Elly Griffiths books are like my guilty pleasure without the guilt; I devour them and am always left wanting more.
The House at Sea's End is the third book in the Ruth Galloway series. Ruth is a Forensic Archaeologist who lives on the Norfolk coast and examines bones for a living, sometimes having to help the police in their serious crimes unit to establish what may have happened to bones that can't be immediately identified by the police. Ruth Galloway is one of my favourite crime heroines: she lives in a tiny cottage on a remote part of Norfolk by the salt marshes, she is slightly overweight, she has a cat, she reads lots of books and enjoys her own company - I heart Ruth! In this book, however, she has something other than serious crimes to concentrate on and that is motherhood. After a one-night stand with Detective Harry Nelson in the first book, Ruth has now given birth to Kate, whom turns out to be a whole mystery of her own. Of course, Nelson is back in this latest book too and I must admit to having a little crush on him.
The House at Sea's End brings us the mystery of six skeletons that are found by a team of Archaeologists in the cliff's on the Norfolk coast. Nelson and Ruth are amazed to discover that the bones are from Germany and could very well belong to German soldiers from WW2 - but how and why did they get there and who is trying to put them off the trail?
What I love about this series is that not only are these books great reading with a simplicity that makes me think of them as comfort reading (as opposed to hard-boiled crime fic) but the characters and so well drawn and developed throughout the books that I could read them for this alone; I just love following Ruth and Nelson's story and meeting back up with characters such as Cathbad; it's like meeting up with old friends. What I also love is the bleakness of the setting (and who can resist the covers for the books in this series?)
on 24 January 2011
i was very impressed with this book. it is the best one in the series so far, and certainly the best written. with her previous two books i very much enjoyed the developing relationship between ruth and nelson, but i'm afaid the identity of the killers was a little too easy to spot. not so here. i really didn't have a clue or rather i was seduced by a red herring or two and found myself way off. however, the chief pleasures are to be found in the description of our heroine, her complicated relationship with nelson and a cast of very likeable supporting characters. the author really excels in this aspect of her writing and i can't wait for the next installment to see where we all end up, particularly after the implication of the book's closing paragraph.
on 8 November 2011
In "The House at Sea's End," by Elly Griffiths, forty-year-old forensic archeologist Ruth Galloway is now a single mum. Although she adores her daughter, Kate, Ruth is tired ("sleepless nights, zombie-like days"), nervous, and feeling guilty about leaving her baby with child minders while she is at work. Along with her teaching duties at the University of North Norfolk, she occasionally helps the police with their inquiries. When someone uncovers human skeletons in a ravine, Ruth is called in to examine the remains.
Griffiths has a natural, effortless, understated, and gently humorous writing style. As always, Galloway is an endearing "Everywoman"--overweight, somewhat disorganized, and self-deprecating. Ruth cares for Kate's father, but he is off-limits, so she has decided to raise their daughter on her own. Since Ruth and Kate's dad are thrown together on a regular basis, it is likely that the truth about the baby's parentage will emerge sooner or later. This could prove awkward for all concerned.
The mystery centers on an incident that occurred during World War II, at a time when members of the "Broughton Sea's End Home Guard" were determined to protect England's mainland from Nazi invaders. Some of these elderly veterans are still alive, but an unidentified perpetrator starts killing them off; Ruth and DCI Harry Nelson wonder if someone is silencing them to keep a long-hidden secret from coming to light. On a less somber note, DS Judy Johnson is about to be married, but has she chosen the right mate? Love is in the air, but in some cases, Cupid's arrow may land a bit wide of the mark.
Griffiths juggles her lively and varied cast of characters with ease. On hand are Shona, Ruth's sassy buddy; Cathbad, a druid with a good heart and a canny mind; and Tatjana, an old friend who has come to visit Ruth. In 1996, Ruth and Tatjana had worked together in Bosnia, uncovering and identifying the remains of massacred victims of that region's tragic civil war. One of the author's themes is that, in wartime, formerly law-abiding people can turn into brutal and aggressive predators.
The author treats us to evocative descriptions of the wild and desolate coast where Ruth lives. Griffiths helps us visualize the sandstone cliffs, coves, and marshes; hear the shrill cries of the birds wheeling overhead, "their wings turned to pink by the setting sun"; and feel the pounding of the surf as it hammers against the rocks. Although the whodunit's solution is a bit rushed and somewhat contrived, this flaw does not markedly detract from the novel's appeal. Ruth Galloway fans will be pleased to see their heroine back from maternity leave, as smart, independent, courageous, and impulsive as ever.
on 5 May 2012
I don't quite know what to say about this book as I had such high expectations for it. I enjoyed the story, as the relationship between Ruth and Nelson is becoming more involved and I think they are a really entertaining pair. However, for me most of the fascination with these stories is the forensic archaeology content and it's relation to police investigations plus the absorbing myths and legends. Here there wasn't so much. It was more of a murder mystery with connections to WW11 and while that was really good, I missed these elements. Usually it is book two which can fall flat which is not the case here; the Janus Stone was excellent. I hope this was just a deviation for Elly Griffiths and she will return to the more mystical elements which I found so absorbing in her first two books. I'm starting book four now, A Room Full of Bones so I'll post an update when I've finished. I hate writing reviews like this and I did love the book but in this case, this one was not quite as absorbing as the previous two...sorry Elly!
on 18 January 2011
Elly Griffiths hasn't disappointed us with her third book about Ruth, the forensic archaeologist. It rings so true about Ruth's struggle to combine motherhood with a career - a career that can plunge her into dangerous situations. Who would have thought bones could be so tricky? I couldn't put this book down, and was so sad when I had finished it, I started it again!
This is the third in Elly Griffith's series about Ruth Galloway, a forensic archeologist, and you will probably enjoy it significantly more if you have read at least the first book in the series (The Crossing Places: A Case for Ruth Galloway) already. This time around, Ruth is called in when 6 skeletons are found wedged into the crevice of a cliff face. Forensic analysis reveals that they date back to World War 2 and they are probably German in origin. However what seems to be a dated, albeit interesting, crime becomes more relevant when it appears that someone is still prepared to kill in order to keep secret how the bodies came to be there.
Elly Griffith's books are easy reading, "cosy" mysteries. As crime novels they don't stand up to much scrutiny. The murderer's identity is almost impossible to work out due to the absence of clues and even credible motivation. In fact, after reading three of her books I can only marvel at the number of murderers running loose in Norfolk who are prepared to kill for the slightest of reasons. Despite this, they are still enjoyable to read, mainly because the characters are now so familiar. In this installment, Ruth's daughter Kate is a few months old and I also enjoyed the way that Griffiths incorporates the tricky juggling act that parenting plus working entails. A little twist at the end also has me wondering how the complicated relationship between Ruth and DCI Harry Nelson will develop in the next book.
Overall an enjoyable enough diversion, but pretty lightweight.
on 10 January 2012
The House at Sea's End is the third in the author's Ruth Galloway series. Ruth is a forensic archaeologist, and for a fan of Patricia Cornwell and co the book description sounded right up my street. It was especially interesting that the book is set in the UK which makes a nice change for me.
In this book Ruth has just returned to work after a period of maternity leave. She is finding it hard to get the balance between work and motherhood right, and her problems are further exacerbated by having to work with D.C.I Nelson - the married father of her baby daughter Kate.
After a team of archeologists studying coastal erosion in Norfolk discover bones at the foot of a cliff Ruth is called in to advise the police. When she establishes the six skeletons are around 60 years old and that the deceased probably came from Germany the team are drawn into a wartime mystery and the secrets being kept by protective locals. As Nelson and his team investigate recent deaths begin to look less natural than they did at first glance. So who is still trying to protect a decades old secret?
I had absolutely no problem with this book standing alone, as there was enough reference back to what had happened earlier, and inferences about what had gone before, that I felt I understood the present situation the characters found themselves in. I loved Ruth. As the working mum of a toddler, the battle she is goes through wondering if she is a bad mother for trying to do both, and for not being the sort of person who wants to spend every waking moment with their offspring, was all too familiar. The situation with Nelson and his wife's interest in Kate made me squirm for her. Reading parts from his perspective I also actually managed to find some sympathy for him too, which surprised me a little. Around them are some colourful characters that give the book a real feeling of life and there were plenty of unlikely nominees for the role of murderer.
As mentioned I love this type of novel, but a lot I have read in the past are set in the US. It's always nice to read about more familiar locations and experiences etc. The small villages and bleak countryside depicted had an atmospheric feel that added nicely to the unfolding story. If I was to compare this with the work of another author it would have to be one of my favourites, Val McDermid.
The plot was a good blend of historical mystery and crime novel. As a subplot the relationship between Ruth and a visiting friend who worked together excavating mass graves in Bosnia, and the developing story what had happened some years ago while there, was also interesting. If I had any one complaint it would be that I would have liked a bit more about either the forensic archeology process or the police procedural elements included to balance the development of the various relationships and the personal lives.
I really enjoyed this book, Ruth is a character I warmed to so much and I'll definitely have to find time to go back and read the first two books.
on 23 March 2011
At best, I am a sporadic contributor to review forums, and when I do contribute it is almost always because I especially enjoyed the book in question. In this case, however, I'm provoked to put finger to keyboard simply because I disagree so comprehensively with those who have lavished praise upon a book which I consider to be one of the poorest crime novels I have read for some time.
I found the author's use of the present tense was at best an irritating distraction; at times, the writing feels more like a screenplay than a novel. I'm not against innovative writing, but in this case I simply didn't see the point of this stylised approach.
The characters did not seem to me to be at all well-drawn - they were far too stereotypical, lacking in depth and - at least through the eyes of this reviewer - too self-orientated to create any sense of empathy in the mind of the reader.
It's difficult to say anything substantive about the plot giving too much away - there isn't much there to start with. The basic concept of bodies rising from their graves to reveal wartime shenanigans is not new - there's a recent example in Ann Cleeves' 'Red Bones' - but the casting of the Home Guard as villains of the historic piece was, so far as I am aware, original. Unfortunately, it was also incredible. The identity of the modern murderer is difficult to guess simply because few, if any, legitimate clues are provided. There is a highly-contrived set-piece climax which is absolutely incomprehensible because even if it hadn't dramatically misfired it would have done little or nothing to protect the identity or advance the objectives of the killer.
Crime fiction always requires some degree of suspension of our innate credulity - after all, most of us go through our lives without tripping over murdered corpses - so, for example, we can readily cope with the fact that the murder rate in Peter Robinson's corner of rural North Yorkshire is much higher than in real-life inner cities. A satisfying crime novel doesn't push this suspension too far; it leaves us with at least a vague sense that the story just could have happened that way, even though we know perfectly well that it was pure fiction. The House at Sea's End went way beyond my credulity threshold.
In short, though I have been a lifetime fan of good crime fiction, I was entirely unimpressed by both the style and the content of this novel. My advice is to keep looking - there are plenty of much better reads out there.
on 17 January 2014
This is the third book of the series, and the third I have read. As an archaeologist working in East Anglia, and a keen reader of crime fiction, the subject matter appealed to me. I was willing to continue to overlook the irritating use of the present tense if the plot was good enough. The first two books were not bad, although there are some annoying misunderstandings regarding archaeology/archaeologists and forensic archaeology. However I do like several of the characters and I continued to read the series for that reason.
Regarding the third book, I have to agree with other reviewers about the constant mentions of the baby and her needs - why bring a baby into the stories at all? Very boring. But for me, the biggest howler in this book is the lack of understanding of the geology and topography of the Norfolk coastline - there is nowhere so inaccessible that World War II barrels would be stashed and remain hidden to the present day. As others have said, this is not a well-written and thought out crime novel, and the storyline is now much more concerned with single motherhood and the problems of affairs. I had already bought the 4th book in the series before I read this one, and I will give the series one more chance, but I'm not sure I will buy any more.
on 3 May 2013
The House at Sea's End is a straightforward modern murder mystery, with no pretensions to literature. Every such novel nowadays has to form a series, and this is the third novel to feature archeologist Ruth Galloway. She is grumpily quirky (naturally), a workaholic new single mother living in an unfeasably isolated house, whose archeological investigations uncover present-day crimes.. and involve much personal danger. There are some interesting chunks of history here about the British home defences in the second world war. But the tone is often off-kilter somehow: the regular references to BBC Radio 4, intended presumably to give us more of a sense of Ruth's character, jar. The plot strand concerning her Bosnian friend Tatjana goes nowhere and culminates in a sudden burst of disproportionate hostility. Unless you've been hooked by Griffiths' earlier books this one is probably best avoided.