Cover detail of The Locked Room by Elly Griffiths

The Locked Room by Elly Griffiths

This week I had great fun getting into the Christmas spirit at our local garden centre. This had transformed itself into a Santa's grotto of baubles, decorations, Christmas linen and lights alongside the usual beautiful array of plants perfect for the local gardeners. There was a local brass band, mulled wine and the atmosphere was warm and comforting.

Read my review of The Lantern Men by Elly Griffiths

This put me in mind of Christmas and thinking about Jolabokaflod. A bigger book present I am hoping for is a collection of short stories by some of my favourite authors written about Miss Marple called Marple. One of the authors contributing a chapter is Elly Griffiths. And today's review features her latest novel in the Dr Ruth series which I LOVE!

The Plot

Ruth and Nelson are on the hunt for a murderer when Covid-19 rears its ugly head. But can they find the killer despite lockdown?
Ruth is in London clearing out her mother's belongings when she makes a surprising discovery: a photograph of her Norfolk cottage taken before Ruth lived there. The only clue is written on the back of the photo; Dawn, 1963
Ruth returns to Norfolk determined to solve the mystery. Then Covid-19 strikes, and Ruth and her daughter, Kate, are locked down in the cottage. Luckily the house next door is rented by a woman called Zoe, and they become friendly while standing on their doorstops clapping for carers.
Nelson is on his own because his wife and son a re isolating with her mum. He find himself drawn to Ruth's cottage where he sees her chatting to Zoe. Something about Ruth's new neighbour makes him feel uneasy. But before he can investigate further, events take a deadly turn.

My Thoughts

A quick note which I usually say at the start of any Dr Ruth novel - I would definitely recommend reading these novels in order. There is a lot of character history to unpick, and so it's best to start at the beginning.

I am a huge fan, like a lot of people, of the Dr Ruth Galloway novels. These have a great cast of characters, a cast with heart which carries throughout the novel. I loved the reappearance of Cloughie who had been promoted to pastures new in an earlier novel, and how all of the cast comes together when one of our favourite regulars become ill with Covid.

The crime is fascinating, especially with the archaeological elements and history of Tombland in Norwich.

But all of this plays second fiddle to the events at the start of 2020, when Covid-19 began to spread. Reading this felt a very strange experience, almost as though reading a sci-fi/horror novel such as The Stand by Stephen King. And even though these were relatively recent events, they now feel a world away.

Read my review of The Stand by Stephen King

Elly Griffiths has documented these times incredibly well. We feel the growing confusion as cases rise, which turns into concern about a lcokdown, the daily updates from the Prime Minister, the queues outside the supermarket, the endless hand-washing. There is a real sense of bewilderment as parents start to home-school their children, university classes move online and we all get really good at baking.

And so, whilst the story does play that second fiddle, this is a well-written snapshot of a very strange and sad time in recent history. As always this novel delivers and with the great set of characters provide a perspective on those early days of lockdown.