The Night Hawks by Elly Griffiths – A Review

Ruth is back in the Saltmarsh…

I’m a big fan of mysteries with archeology/anthropology involved, so I was happy (and honored) to receive an advance review copy of Elly Griffiths’ latest book, The Night Hawks, featuring forensic archeologist, Dr. Ruth Galloway.   As the story opens, we find out that Ruth and her daughter, Kate, are back in the Saltmarsh after a stint in Cambridge, and Ruth is adjusting to her new position as head of the Archeology Department at the University of North Norfolk.  We also learn that the Night Hawks of the title are a semi-organized club of “metal detectorists” and although this particular group is properly registered, Ruth is not thrilled that they are active in her neck of the woods.  

Amateurs or not, though, the Night Hawks manage to discover a recently deceased body, a cache of Bronze Age artifacts, and a probable Bronze Age skeleton amongst the artifacts, all in one night on the beach at Blakeney Point.  So Ruth, who is a consultant for the north Norfolk police, is called in.   The story takes off from there, as a couple of nights later some of the same detectorists overhear gunshots from what looks to be a murder-suicide in a remote, sort-of-spooky, farmhouse.   

DCI Nelson hates coincidences about as much as Ruth hates detectorists, so he’s personally investigating.   Are the two cases – the body in the ocean and the bodies at Black Dog Farm – really related? A bunch of series stalwarts get involved to help figure it out including local druid Cathbad; Nelson’s go-to DCI, Judy Johnson (also Cathbad’s partner); Nelson’s would-be-go-to-DCI, Tanya; and the rest of Nelson’s team.   What results is yet another fascinating mystery – a nice mix of forensics and police legwork.  Oh, and there’s also a healthy serving of local Norfolk folklore, including the Black Shuck, a huge black dog with red eyes, who predicts the death of anyone who sees him within a week.   Or is it within a year?   Or is it the death of someone else within a year?  Or ???  Well, anyway, the Black Shuck is bad news, and it’s not clear that the Norfolk Sea Serpent is all that much better…

I very much enjoyed The Night Hawks, and I only have a couple of small-ish issues with it.  First, but not all that important, is that I am not a fan of mysteries written in the present tense.   But after thirteen books in the series, I don’t think Griffiths could change this, even if she wanted to, and once I got a couple of chapters into the book, I didn’t notice it all that much.    The other issue I have is with Ruth’s and Nelson’s relationship.   I get that relationships are messy, and don’t fit into neat little boxes, and you don’t get to pick who you love.   And sure, they have a daughter together, and sure, they seem to click on a number of levels.   But I still just have trouble with their relationship.    

I debated for a while on whether to give The Night Hawks four- or five-stars, but I do try not to give a lot of five-star ratings, just to keep a bit of scale.   So in the end, I gave this 4 1/2 stars, and am trying to pretend I’m not cheating with the half-star!   Please note though that because I don’t give a lot of five-star ratings, a four-star rating is still a great rating from me, and definitely means that I recommend this book.   And finally, my thanks to Houghton Mifflin Harcourt and NetGalley for the review copy.

Buy (pre-order in the US and Canada, already out in the UK): Amazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon Canada | Kobo US | Kobo UK | Kobo Canada

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