The Stone Circle by Elly Griffiths

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The Stone Circle is the 11th book in Elly Griffiths fabulous series featuring archaeologist Dr Ruth Galloway and terse DI Nelson. Like its predecessors, it’s packed with mystery, complex interpersonal relationships and murder.

In this novel, a body is found buried in a recently unearthed stone circle. While the circle is of ancient origins the body definitely isn’t. Enter both Ruth and Nelson whose expertise is required to firstly age the body and then discover who the culprit is. When a cold case is reopened, it’s not long before suspects come to the fore. But when the most prominent of these is murdered, Nelson and his team have to work harder than ever before someone else is hurt – or worse. 

As usual, Griffiths excels in developing her characters – the regulars and even those introduced because of the central plot. Ruth, Kate, Nelson and his family’s dynamic becomes even more tangled and emotionally fraught as revelations and decisions regarding the future are made and then disregarded. I think Griffiths does real justice to the notion that it’s possible to love two people at once – two good people who don’t deserve to be hurt. While Nelson is torn between the two women in his life and his very different families, there’s no doubting his love for them or the fact he’s a good person who can make bad decisions (like other characters in the books). I also like that the women are represented as strong and proud, not passive vessels to Nelson’s wishes or desires. 

The ending to this novel feels a little rushed – not in terms of the plot, which is nicely played out, but in relation to the main recurring characters. I wish the editors had allowed Griffiths the chance to flesh it out just a little more. Nonetheless, I really look forward to seeing where Ruth, Nelson and the rest of the characters based around King’s Lynn (which really does see more than its fair share of buried bodies, surely?) takes us! 

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The Dark Angel by Elly Griffiths

Isn’t it funny how, when you’re hooked on a series and the characters the writer has created, you develop a love/hate relationship with each new book? That’s what happens with me. I get so excited that a fresh instalment is there to lose myself in, then I absolutely hate it when I finish and have to wait for the next one!

This is how it was with The Dark Angel, book number 10. I had been longing for it to come out and, when it did, held off reading it for as long as I could – delayed gratification LOL!

Well, gratified doesn’t begin to describe how lovely it was to lose myself in Dr Ruth Galloways’ fascinating professional life and complicated personal one again. A personal life that is closely interwoven with that of DI Harry Nelson and his family – a family that’s also in the midst of its own difficulties.

In The Dark Angel, the usual setting of east-coast Britain is exchanged for a small Italian village when Ruth is called by an old friend, Dr Angelo Morelli, to help with identifying some bones. Treating it as a working holiday, Ruth takes her daughter, Kate, while her best friend, Shona and her whiny son also accompany them.

Where Ruth goes, trouble and mystery are never far behind – trouble in the form of Harry Nelson who, when he learns an earthquake has struck the region Ruth is in hurries to assure himself of her safety. Mystery is also lurking – not only with the bones, but also through the ritualistic murder of the town’s old priest which happens when Ruth is only days into her vacation.

As Ruth well knows, the present is always contingent on the past and the bones and the dreadful killing of the priest prove this over and again. But so do the Nelsons.

Left at home while Harry runs to his former lover and daughter’s side, his pregnant wife and adult daughter have to face some demons from Harry’s past, and those from more recent times as well – with tragic consequences. I didn’t see the ending coming here, and it is both heart-wrenching and adds a whole new layer of WTF to the personal lives of the characters we’ve grown to know, forgive, and love.

Once more, it’s the characters rather than the plot that make this such an excellent read. While the plot is good, it’s Griffith’s knack for capturing the sense of someone, of conveying their good heart (or otherwise), annoying idiosyncrasies, or sinister intentions in just a few words, through a look or gesture, that add so much to these novels. That, and the slow-burning complexity of the interpersonal relationships between the main characters – most of whom are very good people making unwise or selfish choices with huge ramifications and only now being forced to deal with the consequences… some of which will only be revealed in future books.

Not happy Jan – or should that be, Elly. In this instance, I want immediate gratification! J

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