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The Night Hawks by Elly Griffiths

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'The nighthawk is a nocturnal bird of the subfamily Chordeilinae, within the nightjar family, Caprimulgidae, native to the western hemisphere', Wikipedia tells me. But I doubt if anyone will think this is going to be a book about birds. It is, of course, the 13th Ruth Galloway mystery by the wonderfully productive Elly Griffiths. As well as this series she's also written several Brighton Mysteries, which I haven't really taken to, a brilliant standalone called The Stranger Diaries, and The Postscript Murders which I didn't like. And she's the author of another quite different series under a pseudonym. So you'd think she might be running out of steam by now on her oldest and most popular series, which features archeologist Dr Ruth Galloway and her friend and occasional lover Detective Inspector Harry Nelson. But no. Bodies are still being discovered in north Norfolk, both ancient (calling on Ruth's expertise) and modern (calling on Harry and his team). 

The Night Hawks of the title are a team of detectorists with a particular interest in ancient burials. Their name comes from the fact that they prefer to do their metal detecting at nighttime - not that they do anything exactly illegal, but they prefer not to be disturbed. At the start of the novel, they've just happened on what appears to be an Anglo Saxon burial on the beach, complete with skeleton and ancient weaponry - but one of the team has also spotted a body in the sea. So Ruth and Nelson are both called to the scene.

Ruth, who had left Norfolk for Cambridge in the previous novel, is now back at the University of North Norfolk, and has in fact become the Head of the archaeology department. She has a new colleague, the rather irritating and slightly suspect David Brown, who insists on accompanying her to the newly uncovered site. The police are there too - Nelson, of course, plus his trusted colleague Judy - and her Druid husband Cathbad has also got involved, as he's a part-time Night Hawk too. Ruth is very wary of metal detectorists in general, believing they sometimes mess up important archeological evidence, though these ones seem to have been very careful.

Soon, in addition to the original dead body - quickly identified as a young local policeman - there is a double murder in gloomy Black Dog Farm, quickly followed by the murder of one of the detectorists. Black Dog Farm is soon revealed to be a very unsavoury place altogether - a place where a dodgy scientist has been carrying out illegal testing of drugs on anyone willing to participate. Are all the murders linked? And which of the possible suspects was responsible? 

Of course there's pleasure involved in trying to work out who did it (I certainly didn't succeed) but also, for readers of the earlier books, great delight in watching the development of characters who've been there since the beginning. Ruth and Nelson's daughter Kate (or Katie, as he insists on calling her, much to Ruth's annoyance) is nearly twelve, as bright and lively as always, and Nelson and his wife Michelle's son George is now three. Both families have more or less accepted this unusual situation, though neither of the two women involved is particularly happy about it. We meet Ruth's father for the first time - fairly recently widowed, he has fallen in love with a delightful Caribbean woman called Gloria, much to the disapproval of Ruth's conventional brother. And then there's Ruth and Nelson - not a great deal of action here throughout most of the novel, though it's clear that Ruth is thinking a great deal about the man who she recognises is the love of her life. But fear not - there are some dramatic developments later in the novel and interesting revelations right at the end.

If you're a fan of this series, you've probably read this one already. If not, it's never too late to embark on the continuing adventures of a delightful group of people, with an unmissable combination of suspense, humour and romance. 



15 April 2023

28 October 2022

18 April 2022

10 August 2021

30 July 2021

27 July 2021

09 July 2021

17 June 2021

16 May 2021

18 April 2021