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The House At Sea's End
Ruth Galloway/DCI Nelson # 3
Elly Griffiths

January 6, 2011/ ISBN 9781849163675
Crime / Police /Archeology/ England / Contemporary

Reviewed by
L J Roberts

First Sentence: Two people, a man and a woman, are walking along a hospital corridor.

A team of archeologists studying coastal erosion uncover a number of skeletons neatly placed within a cleft of a cliff. Archeologist and forensic expert Ruth Galloway is brought in to work with DCI Harry Nelson, to determine the age and identity of the remains. The more they discover, the less someone wants them to find and others die trying to keep secrets buried.

Every now and then there is a review which I find difficult to write; this is one. Let me start with all that I found very well done:

I love the illustration at the beginning of the book. I admit to being a map person so anything which provide a prospective as to the settings, I appreciate. Additionally, Ms. Griffiths’ descriptions are wonderful a establishing a sense of place and enhancing the action of the story. She describes both the tension of driving in a heavy snowstorm as well as the beauty it creates with equal skill.

History is a driving thread through the plot of the story. I particularly appreciate her perspective of someone in the present being unable to comprehend the fear of those living in vulnerable areas during the war. One can empathize, but never really understand without having the experience.
The mystery itself is very good. While you, as reader, know some of the events have a direct impact on the story, it’s Ms. Griffiths’ ability to bring together a lot of small pieces into solving the complete puzzle that is admirable. There is heart-pounding suspense, surprises, twists and an ending which was wonderfully set up but not contrived.

The characters themselves are complex, interesting and very realistically human. There is a wonderful diversity among them and I’ve certainly come to have my favorites. Relationships are complicated; and nowhere is that point made more clear than in this series.

The aspect of the book with which I had reservations, and thus dropped my rating from Very Good, is based on the relationship between two of the characters. It is my personal view only. Yet because it is such a significant part of the series and accounts for a considerable portion of each story, it’s not something I can ignore. The event is a moral decision, not one of legality, and while I realize may this may seem silly, being the characters are fictional, but it is just not something acceptable to me. Had an event which occurred in the first book of the series not reoccurred, I am certain I would feel differently. However, that was not the choice made by the author. That’s fine, it is her choice, but it is one that clearly impacts the way I feel about the book.

So, the big question is: Will I continue with the series? Yes, I shall. For as much as I am uncomfortable with the relationship, I have to believe the author has a purpose for making this, and other, relationships such a focus of the books. That, the quality of the writing, and the author’s ability to create a compelling mystery is enough to bring me back—for now.

Reviews of other titles in this series

The House at Sea's End #3
A Dying Fall #5
The Outcast Dead # 6

Reviewed 2011
© 2011