Quercus | 2021 (4 February) | 368p | Review copy and Bought copy | Buy the book
A club of metal detectorists, night hawks, are out combing the beaches of north Norfolk for treasures when they come across the body of a young man, washed ashore. DI Nelson suspects he might be an asylum seeker but he soon learns that he was a local boy, recently released from prison. But close to this discovery another is made, a Bronze Age hoard with an ancient body, and it is that which brings forensic anthropologist Dr Ruth Galloway to the scene. Once more, Nelson and Ruth begin to work together. And then there are more deaths. The night hawks call in the police when they hear gun shots at Black Dog Farm – a man has killed his wife and then himself. Nelson suspects there is more to it, as do the locals, as rumours spread that the dead had seen the mysterious harbinger of death, the Black Shuck, a black dog, before they died.
I adore this series, just as I love everything that Elly Griffiths writes (I’ve recently finished her stand alone novel The Postscript Murders and can heartily recommend that as well). Ruth Galloway is one of my favourite people. She doesn’t feel like a fictional character to me. I’m so pleased every time she returns. The Night Hawks is the thirteenth novel in the series and, while you can certainly enjoy it as a stand alone novel, I would really recommend that you read at least one or two (or all!) of the earlier book first. The reason is that the true riches of these novels can be found not in their murder mysteries, although these are certainly enjoyable to unravel, but in their characters – Ruth, Nelson, Ruth’s daughter Kate, Cathbad, Jo, Nelson’s family, Ruth’s University colleagues. Their lives are entwined and complicated and I love them all (except for Ruth’s new colleague David, of course).
The relationship between Ruth and Nelson is one of the very best in any series being written today. We have been put through it as we watch their (not very) merry dance. The tension is great but the reasons against their relationship are just as great. It’s fabulous! And I love Kate. I rarely like children in fiction but I love this one. And I need a Cathbad in my life. He embodies the spirit of ancient wisdom that fills these novels. There is a huge sense of history and the past and, as a former archaeologist of many years, this really speaks to me – the pull of our past and its remains, the significance of the landscape, that tidal zone which mirrors the boundary between life and death.
Which brings me to another reason for this series’ huge appeal – the Norfolk coastal setting. It is glorious! The Night Hawks is set in one of my most favourite areas – Cley next the Sea and Blakeney, places I intend to return to as soon as You Know What lets me. Everything I love about these places is captured in The Night Hawks with an extra helping of something ominous, fearful and frightening. I love the mix of beauty and evil that fills these books.
The Night Hawks is, quite possibly, a cosy crime novel and I love it all the more for it, especially in these days. Everything that I want from a Ruth Galloway novel I found in The Night Hawks. I loved it. And what about Ruth’s new colleague David? Where is that going to go?! I could rave about these books all day and night. You could not find a warmer, kinder series of novels. Instead, I’ll urge you to read them and fall for Ruth, Kate and Nelson and their friends, just as I have.
The Chalk Pit (Ruth Galloway 9)
The Dark Angel (Ruth Galloway 10)
The Stone Circle (Ruth Galloway 11)
The Lantern Men (Ruth Galloway 12)
The Zig Zag Girl (Stephens and Mephisto 1)
The Vanishing Box (Stephens and Mephisto 4)
The Stranger Diaries
Now You See Them (Stephens and Mephisto 5)