I avoided coming to the point where I must wait for the next Ruth Galloway (next June, folks), but here I am after tapping the last Kindle page of The Night Hawks. What I concluded was: with every Ruth Galloway, I care less about the mystery and more about the characters. (If you love the series, the review might be fun to read; if not, it’ll definitely have an insiders feel to it.) It’s great to have Ruth and twelve-year-old daughter Kate back in their Saltmarsh cottage: Ruth, now head of archaeology at the University of North Norfolk, the usual gang circling them, especially the complicated relationship with “the love of her life,” DCI Harry Nelson of King’s Lynn police and Kate’s father. DC Judy Johnson, still married to Ruth’s friend, Cathbad, is back; Harry’s family: wife Michelle; baby George, now three; adult daughters, Laura and Rebecca; and my favourite still makes an appearance, DCI David Clough, “Cloughie”. The murder is complicated and atmospheric and involves amateur archaeologists, illegal medical experimentation, and the eponymous “night hawks” discovering a washed-up body at Blakeney Point. Nelson calls Ruth and she is once again part of a police investigation as forensic expert. Their personal lives’ dangerous currents are the narrative’s focus as much as the investigation. The blurb provides further details:
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.
David Brown is irritating and arrogant, though an interesting addition to the cast of characters Griffiths is constantly shifting and developping. Equally compelling is Griffths’s homage to Conan Doyle’s Hound of the Baskervilles as the farmhouse murder-suicide has Ruth and Nelson sight the Black Shuck on several ominous occasions!
Griffiths’s murder-mystery is dark, sad, and tragic; the Black Shuck sightings are deliciously creepy. The mystery’s resolution, never Griffiths’s forte, wasn’t quite obvious, but inevitable, given what we learn about the man on the beach and the murdered farmhouse couple. Family and love are ever at the core of Griffith’s characters’ murderous motives. Her detecting cast, Ruth, Harry and his team, and their families, have complicated, messy lives and relationships, but their ability to bring order into the chaos stands strong. The complications of their lives and loves, on the other hand, come to a crisis point in The Night Hawks. It appears change is on the horizon and Griffiths does a maddening job of leaving us with an emotional cliffhanger.
Of all the familiar characters, Ruth seems to be in the best place, as happy as she can be: ” … Ruth, as an archaeologist, feels more comfortable in the past. But, in the present, Ruth has her life with her daughter and her cat – and her work. She has to be content with that.” Nelson has his superintendent, “Super Jo Archer,” hinting at retirement. (Nelson is NOT ready to retire.) Nelson is an endearing conservative (it’s hard to believe I wrote that, but it’s true; like Ruth, I love Nelson): “he wants everything to stay exactly as it was.” But change is inevitable and even DCI Harry Nelson must admit it. The person who pushes him towards change is the greatest surprise of the novel for those who’ve followed the series.
Mystery-wise, The Night Hawks wasn’t as compelling as The Outcast Dead, Woman in Blue, Chalk Pit, or Stone Circle, but it was still Ruth and Nelson and their circle of awesome … and I’ll be drumming my fingers till June for The Locked Room. Miss Austen and I agree, The Night Hawks offers “real comfort,” Emma.
Elly Griffiths’s The Night Hawks is published by Mariner Books. It was released on June 29th and may be found at your preferred vendors. (I recommend starting the series at the beginning and letting yourself glom all thirteen.) I received an e-galley from Mariner Books, via Netgalley, for the purpose of writing this review.