This is the 13th in this series about Dr Ruth Galloway, a Forensic Archaeologist set in the coastal area of North Norfolk. It is certainly not unlucky for this prolific and popular crime writer and she has garnered a huge and loyal fan base for her books.
You need not have read the previous 12 books but that would be a shame especially to set the scene for Ruth’s often complicated relationship with the father of her daughter Kate. The man in question is DCI Harry Nelson and he continues to be (despite her dips into other relationships with men) the love of her life. The problem with this is that Nelson is married to someone else (the very patient Michelle) and has only just become father to a young son with her as their daughters are now young women.
But the love triangle doesn’t override the excellent plot as we would come to expect from the author. ‘The Night Hawks’ in the title are a group of metal detectorists who comb the beaches and fields of the area at night. Forget Toby Jones and Stephen Marchant of the recent superb TV series as here we have some very odd characters with secrets of a deadly nature to hide and who are of course on site when the first body on the novel is uncovered.
Even though it is near the grave of an ancient warrior – necessitating Ruth to be called in to search through bones – this body is much younger in age and date. There is also some treasure – a hoard of Bronze Age weapons and a colleague who seems annoyingly to be around all the time. Meanwhile as if one dead body wasn’t gruesome enough a doctor and his wife are found shot in a lonely farmhouse called Black Dog Farm where the Norfolk legend of a mythical giant dog -the Black Shuck – is linked.
Ruth is now returned from a spell in Cambridge and back in her isolated cottage on the marshes. One wonders how her daughter Kate will like the location as teenage years arrive – I was brought up in the same area and hated being miles from ‘civilisation’ if you could call a disco in the town hall that! Combining motherhood and work always seem to overcome as Ruth takes to her promotion to head of department at the University of North Norfolk. But whatever the situation if Nelson comes calling for her involvement in an investigation Ruth will be there.
Griffiths is now comfortable but not lazy in the evolvement of this series where often characters can fall by the wayside or be given unbelievable plot lines to try and lure sales. Married to an archaeologist herself it would seem Griffiths uses both the intricacies of the work and the links with legends and history to bring plots alive and with many twists and turns. The pagan Cathbad is as usual to the fore as a great character and links all tales with the past and present in a magical form. He is my favourite character but really there isn’t one I feel should be written out or written back in – although what happened to Shona, Ruth’s stunning drinking friend?
Knowing Norfolk as I do, Griffiths describes the landscape accurately, beautifully and with obvious affection. It is often bleak, flat and windy but the beaches and marshes give form and feature alongside all the wonderful birdlife, and in this tale the importance of the seal colony at Blakeney Point (well worth a visit!) This Galloway series builds to a dramatic finale always with Ruth in deep trouble at the hands of the murderer/s. However, this time we are left with a real twist and a question as to exactly what might happen to our favourite female archaeologist and her lovers and friends when we reach instalment 14. A book to keep you on your toes and want more. An excellent writer who never takes her readers for granted.
As a personal read it was another winner. I have devoured this series enthusiastically coming to it late and love to immerse myself back into Norfolk scenes despite the murder and mystery. There is also a lot of humour in the dialogue which lifts the plot and helps it flow really well. Once started these books keep you engrossed right to the end. I am sure if book groups are familiar with this series they will love this or perhaps groups might like to start right at the beginning and see how the plots and characters develop. They are in for a treat and I feel somewhat jealous that I have already read them all!
Reviewed by Philipa Coughlan
Published February 2021 by Quercus an imprint of Hachette UK
Hardback ISBN 978-1-78747-780-3