As Elly Griffiths pens her eleventh Ruth Galloway novel, she comes – appropriately, given the title – almost full circle, back to her first novel. Cast your mind back to Ruth’s teacher Eric and the henge discovered on the saltmarsh and move forward ten years, and Ruth is now dealing with Eric’s son, Leif, who is in town to look at a newly discovered henge. Just like 10 years ago, two bodies are discovered on the site, one ancient, and one not so ancient.
Somehow Griffiths’ storytelling style is not only plot oriented, it’s character oriented, so she’s taking into account the many happenings in her character’s lives over the past 10 years. Ruth is the mother of a 10 year old, thanks to a one night stand with the father, Detective Nelson. Nelson’s wife is expecting a late in life baby at any moment, which may or may not be Nelson’s – she’d been having an affair. Their older daughters are unaware that Kate, Ruth and Nelson’s daughter, is their sister.
That’s enough, really, for any book, and the joy of reading a long series means that characters can be developed, can be aged, and can change. Whether or not that grow and develop the way real people might is all down to the author’s skill, and Griffiths is one of the best. All this character development is expertly woven into the texture and fabric of the central story, with neither portion losing any strength.
The main story concerns the disappearance of a 12 year old girl in the 80’s – the touchstone is the wedding of Charles and Diana – and the grief of a family that’s never known what’s happened to their daughter. When another present day child vanishes the search is amped up and there’s a breathless end to the novel as Nelson and his team hunt for a missing baby. He’s ever mindful of the new baby he has at home while he searches.
This book is vintage Elly Griffiths, which is to say, it’s excellent. It’s a great read, the characters have surprising and funny and moving things happen to them, Cathbad is present dispensing wisdom, and the pages move so quickly through your fingers you’ll be sad all over again when you finish that you now have to wait another year for the next installment. Thankfully, each book is well worth the wait.