Quercus | 2018 (8 February) | 368p | Review copy | Buy the book
When Italian archaeologist Dr Angelo Morelli finds some Roman bones in a remote and tiny Italian hilltop town, he’s intrigued enough by them to call on his old friend Dr Ruth Galloway, a forensic anthropologist from Norfolk. Angelo is sure that the addition of a foreign expert at the scene may attract some media attention – he likes to be in the spotlight. But it’s such a beautiful place and Ruth jumps at the chance to spend a fortnight away from home, especially if she can bring Kate her daughter as well as her best friend and her little boy. They will have the run of a lovely old apartment in the local castle, the home of Angelo’s late father. The sea isn’t far away, the town has bars and cafes, and there should be hardly any work at all. It sounds perfect.
But, of course, that’s the dream. The reality is a little different. The history of the small town lives within it, its people cannot let the past go, and something troublesome murmurs below the surface. And Angelo is convinced that somebody is trying to hurt him, even kill him. It’s perhaps fortuitous then that circumstances conspire to bring DI Harry Nelson to Italy from Norfolk. But keeping Ruth and Kate safe is not all that’s on Nelson’s mind. Nelson is a man who carries the weight of the world on his shoulders.
The Dark Angel is the tenth book in Elly Griffiths’ outstanding Ruth Galloway series, a series that is deeply and widely loved by many. It’s certainly one of the series that I love the very most. Ten books! That is something to celebrate indeed. This might be crime fiction but, as all devotees of the series know, that is not what these books are about. There are pleasing mysteries in them all, including The Dark Angel, but the focus, and our attention, is most definitely on Ruth, Nelson and Kate as well as the other regular characters who are so important in their lives, such as Michelle, Cathbad, Judy and Cloughie. Even Bruno the dog and Flint the cat. If you haven’t read any of the others then you would certainly enjoy The Dark Angel but I think you might be missing its point – and to find that you’d need to have fallen for Ruth and those she loves.
The Italian setting is absolutely wonderful! I always enjoy the Norfolk locations of the other books but this hilltop town is so beautifully created, such a mix of stunning scenery and history with foreboding and menace. As Ruth spends her days here, drinking wine, dipping in the sea, mixing with the locals, I felt myself transported. I loved the depiction of the children – and had a laugh when Ruth has to cover up (literally) the things in the smart apartment that they break. I could feel the heat on my skin and almost taste that wine. Glorious.
To be honest, the mystery is not the most gripping or involving. In fact, it’s almost entirely incidental. I was carried away by Ruth and by Nelson. I’m saying nothing about what happens between them in these pages but I could not have been more engrossed and read much of it in one sitting. The story moves between events in Italy and back home in Norfolk and I was kept at the edge of my seat. I suppose you could call this a soap opera, it’s certainly a tangled web, and I couldn’t get enough of it.
Elly Griffiths writes about people and relationships so beautifully. The language is light and so real and genuine. It provokes an emotional response and I spent hours utterly engaged by it. Elly Griffiths writes with such heart and insight for these characters that she clearly loves every bit as much as we do. We are the richer for it, even though I was an emotional wreck by the end of it. I cannot wait for the next book in the series. Luckily, I have a couple of books in Elly Griffiths’ other series, the equally brilliant Stephens and Mephisto novels, to keep me going. We are so lucky to have Elly Griffiths and the fact that she is as prolific as she is talented is something to celebrate.