The Chalk Pit by Elly Griffiths

The Blurb On The Back:

Boiled human bones have been found in a tunnel under Norwich.  A medieval curiosity?  Perhaps, but when Dr Ruth Galloway discovers they were recently buried, DCI Nelson has a murder enquiry on his hands.

Meanwhile, DS Judy Johnson is investigating the disappearance of a local rough sleeper.  The only trace of her is a rumour that she’s gone ‘underground’.  Both Ruth and the police have heard whispers that the vast network of old chalk-mining tunnels under Norwich is home to a community of rough sleepers.  Can the tales of cannibalism in this subterranean society possibly be true?

Then another woman goes missing and the police came under attack.  Ruth and Nelson must unravel the dark secrets of the Underground and discover just what gruesome secrets lurk at its heart – before it claims another victim.

The Review (Cut For Spoilers):

It’s several months after THE WOMAN IN BLUE.  DCI Nelson is suspicious that new boss Superintendent Jo Archer wants him to take early retirement and annoyed that she’d rather he did paperwork than proper police work.  When Aftershave Eddie reports that a fellow homeless person, Barbara, has disappeared, Nelson thinks she’s most likely moved away but agrees to look into it anyway.

Meanwhile Dr Ruth Galloway is examining human bones found in a medieval tunnel beneath the Guildhall, which a developer wants to turn into an underground restaurant.  The bones initially seem old but testing reveals that they were buried within the last 10 years and that they had been boiled first …

When Eddie’s found murdered on the steps of the police station and a young mother disappears from her house, Nelson and Galloway realise that something gruesome is going on beneath the streets of Norwich …

The 9th in Elly Griffiths’ RUTH GALLOWAY MYSTERIES is strong on the relationships between the detectives in Nelson’s team and in his relationship with Galloway but the homelessness storyline didn’t quite gel to me and had a means to an end feel to it while the antagonist’s motivation was so ridiculous and featured so late in the plot that I couldn’t take it seriously.

I hadn’t read the previous books in this series but there’s enough background character information to follow the events in this book.  I really enjoyed the way Griffiths sets out the relationships and rivalries between the various detectives and how that’s been influenced by the previous books but the will they/won’t they romance between Nelson and Galloway left me cold, partly because their behaviour is so selfish.  The big problem with the book though is that the pay-off to the crime story is so disappointing – the antagonist’s motive is ridiculous and I didn’t believe in their actions, in part because the reveal comes so late in the text that I felt cheated and because the boiled bones storyline doesn’t get a satisfying resolution.  I also think that the homelessness storyline didn’t quite work in the context of the book with the murders feeling quite exploitative and Griffiths trying too hard to make a social comment.  Ultimately, I’m not sure whether I would check out the earlier books in this series on the basis of this novel but I would check out Griffiths’ other works.

Thanks to the Amazon Vine Programme for the review copy of this book.

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