EXCERPT: ‘…Is this it?’
Her question is superfluous. Three quarters of a wing and half a cockpit lie exposed at the bottom of the shallow pit.
‘American,’ says Nelson. ‘I can tell by the markings.’
Ruth shoots him a look. She thinks that Nelson would have been just the sort of boy to collect models of second world war fighter planes.
‘There was an American airbase near here,’ says one of the other men. ‘At Lockwell Heath.’ Ruth recognizes him as Edward Spens, a local property developer whom she encountered on an earlier case. Spens is tall and good looking; his air of authority is only slightly dented by the fact that he is wearing tennis clothes. The third man, dressed in jeans and a filthy football top, stands slightly aside as if to imply that none of this is his fault. Ruth guesses that he must be the digger driver.
She looks at the exposed soil. It has a faintly blue tinge. She kneels down and scoops some earth in her hand, giving it a surreptitious sniff.
‘What are you doing?’ asks Phil. Clearly he’s terrified that she’s going to embarrass him.
‘Fuel,’ she says. ‘Can’t you smell it? And look at the blue marks on the soil. That’s corroded aluminium. Did you have any idea that this plane was here?’
It is Edward Spens who answers. ‘Some children found some engine parts in the field long ago, I believe. But no one had any idea that this was buried here, almost intact.’
Ruth looks at the cockpit. Although dented and corroded it looks remarkably undamaged, lying almost horizontally at the foot of the crater. She’s no geometry expert but wouldn’t you expect the prow of a crashed plane to be at a steeper angle?
‘Where’s the body?’ she asked.
ABOUT ‘THE GHOST FIELDS’: Norfolk is suffering from record summer heat when a construction crew unearths a macabre discovery—a downed World War II plane with the pilot still inside. Forensic archaeologist Ruth Galloway quickly realizes that the skeleton couldn’t possibly be the pilot, and DNA tests identify the man as Fred Blackstock, a local aristocrat who had been reported dead at sea. When the remaining members of the Blackstock family learn about the discovery, they seem strangely frightened by the news.
Events are further complicated by a TV company that wants to make a film about Norfolk’s deserted air force bases, the so-called Ghost Fields, which have been partially converted into a pig farm run by one of the younger Blackstocks. As production begins, Ruth notices a mysterious man lurking on the outskirts of Fred Blackstock’s memorial service. Then human bones are found on the family’s pig farm. Can the team outrace a looming flood to find a killer?
MY THOUGHTS: I love this series and have become very invested in Ruth’s life, with and without Nelson, father of her five year old daughter, Katie. One of the things I love most about Ruth is how realistically Elly Griffiths has chosen to portray her. While she is confident and assured in her professional life, she is anything but in her personal life. She fantasises about being married to Nelson but, in reality, she knows that she would kill him within days. To begin with, Nelson obssesses over Katie and how he thinks she should be brought up, leaving Ruth with the feeling that he thinks she’s an inadequate mother. She is much older than the other mothers of Katie’s contemporaries, and doesn’t relate to their lifestyles. She’s not a slim, trim, Lululemon mummy. She thinks wicked thoughts about people, things she would like to say, but doesn’t dare. I can totally relate to her.
There is a very complicated family by the name of Blackstock featured in The Ghost Fields. Landed gentry living in a crumbling pile with very little money but a lot of local clout. They come with a good deal of infidelity, illegitimate children, greed, avarice and a certain amount of insanity. There is a family tree at the beginning of the book to help.
Of course the body in the plane is not going to be straightforward. It would seem that the body has been moved there recently from elsewhere. But why? And from where?
This is an excellent mystery set against the ongoing relationship between Ruth and Nelson, and their friendship with Druid Cathbad, and his wife Judy, a policewoman who works closely with Nelson, and who is heavily pregnant with her second child. The American, Frank, makes another appearance. And there are goings on in the background of Nelson’s life of which he is totally unaware.
The Ghost Fields is another excellent addition to the series of which there are currently twelve books with the thirteenth due out in February 2021.
THE AUTHOR: Elly Griffiths’ Ruth Galloway novels take for their inspiration Elly’s husband, who gave up a city job to train as an archaeologist, and her aunt who lives on the Norfolk coast and who filled her niece’s head with the myths and legends of that area. Elly has two children and lives near Brighton.
DISCLOSURE: I listened to the audiobook of The Ghost Fields written by Elly Griffiths, narrated by Clare Corbett and published by Quercus via Overdrive. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions.
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