The Lantern Men by Elly Griffiths
I am sat writing this review on the August Bank Holiday weekend and in typical British weather fashion, Saturday has been a washout. I mean seriously? It would seem that about 2 tonnes of water has just been dumped on Yorkshire. I do not mind this! It then becomes the perfect day to curl up with candles, coffee and a good book.....ooh and a piece of Christine's banana bread too. Suddenly my phone was awash with messages from people feeling autumnal, hot chocolate in abundance and cosy throws being dusted off.
Enter Stage Left The Lantern Men by Elly Griffiths, very fitting for the weather and cosy mood. This is the 12th novel by Elly Griffiths to feature forensic archaeologist Dr Ruth Galloway and DCI Harry Nelson. For me, I would recommend reading the books in order, starting with The Crossing Places which is a nice introduction to all the characters and begins the complex inter-weaving of the characters' complicated relationships.
Convicted of killing 2 women, Ivor March offers to tell DCI Nelson the location of 2 more victims but only if Dr Ruth Galloway will be forensic archaeologist on the case and supervise the dig. Pointing them to a remote location in the Norfolk Fens, the team discover 2 bodies plus one other. How do the cases link to a writing retreat, a group of friends and their passionate affairs and 'The Lantern Men', mysterious figures with little lights that appear on the fens luring travellers to their deaths.
I am a huge fan of the Dr Ruth Galloway novels and this did certainly not disappoint. On the one hand the police procedural writing is great, we witness the painstaking protocol in the search for missing persons and watch as various threads are unravelled. At one point I did find myself suspecting everyone. Elly Griffiths also, writes about life at home for the police, which is a refreshing change when usually husbands and wives of detectives are a name only bringing the odd cup of tea to their crime fighting spouse. Elly Griffiths makes these families a part of the plot. As I say it is a refreshing change.
On the other hand, and why I adore these books is how the stories are interweaved with folklore, myth and mysticism. We learn all about the history and folklore of 'The Lantern Men' and where the term 'Jack-o-Lantern' comes from. This fitted beautifully with the autumn day and promise of Halloween.
Elly Griffiths writes beautifully about the landscape of the fens and Salt Marshes of Norfolk. Beauty truly can be found in the bleakest of places and we truly feel Ruth's call back home to the Marsh, which takes on an eerie and mystical quality of its own.
My favourite character remains Cathbad, a druid formally known as Michael. He has an uncanny knack of 'knowing things'. A lot of the folklore and history commentary is provided by him and he also seems to have a 'sixth sense' when characters are in trouble, providing comfort and support when needed.
If you are looking for an engaging crime series then I would definitely recommend these novels. A number of my family have all started reading them and like a packet of biscuits you can never just read (or eat) just one, but want to carry on and solve another mystery with this team, and learn more about archaeology. You'll be hooked!