Quercus | 2019 (7 February) | 365p | Review copy | Buy the book
The bones of a young girl, buried so long ago in the Bronze Age, have been found on a henge site on the Saltmarsh on the Norfolk coast. Dr Ruth Galloway, a forensic archaeologist, is investigating. But, when more bones are found nearby, Ruth knows there is something different about them. They aren’t old. The bones are soon identified as those of Margaret Lacey, a child who disappeared thirty years ago. DCI Harry Nelson must reopen the cold case but he’s troubled. Nelson has been receiving anonymous letters which are similar to those that he was sent years before by a man now dead. Are the cases connected? The writer certainly seems to know more about the buried child than he should.
The Ruth Galloway series is one of my very favourites. In fact, I love everything that Elly Griffiths writes, whether it’s this series, or the Stephens and Mephisto books, or the stand alone marvel The Stranger Diaries, which was one of my top books of 2018. And so I fell on The Stone Circle as soon as it arrived, keen to be back in this warm world (despite the murders), with detectives Judy and Cloughie and with Cathbad the Druid.
In the last novel (book ten of the series), The Dark Angel, we were taken to Italy (and I loved it) but The Stone Circle returns us to the familiar territory of the marshes of the coast, no distance at all from where a man died in an earlier case and who is remembered here. It’s worth mentioning at this point that, as far as the case is concerned, you don’t need to have read any of the other books. It’s all easy to follow.
It’s certainly worth reading the books in order, though, for what they reveal about the relationship between Ruth and Nelson, which is the key element of the series. In these books the murder is most definitely secondary to the people whose lives we have grown so close to over all eleven books. All of the books are character-driven, much more than they are action-driven. It’s Ruth and Nelson who matter, as well as Ruth’s child Kate, Nelson’s children, and his wife Michelle who is now on the point of giving birth once more. These characters have all spun a tangled web and by now we are well and truly involved. I think if you read this novel on its own, with no knowledge of what’s gone on before, then you might feel a little uninvolved. But if you’ve read these books as a progression then there are some key moments here. Both Ruth and Nelson are getting ready to make some big decisions. Babies are a big theme in this book – new beginnings.
I love the Norfolk setting of the novels. The sea is never far away. The marshes are beautiful and lethal at the same time. I love how Elly Griffiths writes. She has brought us completely into Ruth and Nelson’s world. The tension between them continues and now it is involving another generation. At least they have a murder mystery to distract them! But the case is such a sad one and it becomes very involving. I lose myself so easily in this series. I find these books comforting and such a pleasure. Long may they continue. Thank you so much, Elly Griffiths!