Elly Griffiths is one of my current go-to mystery authors. I first read her Ruth Galloway series which features a free-spirited, independent forensic archaeologist who becomes involved with a gruff police investigator in Norwich England. The blend of archaeology and history with detective work is fascinating, and the Griffiths has skillfully developed the characters over the course of 23 books. Her newest, Night Hawks, is set for release in June.
Ruth is back as head of archaeology at the University of North Norfolk when a group of local metal detectorists—the so-called Night Hawks—uncovers Bronze Age artifacts on the beach, alongside a recently deceased body, just washed ashore. Not long after, the same detectorists uncover a murder-suicide—a scientist and his wife found at their farmhouse, long thought to be haunted by the Black Shuck, a humongous black dog, a harbinger of death. The further DCI Nelson probes into both cases, the more intertwined they become, and the closer they circle to David Brown, the new lecturer Ruth has recently hired, who seems always to turn up wherever Ruth goes.
I constantly recommend this series to people looking for a mystery series that isn’t twee-cozy but also isn’t full of horrifying, gory details. Griffiths has had some ups and downs over the series, but Night Hawks is one of her very best. Ruth, Nelson, and the King’s Lynn gang are back and in good form. The murder mysteries are, as usual, cleverly plotted and offered up in the author’s witty style. The thing that I appreciate the most about this series is that the characters always experience some sort of growth. They are not frozen in time, like Martha Grimes’ Richard Jury. Griffiths has finally found a good balance of the personal storylines of the characters, the forensic archaeology, and the crime and knits all of it together here along with some tantalizing local folklore into an un-put-downable story.
Griffiths has also started a new series featuring DS Harbinder Kaur, a little more gritty than the Ruth Galloway series and just as inventive.
In The Postscript Murders, the death of a ninety-year-old woman with a heart condition should not be suspicious. Detective Sergeant Harbinder Kaur certainly sees nothing out of the ordinary when Peggy’s caretaker, Natalka, begins to recount Peggy Smith’s passing. But Natalka had a reason to be suspicious: while clearing out Peggy’s flat, she noticed an unusual number of crime novels, all dedicated to Peggy. And each psychological thriller included a mysterious postscript: PS: for PS. When a gunman breaks into the flat to steal a book and its author is found dead shortly thereafter—Detective Kaur begins to think that perhaps there is no such thing as an unsuspicious death after all. And then things escalate: from an Aberdeen literary festival to the streets of Edinburgh, writers are being targeted. DS Kaur embarks on a road trip across Europe and reckons with how exactly authors can think up such realistic crimes . . .
Griffiths has cemented herself on my bookshelves as an author of favor. This new entry in the Harbinder Kaur series is one of the best I’ve read in awhile. The plot is fascinating and just twisty enough that I did not see the final revelation coming. Griffiths loves quirky but endearing characters, and the trio of amateur detectives here is just a delight. Edwin, especially, made me laugh and admire his pluckiness despite his age; Natalka and Benny are sweet and salty – a winning combination.
I really, really, really want to see one of Griffiths’ series filmed for BBC, and Harbinder Kaur might just be it! I always recommend Elly Griffiths books for people looking for a not-too-gory but not-too-cozy mystery, and these will be at the top of my recommendation lists in 2021.