The House at Sea’s End – Elly Griffiths

The House at Sea’s End is the third book in the Ruth Galloway series by Elly Griffiths. I read the first two books in the series over a year ago & enjoyed them very much. However, I was going through my anti-crime fiction period when this was published last year so I’ve only just gotten around to reading it.

Ruth Galloway is a forensic archaeologist living on the Norfolk coast. She’s often called in to help the police when bones are discovered. This is how she met DCI Harry Nelson. The immediate attraction between Ruth & Harry resulted in Ruth’s pregnancy after a one night stand. Ruth decided to continue with the pregnancy alone as Harry is married & neither of them really wanted a relationship. The tentative relationship that has developed between Ruth & Harry is the main attraction of this series for me. Ruth is an unconventional heroine. Overweight, unfashionable, a loner, & now, juggling work with caring for her daughter, Kate. Harry is a native of Blackpool & only moved to Norfolk at the urging of his wife, Michelle, when promotion beckoned. Harry is blunt & touchy but a good policeman who is confused by his feelings for Ruth & overwhelmed by his love for hid new daughter. He also loves his wife & their two daughters. By the end of this book, the well-kept secret of Kate’s parentage looks as though it may be about to crack.

The investigation involves the discovery of six skeletons on a remote section of the coastline where erosion has revealed their burial place.  The skeletons had their hands tied & the men had been shot in the back of the head. When isotope analysis discloses that they were of German origin, attention turns to the legend that German troops had attempted to invade Britain along the Norfolk coast, during WWII. On the cliffs above, Sea’s End House, owned by politician Jack Hastings, is also affected by erosion & looks as though it will topple into the sea at any moment. The Hastings family have lived in Broughton for generations & Jack’s father had been in charge of the local Home Guard. Could the skeletons have been part of an advance force sent by the Germans? If so, how did they die? Then two old men, former members of Broughton’s Home Guard, die in suspicious circumstances, just as they were about to talk to a German academic who is researching the aborted invasion. The WWII mystery of the German soldiers suddenly becomes a modern murder investigation. Ruth’s investigation of the historic remains intersects with Harry’s search for the truth as the elderly survivors of the Home Guard are conveniently murdered before they can talk.

I do enjoy this series. The setting is atmospheric. Ruth lives in a desolate area called the Saltmarsh with no neighbours for miles. Ruth has few friends. Old school friend, Shona, & the druid, Cathbad, who is sometimes a little too perceptive for Ruth’s comfort. As I said earlier, the relationship between Ruth & Harry is very subtly handled & is always interesting. I don’t usually like present tense narration & it always disconcerts me although, I must say, once I’m into the story, I don’t notice it. My main complaint is that Ruth is in peril of her life at the end of every book & I’m a bit sick of it. I enjoyed the setting up & investigation but the dénouement left me cold. I think we’ve had every variation on Ruth being attacked in her lonely house, on the marshes, on a remote beach with the tide coming in etc etc. I know it’s fiction but I would love Ruth to get to the end of the book with a little less effort next time! The new book in the series, A Room Full of Bones, has just been published. I’m looking forward to it.

I’m not sure when I’ll post my next book review as I’ve done very little reading since Tuesday when my copy of series 2 of Sherlock arrived in the post. The first series of Sherlock was one of my TV highlights of last year & I couldn’t wait for the new series to come to a TV screen near me so I ordered the DVD as soon as it was available. Martin Edwards has reviewed all three episodes on his blog. It is brilliant. I’ve watched two episodes & I’m looking forward to watching the third tonight. I love the way the writers have updated the original stories so cleverly. I could go on & on but the allusions to the originals (Geek Interpreter, Speckled Blonde), the number of direct quotes from the original stories, usually from Sherlock are so well-done. The way that the relationship between Holmes & Watson has been updated but not changed in essentials. The excellent performances from Benedict Cumberbatch & Martin Freeman. I’ve read the Conan Doyle stories many times & I can’t help but think that knowing the originals adds to the enjoyment of watching Sherlock.

6 thoughts on “The House at Sea’s End – Elly Griffiths

  1. I like this series, too – and I agree with what you said, especially about the present tense narrative and the peril! We're about a year behind you…this one just came out in the U.S.


  2. Audrey, the atmosphere & characters always get me in so I'm going to read the next one. The reviews I've read have been mixed but I need to know what happens to Ruth & Harry…


  3. I'm way behind on SHERLOCK – have to catch up.

    The Ruth Galloway books have been recommended to me on several fronts. I went to the library and took out the first. BUT – when I got home and realized they were written in the present tense ( WHY? WHY? WHY? ) I returned the book.

    I just cannot read present tense. It blocks my suspension of disbelief, I guess.


  4. I know what you mean, Yvette. I'm not fond of present tense but I put up with it in this series because I've become fond of the characters & I like the atmosphere of the books. However, if Ruth's life is in danger AGAIN at the end of the new book, I may change my mind!


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