Friday, March 16, 2018

The Chalk Pit by Elly Griffiths

Reviewed by Jeanne

Ruth Galloway, university professor and archaeologist, is called in once again to examine some bones found during a construction survey.  The question is, have they stumbled on a historically important site that is going to hold up construction, or is it an old random burial, or—something else?

Meanwhile, Detective Inspector Nelson is asked to look into an almost hit and run. A young woman who was driving home after dark saw a man standing in the middle of the road in front of her car, but when she got out to look for him, he had simply vanished.  The other members of the team are investigation the apparent disappearance of a homeless woman, hearing rumors of people who have “gone underground.”  The police are unsure of how seriously to take these stories until one of their informants is found murdered and another person goes missing.

This is one of those series best read in order because a great deal of the story is bound up in the personal histories of the characters.  I have to admit that I often remember more about what happens to Ruth, Nelson, Cathbad, Kate, etc. than I do the mystery that frames their stories.  The characters are complex, fully realized people which is why they are so compelling. And while most of the attention is on Ruth and Nelson, the supporting characters also have interesting lives on and off the job.  Fans of the series will find this entry to be particularly delicious, for reasons I cannot divulge without spoilers.

Yet a Griffiths novel is always more than the characters and the mystery.  There are intriguing insights into various segments of British society: the Church of England, for example, or the “rough sleepers” (homeless) who appear in The Chalk Pit.   History always plays an important role, too, and readers learn about the many chalk tunnels under Norwich.

I will say that I was disappointed that one or two questions were never answered in the book, but on the other hand many mysteries in life are never resolved.  Better to leave loose ends than to tie them up too neatly.

I highly recommend this series!

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