WINNER OF THE 2016 CWA DAGGER IN THE LIBRARY. Boiled human bones have been found in Norwich’s web of underground tunnels. When Dr Ruth Galloway discovers they were recently buried, DCI Nelson has a murder enquiry on his hands. The boiling might have been just a medieval curiosity – now it suggests a much more sinister purpose.
Meanwhile, DS Judy Johnson is investigating the disappearance of a local rough sleeper. The only trace of her is the rumour that she’s gone ‘underground’. This might be a figure of speech, but with the discovery of the bones and the rumours both Ruth and the police have heard that the network of old chalk-mining tunnels under Norwich is home to a vast community of rough sleepers, the clues point in only one direction. Local academic Martin Kellerman knows all about the tunnels and their history – but can his assertions of cannibalism and ritual killing possibly be true?
As the weather gets hotter, tensions rise. A local woman goes missing and the police are 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.
I actually only started reading the Elly Griffiths Ruth Galloway series in 2015, and until I read this book, I’d only read the first two. Having said that, I’ve managed to gather all the rest, bar one (A Room Full Of Bones.) That means I’ve got them, er, somewhere whenever I fancy a guaranteed good read. But given the chance to participate in this blog tour, for what is now book no. 9(!) in the series, I couldn’t resist.
Over and above the storyline in each book, there are, imho, two utter joys in opening a Ruth Galloway book. Number one is catching up with the “family” of characters that populate this series: Ruth, of course; DCI Harry Nelson, their daughter, Kate (now 6! Unbelievable!); Cathbad, naturally; DS Judy Johnson; Cloughie; the ambitious Tanya; Michele’s, DCI Nelson’s wife; Phil, Ruth’s irritating department head… all are people who add to our enjoyment of each story.
Secondly, I always learn lots of fascinating details through Ruth’s forensic pathology work (I recently read a book of Kathy Reichs’ novellas – review to come soon – and it was the same, although I’m not such a huge fan of hers.) Thankfully, reading about signs of cannibalism is as close as I’ll ever get to it *crosses fingers*, but these little gems of knowledge also add to my enjoyment of the stories.
I noticed how much more confident, and also witty, Elly Griffiths has become since the first couple of books – she brilliantly skewers all the different types of people who populate the book, particularly the middle class, as well as, of course, our cast. I marked so many quotable sections that made me laugh, but I can’t resist giving you these examples:
She reminds Nelson of his daughters’ friends, those impossibly slim young women with their luxuriant manes of swishy hair. What’s happened to all the overweight spotty teenagers? He’s sure that , when he was growing up, the girls at the neighbouring grammar school were nowhere near this confident and attractive.
‘We should get the results in a couple of weeks.’‘A couple of weeks? Why can’t you get them in twenty-four hours?’‘Because this isn’t CSI Miami.’
Tanya loves liaising, it sounds so much more important than keeping in touch.
And when they’re questioning one of the missing women’s husbands:
‘No. Nothing’s out of place.’ Nelson sees Clough looking round the room in disbelief. A pair of children’s pants are hanging from the light fitting.
I could go on, but I wouldn’t want to spoil any more of the enjoyment you’ll get whilst reading this book, as you absolutely must.
The plot features rough sleepers – some of the men are being brutally murdered, all of whom were friendly with a female rough sleeper, Barbara, who’s gone missing. To her credit, DS Judy Johnson doesn’t dismiss this missing person’s report, as many officers would, assuming the person in question had moved on. But all she keeps hearing is that Barbara had said she was “going underground”, and no-one seems to know if this is a literal or metaphorical explanation of where she is. One of Ruth’s colleagues at the university believes that there is a community of rough sleepers, populating the endless tunnels of chalk mines beneath Norwich – but is this just an urban myth? But then the aforementioned woman, a mother of four, goes missing, leaving her children alone in the house. While the police are pulling out all the stops looking for her, Cassandra, Cloughie’s gorgeous actress partner, disappears after a play rehearsal, again leaving a young child behind. They now have three missing women. It’s crucial they discover whether there is an underground area, and, if so, how they access it. But although they’ve heard talk of it, the police struggle to find a rough sleeper who can tell them anything substantial.
The last 30% of this book sees the tension ramped right up, with poor Cloughie falling to bits without Cassie. I didn’t want to put it down for a minute! And of course there’s the big question: who’s responsible? The answer to that, I would never have guessed. And his reasoning, completely bonkers, in the best megalomaniac traditions!
I’m looking forward to reading all the books I’ve missed out on, but this one is most definitely…
(There’s also a superb review by the wonderful Moira at Clothes In Books, which, if you haven’t come across it before, is an endlessly fascinating blog which does exactly what it says on the tin, and I thoroughly recommend you subscribe to it, if you don’t already.)
My thanks to Quercus books, who provided me with a copy of this book, in return for an honest review.