Forensic archeologist Dr. Ruth Galloway is in her late thirties. She lives happily alone with her two cats in a bleak, remote area near Norfolk, land that was sacred to its Iron Age inhabitants—not quite earth, not quite sea. But her routine days of digging up bones and other ancient objects are harshly upended when a child’s bones are found on a desolate beach. Detective Chief Inspector Nelson calls Galloway for help, believing they are the remains of Lucy Downey, a little girl who went missing a decade ago and whose abductor continues to taunt him with bizarre letters containing references to ritual sacrifice, Shakespeare, and the Bible. Then a second girl goes missing and Nelson receives a new letter—exactly like the ones about Lucy.
Is it the same killer? Or a copycat murderer, linked in some way to the site near Ruth’s remote home?
DCI Harry Nelson refuses to give up the hunt for a missing young girl, even though she was kidnapped just over ten years ago now. When bones are found in the Saltmarshes he calls in Dr Ruth Galloway, a local archaeologist with the University, to help uncover the site and help his investigations into the ancient henge.
I really enjoyed this full length novel – the first in a series between DCI Nelson and Dr Galloway. While at times I found it off-putting that the book is written in the present tense this overall didn’t detract too much from my enjoyment. There is a strong cast of characters, about a half dozen well fleshed out main characters and a roughly equal number of smaller secondary characters. This, coupled with the interesting clashes and slow building connection between Nelson and Ruth really wove well with the various sub-plots. I thoroughly enjoyed how the two missing girls, the henge and holy sites around the salt marshland and the shifting friendships and complications of the various relationships between the characters all intermingled and wove around. I changed my mind about what was really going on underneath it all a few times as the characters and their relationships shifted and altered and this really kept me on my toes, along with the central plotline itself of the missing girls.
I feel readers looking for a more traditional style of mystery might struggle a bit with this book. There are definitely changing alliances and shifts in the various characters – from good to bad and back again – as the plot unfurls. Nothing is particularly linear here and while I found it not traditional, I was surprisingly fine with this. The excellent plotting, good writing and reality that life isn’t black or white, good or bad, really helped me connect a bit with the shifts in the plot and characters.
I also enjoyed how the site itself – both the desolate marshland of Norfolk as well as the henge site itself was practically a character in this story. The scenery and landscape, the danger of the changing tides and the easy comparisons with the loneliness and beauty of the harsh nature was a lovely addition I feel the author really added well into the story.
While I admit some of the characters actions won’t be every readers cup of tea, and the present tense writing style likely will rub some people the wrong way, I strongly feel this story (both the characters and the exceptional plot) is well worth the effort of sticking with the book. At numerous points I was pleased to have kept going and even though I’m still not sold on the book being written in the present tense, this was a minor blip as the action really amped up around the middle of the book and I found myself racing through the final half in almost one sitting.
An excellent first book in the series. I’ve already purchased the second and am eagerly awaiting it’s arrival so I can jump right in.