(Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, ISBN 978-0-547-22989-8)
Ten years ago, a young girl disappeared from her family's garden, a disappearance that has haunted Detective Chief Inspector Henry Nelson. Whether she is dead or possibly still alive, is a question her family must live with every day. So when some bones are found in the nearby marsh, bones that appear to be those of a child, Nelson hopes part of the mystery may now be solved and turns to a local professor, archeologist Dr. Ruth Galloway for help. She discovers they do not belong to the missing child but rather to an Iron Age girl, partially preserved in the bog, who died over two thousand years ago. This is an exciting discovery for her and her work but thinks that it will be the end to her involvement with helping the police. Nothing could be less true.
Galloway is a bit of an odd sort, herself living in a cottage on the edge of the marsh, a place she fell in love with after a dig on a discovered henge there a decade ago. Just about 40, overweight, not in a relationship since her last boyfriend ran off and married someone else, no one, even her friends understand her lifestyle.
"Everything is pale and washed out, grey-green merging to grey-white as the marsh meets the sky. Far off is the sea, a line of darker grey, seagulls riding in on the waves. It is utterly desolate and Ruth has absolutely no idea why she loves it so much..But Nelson see her differently than most people and is quick to ask her help in the investigation. It seems that he has been receiving taunting letters from the supposed kidnapper, letters full of literary allusions and archeological information. He shows then to her in hopes that she will see some clue he has missed.
Ruth's cottage is one in a line of three on the edge of the Saltmarsh...The road is frequently flooded in spring and autumn and often impassable by midwinter. 'Why don't you live somewhere more convenient?' her colleagues ask. Ruth can't explain, even to herself, how a girl born and brought up in South London can feel such a pull to these inhospitable marshlands, these desolate mudflats, these lonely, unrelenting views. It was research that first brought her to the Saltmarsh but she doesn't know herself what it is that makes her stay, in the face of so much opposition. 'I'm used to it,' is all she says."
"But she interests him. Like all forceful people (he calls it forceful rather than bullying), he prefers people who stand up to him, but in his job that doesn't happen often. People either despise him or kowtow to him. Ruth had done neither. She had looked him in the face, coolly, as an equal. He thinks he's never met anyone, any woman quite as sure of themselves as Ruth Galloway."When a second girl disappears, and Ruth personal life is effected, seemingly as a warning about her involvement, she finds herself thick into the investigation and into an odd friendship with the Detective Chief Inspector.
This book has a great deal to recommend it. This dangerous, mysterious marsh is a wonderful setting for a mystery and one that particularly appeals to me, which may come as no surprise to my regular readers. Also Ruth is a great character and a nice chance from most mystery heroines. Middle aged, more concerned for her work than her appearance, smart, independent....and yet still having those issues living up to her parents expectations for her. The plot is quite good..even though I must say I correctly guessed the outcome, it in no way lessened the book's enjoyment for me. It is a well written, page-turning read, full of twists and turns not a few of which might cause you to drown in the marsh.
This is the first mystery book by the author, using the name Elly Griffiths, but as the author Domenica de Rosa, she has written a number of other novels, set in Italy, and I most certainly hope this will not be the last we see of Dr. Galloway.
My thanks to the Amazon Vine program for this copy.