The setting was the pull for this one for me; I grew up in East Anglia and have surprised myself lately by finding that I still have a soft spot for the area. The Saltmarsh featured in the novel is invented (as Griffiths clearly indicates in the Author's Note), but it's entirely plausible as a Norfolk place. It is clear that Griffiths knows the Norfolk coast well and she writes of it with affection, but without romanticising and minimising its bleakness.
If the setting was the initial attraction, Ruth Galloway's character was what kept me in it for the long haul. Unusual and rather awkward, she's a great creation. Her academic life and motivation ring true and her interaction with Harry Nelson, who doesn't really know what to make of her, is a great touch. Most of the novel is told from her point of view, although not in the first person, which means we can also sometimes get a glimpse of something that Ruth isn't privy to.
The plot is involving and well-constructed, with plenty of possible culprits and red herrings. The tension is ramped up when it becomes clear that Ruth herself is in danger, and the wildness of the setting really comes into its own at this point, adding further complications.
Overall, this was a most enjoyable read and I will definitely be reading the rest of the series. Using Ruth's archaeological expertise gives it a different angle from other crime series, and the bleak rural setting provides an additional edge. Harry Nelson is a complex character too, and I'm sure there's still a lot of character (and plot) development to come in further books, as we end with a cliffhanger in terms of Ruth's personal life. I'm glad to say that it seems this won't be one of those series where the key characters are 'back in their places' at the start of each book, and nothing really moves on.