My power went out this past Sunday - which was the perfect opportunity to sit by a window most of the day devouring the latest in Elly Griffith's wonderful Ruth Galloway series - The Ghost Fields. I've been eagerly awaiting this seventh entry.
Forensic anthropologist Ruth is on a dig in Norfolk, when she is called on by the local police to consult on a rather unusual call. A World War II plane has been uncovered by a developer clearing a field. Why call Ruth? Well, the pilot is still inside. And when Ruth determines that the body isn't that of the original pilot, but rather the son of a wealthy local family reported as killed in action, it becomes a murder case. Murder? Uh huh - there's a bullet hole in the skull and evidence the body has been placed in the plane.
Great premise as always from Griffiths. Her mysteries are well thought out and plotted with lots of possibilities as to the end result. I was quite sure of whodunit this time, but was proven wrong in the last few chapters.
But what draws me to this series are the characters. I adore the character of Ruth. I think it's because she isn't a 'cookie-cutter' protagonist. She's become a single mother later in life, she's hard on herself, generous with her friends, is highly intelligent, but shuns the spotlight. She's not beautiful in a conventional sense, but has that something that draws people to her. Griffiths has not endowed her with super sleuth abilities, rather she comes off as an actual person - unabashedly and happily herself.
The evolution of Ruth's relationship with Detective Chief Inspector Harry Nelson has been a constant from the first book. Indeed, this thread is just (if not more) as engaging as the mystery in each book.
There are many supporting players that I've come to enjoy (and dislike) as well. Griffiths has also fleshed them out with rich, full personal lives. Ruth's boss Phil's pronouncements are always good for a chuckle. Judy and Clough, who work with Harry, are part of Ruth's life as well. This is what I enjoy so much - Griffiths doesn't let her characters be - their lives are evolving as they would in real life. There were a few unexpected developments this time out with one of the Detectives. But my personal favourite is the enigmatic Cathbad, self proclaimed Druid.
I've learned something from every book in this series as well. Griffiths' cases use history as a basis. The Ghost Fields are abandoned air fields in Norfolk. The reasons and results from Ruth's archaeological investigations are always informative and interesting.
Setting is also a character in Griffiths' books. The Norfolk area, while seemingly bleak, is beautiful in Ruth's eyes. I think I would enjoy living in her little cottage in the Saltmarsh, 'where the sea and the sky meet.'
I highly recommend this character driven mystery series. You could certainly read this book as a stand alone, but do yourself a favour and start with The Crossing Places, the first book.
British author Elly Griffiths' new novel in her Ruth Galloway Mystery series is called "The Ghost Fields". The book is set in the Norfolk region of northeast England and features Ruth Galloway, who is a forensic medical examiner. The "Ghost Fields" referred to in the title are old WW2 airbases which dotted the Norfolk countryside. In the book, a body is found in a crashed American airplane, uncovered during a land development dig. Galloway, a single mother, is asked by the local police to identify the age of the body, which was supposed to be in the crashed WW2 plane. It wasn't; the body was "added" to the plane and then "discovered". A local family, rather down-at-the-heels aristocrats, are related to the dead man. Some other bodies are discovered as the family's secrets are uncovered during the investigation.
Here's the thing about jumping into a book series without having read any of the preceding books. I had very little idea about "who was who", both career-wise and relationship-wise. And I found it hard to maintain a level of interest in either the plot or the characters. But that's MY fault for foolishly choosing a book to read that I had no "history" with. I'm giving the book four stars because I honestly feel that even though I didn't particularly enjoy it, the writing was strong. And, if you have read the previous books in the series, you'll enjoy "The Ghost Fields". Does that make sense?