The ghost fields

My friend Clare, who also happens to be a published crime writer, is excellent at picking and recommending good reads (see here for a review of her first novel). Last Christmas she gave me a novel by Elly Griffiths, which she warmly recommended - The ghost fields. I finally got round to reading it, and as usual, Clare had done a wonderful job. I absolutely loved this novel, and can't wait to read the rest in the series.

Ghost fields is the seventh novel in Griffiths' Ruth Galloway detective series. Rather unusually Galloway herself isn't a detective; she's a forensic archaeologist working at the fictional University of North Anglia (though the campus seems to bear an uncanny resemblance to the real University of East Anglia based in Norwich). Galloway is also called in by the local Serious Crimes Unit when bodies turn up in suspicious or unusual circumstances. There's lots of back-story involving the relationships between the long-running characters, but Galloway deals with this superbly. Never once did I feel I didn't understand what was going on in the background, in fact I just wanted to learn more. As there's quite a complicated backstory, I was filled with admiration for her ability to deal with this. Never once did it get in the way of the crime story-line which was a superb one.

When a digger driver clearing land for a building development comes across a Second World War plane with a body in it, it seems a straightforward case of a wartime death, but when Galloway realises that the body was not the original occupant of the plane, and that he was murdered, the whole case becomes a lot more complicated. The local aristocracy, the Blackstock family, are connected with the death, but as murders and violent crimes multiply, Galloway and the leader of the investigation, Harry Nelson, are going to have to solve the historical crime before they can get to the root of the contemporary violence.

I adored this novel. It worked on every level. Cleverly thought out crime story, some great historical detail (I knew very little about the ghost airfields of Norfolk, and this was a fascinating aside to the novel), wonderful sense of place, and a great backstory. She even manages to combine a comic element with a truly thrilling climax. I genuinely liked and cared about the main characters - Galloway and Nelson, Clough, Judy and Cathbad. And to draw the reader in so quickly in what is a relatively short novel says a lot for the skill of the writer. Do read Elly Griffiths, she's a superb writer, who effortlessly draws you in to a complex tale. A must for crime aficionados.


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