The Lantern Men by Elly Griffiths

I just adore this series featuring academic forensic archaeologist Ruth Galloway and the curmudgeonly but attractive DCI Nelson, by Ellly Griffiths. Each book just gets better and better and that’s saying something because the very first book was superb!

In this instalment, no.12, Ruth, and her daughter with Nelson, Katie, have moved from their beloved marshes. Ruth is no longer working with the Norfolk police, but is in a much more prestigious institution. She also has a lovely live-in boyfriend. 

When a convicted serial killer demands that Ruth be the one to dig up the grounds of a home he once lived in to locate the bodies of women he claims have killed, Nelson tracks her down to ask if she will comply. Ruth, despite potential danger, of course, agrees. The murderer reveals to Ruth that not only did he kill four more women, but tells her a story embedded in local folklore, about the Lantern Men, terrifying figures who would light paths for unsuspecting victims to follow to their deaths. 

It’s assumed that the serial killer regards himself as a Lantern Man, but when more bodies are discovered, Nelson and Ruth are forced to face the fact that not only might there be more than one person behind these gruesome deaths, but a killer is once more at large…

Not only is the crime plot well-executed in these books, making them gripping and well-paced, but the characters and their narrative arcs are so superbly rendered. From the first book, Ruth is a woman readers’ love and champion; likewise with grumpy Nelson. Exposed to their weaknesses and strengths, we understand them, their relationships and those they form with others. Their motivations are real and apparent and while we might judge some of their decisions and find them wanting, we always understand them. In this book, the personal lives of the main characters especially are really put under an emotional microscope and, parallel to the main case, we’re keen to see how the issues that surface are resolved. 

Altogether, a fabulous novel and I cannot wait to see where Griffiths takes Ruth, Nelson and the gang next – not just geographically, but emotionally as well. 

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