Tuesday, 10 January 2012

Book Review: The House at Sea's End by Elly Griffiths

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 of this book on Netgalley sounded right up my street. It was especially interesting that the book is set in the UK which makes a nice change for me. (Just a note, this was meant to be a Coming Soon review but a combo of being ill and a nightmare with my web access it is now available!)

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.

The House at Sea's EndAfter 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.

Format: E-book, ARC
My Rating: 4*

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