Review: THE GHOST FIELDS by Elly Griffiths

TheGhostFieldsGriffithsAudioI adore Ruth Galloway, the protagonist of this series . She is still the funny, brave, insecure and clever woman I first met five years (or seven books) ago and in this outing she seemed to me to be back in top form as far as witty observations go. But despite my adoration for Ruth (foibles and all) I find it increasingly difficult to recommend the titles in this series. This latest outing has a strong premise for its mysterious element but ultimately fails to deliver on that promise, even by the relatively low standards I have for plots when it comes to this series.

The term ghost fields refers to the many small and abandoned WWII airfields that dot the English landscape and it is in one such field that a buried plane is found when excavations are underway for a new housing development. The device by which Ruth (a forensic archaeologist) gets embroiled in this particular case is the discovery of a body in said plane. It soon transpires that the body is a member of a local upper crust family who was known to have died during the war but that death was purportedly at sea and in a plot device that I assume was meant to inject mystery but actually reduced the suspect pool to the point of absurdity, the body is discovered to have been recently moved. The resolution to the languorously paced ‘investigation’ which follows seems to me like it could have been worked out in about ten minutes and it certainly didn’t surprise me at all.

I don’t mean to sound churlish. Or not completely churlish anyway. But if you ignore the soap opera of the personal lives of the regular cast of this series there’s really not much going on here. Griffiths has squeezed as much as possible out of her WWII research (she recently issued a book not of this series set during the period) by sprinkling some tidbits of period detail throughout the story. To pad things out there’s a mildly interesting family saga which unfolds with the surviving relatives of the body in the plane but there really isn’t much of an investigation at all and the set pieces (such as the attack on one of the police officers) don’t really feel all that dramatic due to them never even feeling like they might end in tragedy. Small trucks could be driven through some of the plot holes.

Of course series fans will be interested in the latest goings on with Ruth, her policeman friend (and father of her daughter) Harry Nelson, friendly neighbourhood Druid Cathbad and the rest of the gang but, for me anyway, the balance between the elements of story development has gotten seriously out of whack. There is a point at which unresolved sexual tension between two characters moves from adding drama to being boring and, for me, the relationship between Ruth and Harry has officially reached that point now. Plus there’s not enough Cathbad or archaeology.

As always Griffiths does a great job bringing the Norfolk landscape and its dramatic weather to life and there are moments of pure joy amidst the tedium of this story (e.g. the appearance of a giant duck) but it has become impossible for me to imagine anyone not already heavily invested in Ruth and the gang picking up one of the latter books in this series. Perhaps that quality isn’t necessary or isn’t something Griffiths thinks she needs to do, but books attempting to stand on their own is something I look for in a long running series.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦
Narrator Clare Borbett
Publisher Quercus [2015]
Length 9 hours 40 minutes
Format audio (mp3)
Book Series #7 in the Ruth Galloway series

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8 Responses to Review: THE GHOST FIELDS by Elly Griffiths

  1. Margot Kinberg says:

    I love Cathbad too, Bernadette. And the archaeology aspect of these mysteries. So it’s a shame there’s not more of both in this entry. You’re not the first person, actually to make the observation about this book that the balance between the actual mystery plot and other aspects of the series is missing in this one. I’ll probably read it at some point, because I really do love the series. But still…


  2. FictionFan says:

    Yes, I’m afraid I feel she’s relying too heavily on her existing fan base now too. The problem with that is that if she doesn’t manage to keep them on board then she’s unlikely to pick up replacement readers either. And I for one will be hesitant about reaching for the next in the series…


    • I don’t imagine I would bother to pick up the printed versions of these but the audio versions are quite good and something to listen to while doing the housework or walking to work.

      I suppose a lot of series authors get to a point where no new readers are entering the fray but this one does seem to be particularly bad.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. John Dupree says:

    Interesting book and read..However, several key errors…1. There were no Curtiss P-36 Mohawks with US markings in GB in 1944…It would have been more accurate if it had been a P-51, P-47, or P-38. If the Brits had one, which is doubtful as this aircraft was obsolete by 1940, it would have had British markings 2. She keep referring to Fred as a “Flying Officer”. This is an RAF rank and not USAAf rank. Also if Fred had been a tail gunner on a B-17, he would not be an officer, but a tech Sergeant.. 3. Refers to a “dogfight” between a B-24 and a Dornier on the mural. Both these aircraft a bombers, and don’f “dogfight”. This term is used to describe fighter combat.

    Sorry, but these type of errors should have been proofed out prior to publication.



  4. Anonymous says:

    I enjoyed this book because I love Ruth and her friends. I am a bit bored with the stresses with Harry Nelson, too. I thought this plot was a bit far-fetched and not too innovating, but I so enjoy spending time with Ruth and her entourage that I had a good time reading it.
    But I am not sure I’d have handed the book off to a friend for reasons you cite above.
    I think Ruth needs a bit more zip and a more exciting plot.


  5. Sue says:

    Sadly I agree with this review and the comments. (I purchased this book and read it with increasing disappointment.) I still like Ruth, but the plot was threadbare and the characters seem to be at an impasse.


  6. Anonymous says:

    Anonymous is Kathy D., unintentionally. Am at a new laptop and I think my name isn’t in all blots I read.


  7. I love Elly Griffiths and this series, but perhaps for the regular characters and their lives more thant the plots now….


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