The Chalk Pit (Dr Ruth Galloway) by Elly Griffiths

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The Chalk Pit (Dr Ruth Galloway) by Elly Griffiths

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Category: Crime
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Sue Magee
Reviewed by Sue Magee
Summary: It's number nine in the series but I came to it not knowing the history and found a good plot with characters I want to know more about. Definitely recommended.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 384 Date: February 2017
Publisher: Quercus
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-1784296599

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Norwich is - apparently - riddled with tunnels, many dating back to the time when chalk was mined there. When bones are discovered in one of the tunnels it seems obvious that they've been there for hundreds of years, but Dr Ruth Galloway, forensic archaeologist, isn't so certain. The colour doesn't look right and she has a suspicion that the bones have been boiled: they've also not been there that long. DCI Harry Nelson has a murder case on his hands. His team has other problems: DS Judy Johnson is investigating the disappearance of a local rough sleeper and there's not a lot to go on other than the rumour that she's 'gone underground', but what, exactly, does that mean?

What it might mean is that there's some truth to the urban myth that in the tunnels under the city there's a community of rough sleepers, and what of Ruth's suspicion that cannibalism might have occurred? It's not easy to get information when a rough sleeper goes missing: have they simply moved on somewhere else? Other rough sleepers are not keen to get involved with the police and many of the general public are not that worried. There's a change in the atmosphere though when a mother of four children disappears without trace from her home. Galloway and Nelson have some dark secrets to unravel.

I've done something which I rarely do: joined a long-running series many books down the line. The Chalk Pit is book nine in the series and there's obviously a lot of history to catch up on. Galloway is a single parent of a six-year-old daughter and the father of the child is Harry Nelson, but he's still living with his wife (who's aware of the situation) and his grown-up daughters (who just think that Dad is being very kind to Ruth Galloway when he takes her daughter out). You can sense it's not going to last. Strangely enough I had no problems with picking up the history: it's concisely explained where necessary and there are some potted biographies of the characters at the back of the book to flesh things out. Rather than feeling that I had no need to go back to the beginning, I'm now determined to make the time! Fortunately there are no spoilers, even when reference is made to earlier cases.

The story is good: I had an inkling about what had happened and who was the perpetrator, but it wasn't sufficient to spoil my enjoyment of the book, possibly because the characters are so strong. I loved Galloway's strength, the way that she can sope with whatever's thrown at her, the way that she can put her own feelings to one side and still be a professional. I didn't find Nelson quite so appealing, perhaps because he's outwardly strong, but really quite cowardly in some ways. There's a great sense of location too. I have a passing acquaintance with the city of Norwich and other parts of north Norfolk and Elly Griffiths brings the area startlingly to life. Galloway lives on the edge of the saltmarsh with all its ethereal beauty: the feeling of isolation is palpable.

I'd like to thank the publishers not just for sending this book to me but also for introducing me to a series which I'm going to read from the beginning.

Harry Nelson says that he likes strong women. For another series featuring one - this time a forensic psychologist have a look at the Alice Quentin series by Kate Rhodes starting with Crossbones Yard.

Elly Griffiths' Dr Ruth Galloway Mysteries in Chronological Order

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