Elly Griffiths, The Postscript Murders (2020)

Is there a part of me that’s bemoaning the start of fall? Certainly, but that’s no reason to hang to summer, and especially to the reviews of the books I read in August for the 20 Books of Summer challenge. Especially when I enjoyed those books! I’ve discovered Elly Griffiths earlier this year and I really liked the two books I read from her series with Ruth Galloway, a Norfolk archaeologist who always gets embroiled into murder investigations. I was happy to see that she has another series underway, with police detective sergeant Harbinder Kaur.

Harbinder Kaur is a 30-something Sikh woman who still lives with her somewhat meddling, ageing parents who hold a grocery shop. Harbinder can’t really tell her family that she’s gay, but it is clear to all that she’s gutsy and ambitious. Although she’s a great character, she hardly takes center stage in this cosy mystery, there’s a large cast and they are all good!

The Postscript Murders take place in a retirement home on the seaside. Now, didn’t I read just another murder mystery set in a retirement community in England? Yes, it was The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman, which I’d liked a lot. It is rather an unfortunate publishing coincidence to have those two out almost at the same time, because it leads readers to play the comparison game and that’s not fair.

In both books, a group of mismatched amateur investigators are trying to discover the truth alongside the official police work. In both books, one of the old people clearly has some past linked to secret services. In both books, the “invisible” people who provide care to the retired people have a lot more back story and complex motivations than what one generally expect. In both books, you have elements of romance and a very sweet and perfectly British tone that makes my heart melt. Don’t make me choose one, I actually loved them both!

What I liked most is probably the tongue-in-cheek writing. Elly Griffiths is having fun, and knows that her readers share a lot of knowledge of classic murder mysteries and of Miss Marple tropes. Some dialogues are priceless and really made me laugh. She also pokes some fun at writers and publishers and writing conventions. This book is the second in a series, but it really holds well as a standalone. Still, I might go back and read the first one next time I need a dose of British cozy mystery.

The One with the Metal Detectorists

Elly Griffiths, The Night Hawks (Ruth Galloway #13, 2021)

This is only my second Ruth Galloway mystery but I am already invested in this tightly-knit community of interesting characters – and I also know that this book won’t be the last I read in the series! I discovered Ruth Galloway and her little Norfolk village in March with #11 (yes, I know, this is not reasonable) and this one is #13, but I could catch up without any problem. I won’t say the book can’t read as a standalone, but if you do, be aware that you might soon get addicted like me and that you’ll want to read the rest!

Ruth Galloway is an archaeologist (and now the head of her university department), and so to her, metal detectorists are just annoying amateurs who are messing around and messing things up. I’ve hardly ever seen metal detectorists in my part of the world but I had never thought they actually could find real historical artifacts! But here, not only do they find an old burial site on the Norfolk coastline, but they also discover the body of a recently deceased person. And this person may not have died of natural causes… That’s one of those (happy?) coincidences where Ruth Galloway finds herself once again at a crime scene at the same time as DCI Nelson, who is also the father of her child.

I let myself being entertained by a mystery full of twists and red herrings, but I cared less for the whodunnit than for the interactions between the large cast of characters. Is Ruth going to enjoy her new position at work? Why is her newly recruited professor so cocky? Will Nelson ever consider retirement? What kind of Norfolk tradition and old tales will the mystical druid Cathbad refer to this time? How is it possible for a druid to be happily married to a police inspector? Where is Clough? (that one may have its answer in volume #14 that I missed). Thanks to Griffiths’ great skills at characterization and witty dialogues, I actually cared about this small world as if all these people really existed. (I do wonder how she keeps track of all these people though…)

The book will keep you turning the pages late into the night, and if you’re anything like me, Norfolk coastline will probably be added to your list of destinations to visit one day.

Thanks to the publisher and Netgalley. I received a free copy of this book for review consideration.

The One with the Norfolk Marshes

Elly Griffiths, The Stone Circle (2019)

I have followed Café Society bookish posts for quite a while, and she had (before her hiatus) always some great British mysteries recommendations, especially police procedurals. I had noted the name of Elly Griffiths, but had never actively sought it out.

When I saw this author’s name among the Amazon Kindle monthly deals, it sort of fell into my lap (for 2,99 euros) and I could not resist for long. Still, there was a “slight” problem: the book I purchased is #11 in the series and I had no clue who the characters were. Yes, I usually don’t strictly follow book series in order, but this is a bit extreme, even for me. I felt as if I was coming very late to the party, and the hosts had practically started eating desert.

But soon my discomfort disappeared, the hosts of the party being extremely welcoming. Yes, I had not the back story of any of them and they knew each other for decades, but they had a real spark and warmth, and I loved the interactions… It took me very few pages to start caring for Ruth Galloway, a single mother who works as an archaeologist at the university of Norfolk, on the coastline. The father of her daughter is actually DCI Nelson, who has a wife, two grown daughters and expects the birth of another kid sometime soon. Well, you can see that it’s complicated… There is a large cast of characters and each had his/her own way to react to a crime. I was more than ok to follow along the twists and turns of the plot that often invoked the past, previous investigations resulting in success and failures. The pace is fast but not too fast, and the writing has just the right amount of British witticism which makes me crave for tea and scones.

Frustrated as I am not to be able to travel, I was also very interested to learn about the Norfolk marshes and the sea henge dating from the Bronze age. Photos are impressive but the book had let me to believe that the circle of timber set in the sea was a lot bigger than it really is. Anyway, I’m definitely sold on Ruth Galloway’s adventures. I may not go back from the beginning all the way up to volume 11, but I might pick and choose a few along the way. If anyone can recommend favorites, I’d be glad!