The House at Sea’s End (Ruth Galloway #3)
EXCERPT: ‘Erosion’s bad here,’ says Ted. ‘I’ve been reading about it. Sea’s End House has been declared unsafe. Jack Hastings is in a right old two and eight. Keeps ranting on about an Englishman’s house being his castle.’
They all look up at the grey house on the cliff. The curved wall of the tower is only two or three feet from the precipice. The remains of a fence hang crazily in midair.
There was a whole garden at the back of the house once. Summer house, the lot,’ says Craig, one of the men. ‘My granddad used to do the gardening.’
Beach has silted up too,’ says Trace. ‘That big storm in February has shifted a lot of stone.’
They all look towards the narrow beach. Below the cliffs, banks of pebbles form a shelf which then falls steeply into the sea. It’s an inhospitable place, hard to imagine families picnicking here, children with buckets and spades, sunbathing adults.
ABOUT ‘THE HOUSE AT SEA’S END’: When bones are unearthed at the foot of a north Norfolk cliff, forensics expert Ruth Galloway and DCI Nelson are put on the case. The skeletons have lain there for decades, possibly since the war, and for all that time a hideous crime has been concealed.
When a body washes up on the beach, it becomes clear that someone wants the truth of the past to stay buried, and will go to any lengths to keep it that way. Can Ruth and Nelson uncover the truth in time to stop another murder?
MY THOUGHTS: I first read this in 2015,but reread it over the past few days as I am now reading the whole series, from the beginning, in order.
This was actually my first ever Elly Griffith read. I had seen good reviews of the series, but was avoiding them because they sounded little “dry” to me. Believe me, this book was anything but.
In addition to the unearthed crime dating back to WWII, we learn a lot more about Ruth’s time in Bosnia when an old friend from that time makes a reappearance in her life.
Kate, Ruth’s baby daughter undergoes both a naming ceremony – courtesy of Cathbad – and a Catholic christening to appease Nelson. Neither ceremony pleases her ‘born again Christian’ parents who don’t attend either. And Ruth has an unsettling encounter with Judy at Judy and Darren’s wedding.
Nelson learns something about his boss, Whitcliffe, that subtly changes his opinion of the man, and he finds he is no longer able to summon up his old hatred and contempt for him. A pity, as he misses it.
I love the little snippets of information we learn about the characters in each book. Clough eats almost constantly: McDonald’s, Mars Bars, pot noodles, sandwiches, cakes . . .
Although this is easily read as stand a alone book – each book is a completely self-contained mystery, although there are references to occurrences in previous books – you would miss out on all the character development and the building of relationships. This was my second read. I loved it first time round, and loved it even more this time.
There were a couple of quotes from the book that I really enjoyed: “She has got her figure back after having the baby, which is a shame – she was rather hoping to get someone elses.”; and “There is a pleasure in being mad that none but madmen know.”
A Room Full of Bones (Ruth Galloway #4)
EXCERPT: At the end of the gallery she steps from tile to carpet and, to her surprise, finds herself in a red-walled Victorian study. A stag’s head looms over a painted fireplace and a man sits at a desk, frowning fiercely as he dips his quill into an inkwell.
‘Excuse me . . .’ begins Ruth, before realising that the man’s eyes are dusty and one of his arms is missing. A rope separates her from the figure and his desk but she leans forward and reads the inscription:
Percival, Lord Smith 1830 – 1902,adventurer and taxidermist. Most of the exhibits in this museum were acquired by Lord Smith in the course of a fascinating life. Lord Smith’s love of the natural world is shown in his magnificent collection of animals and birds, most of which he shot and stuffed himself.
Funny way to show your love of the natural world, by shooting most of it, thinks Ruth. She notices a brace of guns over the head of the waxwork of Lord Smith. He looks a nasty customer, alive or dead.
There are two ways out of Lord Smith’s study. One says ‘New World Collection’ and one ‘Local History’. She pauses, feeling like Alice in Wonderland. A slight sound, a kind of whispering or fluttering, makes her turn towards Local History. She feels in the mood for a soothing collection of Norfolk artefacts. She hopes there are no more waxworks or embalmed animals.
Her wish is granted. The Local History room seems to be empty apart from a coffin on a trestle table and a body lying beside it. A breeze from an open window is riffling through the pages of a guidebook lying on the floor, making a sound like the wings of a trapped bird.
ABOUT ‘A ROOM FULL OF BONES’: Night falls on Halloween Eve.
The museum in King’s Lynn is preparing for an unusual event – the opening of a coffin excavated from the site of a medieval church. But when archaeologist Dr Ruth Galloway arrives to supervise, she finds the museum’s curator lying dead beside it.
Ruth and Detective Inspector Nelson are forced to cross paths once again when he’s called in to investigate the murder, and their past tensions are reignited.
As Ruth becomes further embroiled in the case, she must decide where her loyalties lie – a choice that her very survival depends on.
MY THOUGHTS: I love Ruth! She is intelligent, passionate about her work, and decidedly unglamorous. How refreshing to have a realistic and relatable main character. She mightn’t have the most wonderful life skills – like most of us she is just stumbling through – but I love that too. She does things, mostly in her personal life, and I think ‘Oh, Ruth!’; but then, I don’t know if I would have done any different.
I love that she faces dilemmas and is human and fallible when making her choices. She gets tired, and grumpy, and irritable. She occasionally says things she later regrets. She ‘believes’ she is being a good mother by eating the chocolates from her daughter’s advent calendar, thereby saving Kate’s teeth. Sounds like something I would do!
She has an uncomfortable relationship with her parents, born again Christians who, while adoring their granddaughter Kate, are voluably certain that Ruth will go to hell for having a child out of wedlock.
A Room Full of Bones has several mysteries running through it increasing Nelson’s workload – that of the dead curator; another unexpected death; and an influx of cheap cocaine into the area. Now I usually dislike the introduction of drug cartels into a story. BUT, it doesn’t dominate the storyline, and the solution was something I had never thought of, and really very clever.
Judy Johnson and Dave Clough, who loves the Godfather films and frequently intones ‘I’m gonna make you an offer you can’t refuse’ when alone with a mirror, play larger roles in this book, and Cathbad continues to both intrigue and infuriate Nelson.
I absolutely love the characters in this series. The mysteries are wonderful and I never manage to work out the solution, but it is really the characters that are the icing on the cake.
I: @ellygriffiths17 @quercusbooks
T: @ellygriffiths @QuercusBooks
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.