aug 21, 2012 at 04:10:29 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

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