Dying Fall by Elly Griffiths


Dying Fall by Elly Griffiths
Publisher: Quercus
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery/Suspense/Thriller
Rating: 3 stars
Reviewed by Fern

Forensic archeologist Ruth Galloway investigates a heart-stopping case: an old university friend and fellow archeologist murdered in an arson attack.

When Ruth Galloway learns that her old university friend Dan Golding has died in a house fire, she is shocked and saddened. But when she receives a letter that Dan had written just before he died, her sadness turns to suspicion. The letter tells of a great archaeological discovery, but Dan also says that he is scared for his life.

Was Dan’s death linked to his find? The only clue is his mention of the Raven King, an ancient name for King Arthur. When she arrives in Lancashire, Ruth discovers that the bones reveal a shocking fact about King Arthur—and that the bones have mysteriously vanished.

The case draws in DCI Nelson, determined to protect Ruth and their eighteen-month-old daughter, Kate. But someone is willing to kill to keep the bones a secret, and it is beginning to look as if no one is safe.

Dr Ruth Galloway heads north when an old University buddy gets in contact with her. Wanting Ruth’s expertise in bones and with her sterling reputation in forensic archaeology Ruth is compelled to go searching the answers when her friend is unexpectedly murdered. Ruth and Nelson once again cross paths as Nelson has returned home with his wife for a short summer break to visit each of their families and his ties with the local police remain as strong as ever.

I found this an interesting and enjoyable archaeology-based murder mystery. While the entire book is solidly set in the present, I did love how the author managed to make so much of the history feel equally modern but still factual and historically accurate. I greatly enjoyed the characters – though readers who have enjoyed previous books in this series should be warned that Nelson, his wife, Ruth, Kate and Cathbad are really the only main characters that have significant amounts of time in the book. I did enjoy getting an update on Judy though – that helped tie this book in with the recent events in the few previous books.

Readers should know I feel this book can definitely stand exceptionally well on its own. I feel a lot of my emotional investment in the characters comes from having read the previous installments – but the plot absolutely is self-contained in this story and there aren’t too many ties threading this book with the others. I feel readers should be able to easily pick this book up with no prior knowledge and thoroughly enjoy it.

I thought the mystery was solid and well-paced. While it is definitely a mystery novel there is a lot of history and archaeology as well in this story. Personally, I feel it was very well balanced and made for a lay person to read quite easily. I found it enjoyable and very readable having no real experience or knowledge about British history and/or archaeology. I found it really interesting and the plotlines themselves very well woven.

A fun and enjoyable read, I’m looking forward to more books in this series.

A Room Full Of Bones by Elly Griffiths


A Room Full Of Bones by Elly Griffiths
Publisher: Quercus
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery/Suspense/Thriller
Rating: 4 Stars
Reviewed by Fern

When Ruth Galloway arrives to supervise the opening of a coffin containing the bones of a medieval bishop, she finds the museum’s curator lying dead on the floor. Soon after, the museum’s wealthy owner is also found dead, in his stables.

DCI Harry Nelson is called in to investigate, thrusting him into Ruth’s path once more. When threatening letters come to light, events take an even more sinister turn. But as Ruth’s friends become involved, where will her loyalties lie? As her convictions are tested, Ruth and Nelson must discover how Aboriginal skulls, drug smuggling, and the mystery of the “Dreaming” hold the answers to these deaths, as well as the keys to their own survival.

Dr Ruth Galloway is invited to an important but unusual event, assisting in the opening and documentation of a coffin excavated from a medieval church. When Ruth arrives an hour early at the museum, she is shocked to discover the curator recently deceased next to the ancient coffin. Detective Inspector Nelson is called in to investigate and things become more difficult – and far more dangerous.

This is the fourth book in the Dr Ruth Galloway series, and I am thoroughly enjoying it. I could well understand if many of the readers find the writing takes a little bit to get used to – most of this book (and the others I’ve read so far in the series) are written in the third-person omniscient tense which sometimes gives a bit of an overview feeling or like you’re watching something unfold, not directly connected or able to see things properly through the characters’ eyes. I recall feeling for the first book (The Crossing Place) that this was quite odd and took a bit to get used to. I can’t tell if the author just got better/more subtle about it or whether I’m now simply used to it, but I certainly don’t find the voice as jarring or difficult anymore – though it is still a slightly different feel to other books I’m used to.

That said I still felt a really good connection to Ruth in particular – and oddly I found myself highly enjoying Cathbad’s character as well. While Nelson is certainly the other primary character here, the murky situation between him, Ruth and Nelson’s wife had me feeling a little less charitable to Nelson’s character for much of the book. I don’t really feel Nelson acted badly or “wrong” but I personally feel he could have handled the entire situation better. While I fully expect to be won over again by Nelson in the next few books, I spent a lot of this story feeling equal parts sorry for Nelson and annoyed by him. I thought Cathbad’s character – while certainly not taking over from Nelson’s in any way – really helped fill the void I’m certain would have been there otherwise. I also simply enjoy Cathbad quite thoroughly.

Readers should know that there is an exceptional current-day murder mystery expertly woven around the medieval skeleton of a local Bishop. There are also some Australian Aboriginal bones and a few other smaller sub-plots revolving around in this story that really helped to keep me rapidly turning the pages. I feel the author did an excellent job balancing the various mystery/archaeology plots along with the inter-personal relationships of the various main characters. While I do feel everything is explained well enough a reader could pick this book up by itself and still thoroughly enjoy it, I personally would recommend reading this series in order. While not strictly necessary, a lot of the complexities and history revolving around these characters is from the prior stories and so I feel readers will have a much richer enjoyment having already read the previous books.

An exceptional murder mystery with strong archaeological ties, this is a good book and I personally found it a compelling read. Recommended.

The House at Sea’s End by Elly Griffiths


The House at Sea’s End by Elly Griffiths
Publisher: Quercus
Genre: Contemporary, Historical, Mystery/Suspense/Thriller
Rating: 4 Stars
Reviewed by Fern

Just back from maternity leave, forensic archeologist Ruth is finding it hard to juggle motherhood and work when she is called in to investigate human bones that have surfaced on a remote Norfolk beach. The presence of DCI Harry Nelson, the married father of her daughter, does not help. The bones, six men with their arms bound, turn out to date back to World War II, a desperate time on this stretch of coastland.

As Ruth and Nelson investigate, Home Guard veteran Archie Whitcliffe reveals the existence of a secret the old soldiers have vowed to protect with their lives. But then Archie is killed and a German journalist arrives, asking questions about Operation Lucifer, a plan to stop a German invasion, and a possible British war crime. What was Operation Lucifer? And who is prepared to kill to keep its secret?

Dr Ruth Galloway is learning how to juggle a newborn baby daughter and her work as a Forensic Archaeologist. When sand erosion unearths a number of skeletons buried from the World War 2 era her path once again collides with DCI Nelson. Can Ruth and Nelson find answers to this puzzle, but also find their way to a new equilibrium with their very complicated relationship.

I’ve been really enjoying this series. A delightful mixture of archaeology and modern mystery I fight the author has an excellent way of blending the past and present. I also have been really excited about the very non-traditional professional – and complicated personal – relationship between Ruth and Nelson. Nelson is a happily married man and I find it so refreshing and different that there is such an interesting professional relationship and odd friendship between Ruth and Nelson. I feel the complications between Ruth and Nelson are extremely well handled and personally I really enjoy the delicate balance they are both aiming for. I find this so interesting and refreshing to read and the very non-traditional-ness of the whole situation really keeps me coming back for more.

I feel that readers could fairly easily pick this book up and read it as a standalone. The connections between Ruth and Nelson are very well explained – though I do feel it would be sensible for readers to go back to the first book and not start with this, the third. A deeper understanding of this would enrich the readers enjoyment of the book I feel, and the two previous cases are mentioned a few times in passing. That said this book can absolutely be read – and enjoyed, I feel – if it’s read by itself. There is a strong cast of secondary characters and I enjoy the other layers they add both to the story and the situation as a whole.

The mystery was interesting and somewhat slower paced in the first half of the book. The personal and emotional relationships were explored in a bit of depth in the first half of the book, but the mystery and complexity of the plot takes comes to the fore in the latter half of the book and while I don’t feel this could be slotted as an “action” type of mystery the plot and murder mystery aspects definitely ramp up in the second half of the book. I feel readers who enjoy both character-based stories and police procedural style of murder mysteries will each enjoy this book. I also really enjoyed the glimpses into archaeology and the more historical aspects to the story as well and found this really rounded out the book in a delightful and different way.

With complicated and interesting characters, a number of emotional storylines mingled very well with a historical/archaeological plot and a more traditional murder mystery plot this is a wonderfully layered and richly interesting book I feel should appeal to a wide range of readers. An excellent series and one I am eagerly anticipating the next installment to. Recommended.

The Janus Stone by Elly Griffiths


The Janus Stone by Elly Griffiths
Publisher: Quercus (Hatchette UK company)
Genre: Contemporary, Historical, Mystery/Suspense/Thriller
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Fern

It’s been only a few months since archaeologist Ruth Galloway found herself entangled in a missing persons case, barely escaping with her life. But when construction workers demolishing a large old house in Norwich uncover the bones of a child beneath a doorway—minus its skull—Ruth is once again called upon to investigate. Is it a Roman-era ritual sacrifice, or is the killer closer at hand?

Ruth and Detective Harry Nelson would like to find out—and fast. When they realize the house was once a children’s home, they track down the Catholic priest who served as its operator. Father Hennessey reports that two children did go missing from the home forty years before—a boy and a girl. They were never found. When carbon dating proves that the child’s bones predate the home and relate to a time when the house was privately owned, Ruth is drawn ever more deeply into the case. But as spring turns into summer it becomes clear that someone is trying very hard to put her off the trail by frightening her, and her unborn child, half to death.

It’s been three months since Dr Ruth Galloway and DCI Harry Nelson worked together to solve a gripping crime. Ruth has returned to her normal life as head of the forensic archaeology department and DCI Nelson always has a desk full of other murders to solve. Only this time it’s Ruth who calls in Harry when the skeletal remains of a small child appear to have been buried under the doorway of what used to be a children’s home. Things quickly get out of hand and all too soon events are not a matter of what happened in the past, but what is occurring right now in the present.

I really enjoyed this second book in the Dr Ruth Galloway series – but admit I am glad it’s been a number of months since I read the first book. Overall, I feel it’s a very atmospheric, slightly gothic, murder mystery with a bunch of well-drawn and interesting characters and a gripping plot that moves along at a fast pace. I felt a little odd that the tense the book was written in sometimes jumped from first person to third – I felt this was a little jarring and disjointed but have to admit broadly speaking it actually added to the atmosphere of the book which in itself was a little gothic and tension riddled and jarring. I can’t tell if this was something the author did on purpose or if it just happened to work well, but it’s quite different from books I usually read so became quite noteworthy to me.

I was particularly pleased that most of the book should be perfectly logical to a reader who happens to pick this one up without having read the previous book. While Ruth and Harry do share something of a past it is fairly recent and – more importantly – only superficially linked to this new case and the plotline of this story itself. I feel readers should be able to enjoy and understand everything that occurs in this book without having read the previous one, but I expect in the third or fourth book that will start to become more difficult as Ruth and Harry will (I expect) continue to have more to do with each other and this separation or “stand alone” aspect to each book will become increasingly difficult.

The plot itself was something I found interesting and at times gripping. While I could see some similarities between this book and the previous one, I feel it’s more to do with the archaeology/police sort of cross over than anything lacking in the storyline itself. Speaking personally, I really enjoyed this mixture of science with police work and expect I’ll enjoy it for many books to come. Readers looking for something unique and startlingly different might not find that here. I also feel that should a reader binge the entire series and read a number of these books back-to-back the plot (and perhaps writing style itself) might become repetitive – but I also feel that is true of any author and series, no matter how exceptional.

I feel readers looking for a different style of police procedural book – and in particular one with an interesting archaeology cross over – with vibrant and a good range of characters and a well-paced plot should find this book really fits the bill for them. I greatly enjoyed this book.

Blue by Lisa Glass

BLUE
Blue by Lisa Glass
Publisher: Quercus
Genre: Contemporary, YA
Length: Full Length (373 pgs)
Age Recommendation: 14+
Rating: 5 stars
Reviewed by Hawthorn

Surfing is sixteen-year-old Iris’s world, and when the ultra-talented Zeke walks into her life, it soon becomes her passion.

Over one amazing summer, as she is drawn into his sphere, she experiences love, new friendships, but also loss, with an intensity she never dreamed of.

But is Zeke all he seems? What hides beneath his glamorous and mysterious past? When Iris decides to try for her own surfing success, just as her ex-boyfriend comes back into her life, she will test her talent, and her feelings for Zeke, to the limit…

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Iris is at first a very ‘girl next door’ character, which makes it easy to identify with her. She’s heartbroken over breaking up with her boyfriend; she just wants to wallow in her misery and stay holed up in her house. Then she meets a boy who seems too good to be true, and her entire world changes. We get to see Iris reveal new layers of her character and new depths of her surfing talent. She makes great progress through the novel, and blossoms into a poised and committed surfer and a beautiful personality.

The gorgeous boy she meets, Zeke, has done most of his growing up before we get to meet him, but that’s okay, because he is now mature enough to inspire and guide Iris. And he does that wonderfully. The amount of surfing knowledge that Ms. Glass wrote into his character makes him a believable champion, a great sportsman, and a very inspiring individual. He’s just what Iris needs, and that’s why their relationship works so well. It’s worth noting that apart from the external conflicts that hinder their relationship, at least at the beginning, there are also strong inner conflicts that help the reader become even more invested in the story.

I loved how the secondary characters were all well-written, with distinct personalities, and how Ms. Glass created relationships between them that felt very real and genuine. Kelly was the kind of a positive, spunky person I’d love to have for a friend. The interaction between the Francis brothers (and pretty much the entire family) is a joy to watch; and Nanna is a very special individual.

The only thing I’d have liked to see in the story but didn’t is more of the relationship between Saskia and Iris. I liked Saskia from the get-go and I was hoping for the girls to become fast friends. I think if they had, the final conflict would have been even more intense and consequently the resolution even more emotional. However, that’s more of a personal wish than an actual weakness of the story.

The pacing of the novel is flawless, with the last forty pages turning into an utter emotional rollercoaster. The descriptions of surfing, the waves and nature are so breathtaking you can smell the brine and feel the sun on your skin. The language and writing style are equally authentic. Surfing slang and Cornish expressions abound, so I learned quite a few new words.

Regardless of whether you like surfing, or even if you don’t know the first thing about it, you’ll grow to love it after reading Blue.