This fifth book in Elly Griffith's series about Ruth Galloway, archeologist, and Harry Nelson, Police Officer, moves the action away from Norfolk to Lancashire. The story concentrates on the area around Blackpool, Preston and Fleetwood, with particular emphasis on the rural area around Pendle. This writer's gift for evoking atmosphere, which has been very successful in previous books describing the salt marshes of Norfolk, is now put to work conjouring up for us the decayed tawdriness of Blackpool, the industrial areas of Preston, the beauty of Lytham, and the bleak hills of the surrounding area. The landscape forms a stunning background for the story but also conveys the mood of the narrative and the atmosphere of the events.
This is not a fast paced, action filled story. The novel builds in intensity with a sense of menace, coloured by a touch of the supernatural (although it is only a touch and most characters interpret the events in different ways). It is all very believable and the characters are realistic people. Ruth has come to Lancashire because she has been asked to by the history department of the local university following the death of her college friend Dan. As an expert on bones she is asked to evaluate Dan's last find before his suspicious death. Nelson is visiting his family in Blackpool but also looking into the investigation because of Ruth's interest. It helps if you have read the previous novels in the series because Ruth and Nelson's relationship is not straightforward and they have a lot of history.
There are lots of themes in this book - racism, mental health problems, difficult family relationships, stalled careers, the difficulty of going back to your childhood home, and old English history and traditions. The author weaves these together very successfully into two main story areas - the ongoing saga of Ruth and Nelson's relationship and their daughter Kate, and the deaths surrounding Dan's discovery of bones. The story is told without use of foul language or the insertion of gratuitous sex scenes but still remains very realistic and quite bleak.
I was gripped by the expert storytelling in this book and the way that the story unfolded. I have even forgiven the author for using the present tense to tell the story. I encourage all Elly Griffith's existing fans to read this novel and encourage anyone else to start to read her excellent stories.
First Sentence: At first he isn't even scared.
Forensic archeologist Ruth Galloway is shocked to learn that a friend has died in a house fire. Thing take on an eerie quality when she receives a letter from him, written days before he died. He talks about an historic archeological discovery but also that he's afraid. With her daughter Katy and Druid friend Cathbad, Kate heads north to Lancashire. What she doesn't plan on is that DCI Nelson, father to Katy, will also be there, his former hometown, with his wife and family.
If a completely compelling, albeit somewhat horrific, hook is what captures your attention; you can't do better than here. Griffiths immediately draws you into the story and makes you want to keep reading by making each chapter more intriguing than the last. This is not a book you'll put down.
Griffiths is very good at creating complicated relationships wherein you have sympathy for each of the characters involved. That takes real skill, and she has it. She also introduces characters very well and If you've read previous books, you become reacquainted; if you're new to the series, you never feel lost wondering who they are and how they fit together. Sadly, not all authors are good at this. There are the favorites, of course; Ruth and Cathbad in particular. Children can be awkward, yet Katy is neither precocious nor annoying, but very realistic. One of the most appealing new characters is Sandy, Nelson's friend and fellow DCI.
The atmosphere and tension created are excellent. The history related to the story is fascinating. I've always been a fan of Griffiths' ear for dialogue and her occasional subtle humor.
"A Dying Fall" is a book which broad appeal as it works on so many levels. It may just be my favorite or second favorite, book in this series so far. What most pleases me is to know that there will be more books coming.
A DYING FALL (Trad. Myst-Ruth Galloway-England-Contemp) - VG+
Griffiths, Elly - 5th in series
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2013
I did enjoy the book; I'd not read Elly Griffiths before so Ruth Galloway came as a pleasant surprise and I can see why there are many fans around piling on the 5 star reviews.
But the story is full of holes, if not in plot but in depiction and portrayal of characters. Though a Yorkshire bloke, I know the Blackpool/Lytham area quite well. It is dowdy now, a shade of its former glory but the people are not like it might be suggested by the author. Northeners are not just emerging from the Stone Age - or is that Paleolithic Age? I think I have a mobile somewhere and I do remember throwing out the typewriter last week and we do solve murders now and again, without the help of ex-pats from Norfolk.
Of course, the druid, Cathbad got it right because he preferred to live up't north, albeit in pretty much a wooden shack with a bull terrier. Surprised the dog wasn't a whippet, come to think of it.
Then there's the investigation as the body count mounts. Well, it's easy to detail the faults but this would mean I've no space to admire the writing. The present tense is not everyone's cup of tea but once you adapt, the storyline flows and the author has some very witty side comments to make. Being a fan of Holby and Silent Witness, I began to empathize! That apart, she gets to grips with a rather long winded determination that King Arthur was black. That should have been fun. Since we know who his father was (I think), it makes for an interesting idea. Personally, I like my heroes to be cut and dried (in this case just plain buried) but it doesn't harm now and again to upset that sort of applecart.
I did initially imagine that dragging along a less than two-year old under the pretence of a holiday would not go down well but it works, thanks to surrogate fathers at every turn, not the least being Cathbad and not the most being DCI Nelson -oh and Max and, er......For someone who remains unmarried and happy in her work she has quite a collection of admirers. I don't intend to read the previous four books; I'm happy to have found Ruth Galloway and will definitely read the next one, if only to see where we're going with her lifestyle.
Ifm a firm fan of Elly Griffiths' series featuring the wonderful character of Ruth Galloway and always compare approaching a new book by her as being akin to pulling on those old faithful slippers, grabbing a mug of hot chocolate and stuffing yourself with delicious cake. Although, I admit to being a fan of the more gritty and less mainstream crime noir, there is something I find very appealing about this series. You always know that you will be educated and entertained, as well as being engrossed in a damn good murder mystery and 'Dying Fall', the newest in the series, is no exception.
Our favourite forensic archaeologist finds herself embroiled in the seemingly senseless murder of Dan, an ex-university pal who, like Ruth, has forged a successful career in the field of archaeology and may just have stumbled upon the most significant archaeological find ever in Britain. Could Dan have really discovered the final resting place of King Arthur of the Britons, and who is desperate to claim this find as their own and to what sinister end. As Ruth appears to be the final person that Dan made contact with before his death, she ventures North with her daughter Kate, and Kate's Druidic godfather, Cathbad, in tow to solve the mystery. Cathbad is further drawn into the mystery, with the suicide of one of his oldest friends, and as the plot unfolds, Ruth and himself find themselves being lured further into dangerc.
The essential pull of this series lies within Griffiths' characterisation of Ruth herself. Ruth is an eeverywomanf who consistently succumbs to all those little doubts that most women would recognise within their own characters. She's in her 40s, worries about her weight, her choice of clothing, her parenting skills as a single mother, and other people's perceptions of her both professionally and personally. By the same token, she is an exceptionally attractive character, because of her humanity. She is very perceptive to the thoughts and feelings of others, but interestingly this skill fails to extend to her own personal life as she is blighted by her choice of men and aside from her utter devotion to her daughter, Kate, she has not attained a real sense of harmony in her personal relationships. Her personal life is complicated with regular stalwart, DCI Nelson being solidly married, but also being the father of Kate's daughter, and her faltering relationship with the frankly tedious Max brings her no succour either. However, with her natural intelligence and sense of empathy, she makes for a dogged if reluctant investigator into her friendfs death, and this also adds to her overall charm as a character. Supported by Griffithsf depiction of the eccentric Cathbad, the emerging character of Ruth's daughter Kate, and the tension of Ruthfs relationship with the inherently likeable DCI Nelson, these characters all work well within the balance of the book, in addition to the characters, Ruth encounters in association with the central murder mystery.
Another point to make about any of Griffiths' books is the attention to the archaeological and historical strands of the plotting. What I like about the series is how accessible Griffiths' makes her inclusion of this level of detail as probably most of us only encounter this world through dipping into eTime Teamf on the TV! I liked the way that this plot in particular hooked into two of the most seminal mysteries of British history; the existence of King Arthur and the possibility of the discovery of his final resting place, and the recounting of the events surrounding the Pendle witches. By insinuating both of these into the plot, Griffiths, adds another facet of interest to the reader that supports the enjoyment of what, in other hands, could be just a straightforward murder mystery plot. Yes, there are slightly unbelievable plot devices to propel the story onwards, but this in no way detracts from the stronger elements of Griffiths' writing, and the overall enjoyment to be gained from a well-researched backdrop, and the joy of the interaction between Griffiths' protagonists. Always a treat...
on 14 October 2013
Looking at all the four and five star reviews for this book I'm obviously in the minority here - I thought it was the worst, not the best, of the series.
If you like this sort of crime novel then you'll be happy to discover Elly Griffiths. Unfortunately, if like me you go on to read all her books in quick succession, all the similarities and flaws are laid bare.
Plotwise, they all follow exactly the same formula: forensic archaeologist Dr Ruth Galloway is called in when ancient bones are found, a modern murder is uncovered, there's a frantic chase to stop the killer, and Ruth is saved by one or more of her many male admirers. There's always a strong mystical theme, tending towards the corny with plenty of eerie fogs, ghosts and druids, and this time she's thrown in King Arthur and the Pendle witches as well. The unlikely situations and coincidences are piled on thickly, before a shameless red herring/cliffhanger brings it all to an end with a bang. At least the setting is different for this one - Blackpool instead of Norfolk - but Ruth has just exchanged one lonely cottage for another, which adds to the samey atmosphere.
It's not all about the plot, however: this is detection, Bridget Jones-style. It's all about Ruth and what everyone thinks about her. We have to share her never-ending angst about her weight - referred to on the first page of chapter 1 - and her love life, which I'm finding a bit repetitive and annoying (especially now that her relationship with DCI Harry Nelson seems to be going nowhere). There's a limit to how much I can put up with a woman complaining about being hugely fat, lonely, and a useless mother, when she's obviously none of these things.
As always, the tenses are all over the place, and the first person narration is still sounding like audio description. And at the end we get a couple of pages of this sort of thing, explaining what's happened:
" ... How much did Dan know? ... But Sam must have still had his doubts about Clayton ... It was Sam who sent the text messages ... Elaine told Ruth that she had received a phone call ..."
It reads as if she was rushing to tie up all the loose ends in order to meet a deadline.
That's probably the end of Elly Griffiths for me: I'm disappointed, I had high hopes for this series. But judging by all the glowing reviews she's found a very successful formula, so it's a case of if it ain't broke, don't fix it, I suppose.
The plus points are shifting the story away from Norfolk up to the Fylde Coast in the North West, which was interesting, and the archeological discovery that could re-write British History, or not..... The archaeology and the history play second or third fiddle in this story. However relocating both Ruth and Nelson up to the North West at the same time, with different story strands, with their paths predictably crossing seems a bit far fetched and unsatisfactory, it's just a bit more of the same, with different place names.
It's not a bad book by any means, certainly better than "Bones", but just not on a par still with books 1, 2 and 3.
It does however set up a potentially tantalising, bold and fascinating next instalment, with what Ruth returns to Norfolk with............
This is the fifth book about Ruth Galloway, archaeologist and bone specialist. It works well as a stand-alone mystery, but it is a much richer experience if you have read the others first.
Ruth hears that Dan, who was at university with her has been killed in a fire. Although she has not heard from him for nearly twenty years she is grieved. A couple of days later she receives a letter from Dan, a lecturer at Pendle University, saying that he believes he has made a major discovery and that he needs to consult her, as a bone specialist, about it. He said the discovery had made him both excited and afraid. Worried that he had been afraid, given what happened to him shortly afterwards, Ruth asks DCI Nelson, father of her child, to make discreet inquiries. Nelson, about to go on holiday to his mother's home in Blackpool, down the road from Pendle, agrees to contact former colleagues in the Blackpool police force.
Meanwhile, Ruth decides to go to Pendle to examine the bones. Taking her friend, Cathbad to help mind the baby, Kate, she travels north. Pendle university is cash strapped and underfunded and the head of the history department is desperate for a major discovery to ensure funding for his department. It soon becomes apparent that something very odd is happening at Pendle. Is it paganism or neo-Nazism or a deadly combination of both, or is it just common or garden embezzlement? Ruth, herself, makes a major discovery about the bones which could have huge ramifications in the worlds of archaeology, folklore and early history. More people die and Ruth's safety is threatened.
This is all compounded by the complications of the Ruth/Nelson/Kate relationship and keeping it secret from Nelson's mother, in laws and colleagues. As in her previous books, Griffiths' management of her characters and the moral dilemmas that they find themselves in, is expertly handled and the complexities of their relationships more fully explored. The more we know the characters, the more intriguing they become.
In some of the previous stories there have been hints of possible paranormal activity, but, even though some of the characters appear to be practising wizards, this is a much more straightforward whodunnit. It was completely absorbing and I could not put it down. Elly Griffiths has maintained her high standards and has produced yet another excellent thriller.
on 26 December 2012
The archaeological background invites one into an area of knowledge that I personally would never have accessed, and which I find enjoyable and different. The books are well written, and the mysteries interestingly based on archaeology, history and myth. I look forward to the day when Ruth stops revolving around her flab and gets on with strengthening her life around her intellectual gifts. I like the introduction of Tim, who seems to be a promising new character, while I am a little concerned at the defection of Cathbad - his nutty good sense does lighten any angst that creeps in. These are good mysteries, and are well written.
Ruth Galloway – forensic archaeologist – receives a phone call telling her that a university friend has died in a house fire. She feels sad but as she hadn’t heard form Dan for years she isn’t heartbroken. The following day she gets a letter from him asking her to go and see him in Lancashire to look at a skeleton he has found. The letter also says he is afraid which in the light of his death sends shivers down Ruth’s spine.
Ruth decides she will go to Lancashire for a holiday, taking her small daughter Kate with her. Her Druid friend, Cathbad, asks to go with them. What follows is a fascinating mystery involving the Witches of Pendle, King Arthur, some modern day Druids and some very unpleasant white supremacists – not to speak of a dog called Thing and the usual academic rivalries. I found it compelling reading. I like the rather truculent Ruth who comes to life when she is involved in her work.
All the characters are well drawn and believable and the plot is exciting. The suspense is very well done and it gradually builds to a nail biting finale. The book is well written in a low key style with plenty of touches of humour. It is written in the present tense which doesn’t always work for me but for this series it seems to work very well. If you like your crime mixed with the past then try this series. They can be read in any order but it helps to read them in the order in which they were published to understand the relationships between the series characters.
This is the fifth book in Elly Griffith's series about Ruth Galloway, a single mother and forensic archeologist who lives in Norfolk, England. Each book in the series is freestanding, so although events in previous books are alluded to at times, there is nothing to stop you from reading this book if you haven't read the others.
The book opens with the death of an old university friend of Ruth's, a fellow archeologist whom she hasn't seen in some 20 years. Dan has died in a housefire and it is clear that whoever started the fire clearly intended to also kill Dan. Shortly after hearing about his death, Ruth receives a letter that he sent her before he died. He tells her about having made a potentially huge archeological discovery and asks her to come to where he lives in northern England to offer her opinion.
Ruth travels to Dan's hometown with Kate her toddler and Cathbad (her slightly eccentric druid friend) in tow. She quickly discovers that there are several elements about the discovery that don't add up and that at least one of Dan's colleagues is trying to cover something up. She also starts receiving threatening texts telling her to give up the case. It is only her loyalty to Dan's memory that keeps her investigating. Ruth's friend and former lover, DCI Nelson, is also on holiday in the area and gets drawn into the investigation.
I enjoyed this book. While there are elements of Elly Griffith's writing that irritate me - mainly the way that she writes in the present tense and the way that she always has to tell us what's going on in everyone's head - the characters maintain my interest. The mystery at the core of the story is also a tantalisingly possible historical hypothesis, which was interesting to read. There were so many red herrings that I failed to work out whodunnit and this also kept me reading.
This is a very solid installment in an enjoyable series.