The Chalk Pit by Elly Griffiths

The Chalk Pit by Elly Griffiths
Publisher: Quercus
Genre: Contemporary, Historical, Mystery/Suspense/Thriller
Rating: 3 stars
Reviewed by Fern

Far below Norwich is a maze of old mining tunnels. When Ruth Galloway is called to examine a set of human remains in one of them, she notices the bones are almost translucent, a sign they were boiled soon after death. Once more, she finds herself at the helm of a murder investigation. Meanwhile, DCI Nelson is looking for a homeless woman who he hears has gone “underground.” Could she have disappeared into the labyrinth? And if so, is she connected to the body Ruth found? As Ruth and Nelson investigate the tunnels, they hear rumors of secret societies, cannibalism, and ritual killings. And when a dead body is found with a map of what seems to be the full maze, they realize their hunt for the killer has only just begun—and that more bodies may be underfoot.

Dr Ruth Galloway is called in when a local contractor discovers bones in an old miners tunnel. They expect the bones will be mediaeval and date back to when the tunnels and old chalk pits were last in use – but they are all very surprised to find the bones are not just modern, but less than ten years old and show signs of cannibalism. DCI Harry Nelson is called in, but he already has a lot on his plate with a number of murders of local rough sleepers, and then things get even harder when a young mother also mysteriously disappears. Can Ruth and Harry work out what’s behind all this?

I’ve been really enjoying this series and found this to be an excellent addition to the series. There is some progress in the rather complicated relationship between Ruth and Harry – though very clearly this is a long-running plotline that might never actually reach a full conclusion. I did enjoy seeing the many strong secondary characters as well. While I do feel a reader can pick this book up and both understand and enjoy the plotline having not read any of the previous books there is a lot of history between a number of the characters and I feel for a really richer enjoyment at least some of the previous books should have been read first.

I did really enjoy though how the plotlines and police procedural aspect to the mysteries were written. There is a good pace to the plot – with plenty of forward momentum but still enough time for the reader to try and figure everything out themselves as well. I feel readers who expect a high level of action or a really fast pace to their stories might feel this is a somewhat slower paced book – but I think most British police procedural fans will enjoy the many layers to the plot and the chance to try and sort it out for themselves as well.

I was also pleased that while the archaeology definitely took more of a back seat in this story it was not forgotten nor did it feel to me like something just added in for the sake of it or half-hearted. I really enjoyed the extra level it added to the story as a whole and while it wasn’t as front-and-center as I enjoy in some of the other books in this series, it definitely added properly to the story in my opinion.

A good read and a well written mystery; this was an enjoyable book.

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