#38 The Lantern Men by Elly Griffiths

Everything has changed for Dr Ruth Galloway.

She has a new job, home and partner, and is no longer North Norfolk police’s resident forensic archaeologist. That is, until convicted murderer Ivor March offers to make DCI Nelson a deal. Nelson was always sure that March killed more women than he was charged with. Now March confirms this, and offers to show Nelson where the other bodies are buried – but only if Ruth will do the digging.

Curious, but wary, Ruth agrees. March tells Ruth that he killed four more women and that their bodies are buried near a village bordering the fens, said to be haunted by the Lantern Men, mysterious figures holding lights that lure travellers to their deaths.

Is Ivor March himself a lantern man, luring Ruth back to Norfolk? What is his plan, and why is she so crucial to it? And are the killings really over?

Hardback |384 pages

Publisher: Quercus (6th February, 2020)

Read – Sunday 10th May.

It’s been a while since I have delved into Ruth Galloway, so at first, I was a little confused by the time jump. However, I managed to sort myself out and find my bearings. I have been reading Ruth Galloway’s stories for so long that she feels like a member of my extended family!

Easy but then, like I said, I am so used to Ruth Galloway and to Elly Griffith’s writing style, that I can read at ease and understand everything that is happening.

When I remember Ruth as she was in the first book, I boggle at how far her character has come. I feel I know the character very well and yet I still manage to learn new things about her with each book of the series. In this book, I felt that Ruth was trying to become something she wasn’t but at the same time, I found myself, at times, irritated with her predictable behaviour.

I think at this point, that Ruth has the option to slip back into old habits, or rather, slip back into an earlier version of herself. I’ve seen it before in series that are long, where the main character gets to a point where the future is uncharted and safe land lies with the predictable tendencies of the character near the beginning of the series. I dearly hope this doesn’t happen to Ruth because I like the way she is now and the growth her characters has been through.

Frank is a character I enjoy. I think he has a lot of good qualities and I believe there is more of the character to offer. I enjoy his relationship with Ruth and how accepting he is of her lifestyle and choices. Frank isn’t the perfect man for Ruth, but I think he shows promise and shows Ruth that she is entitled to happiness and that she is desirable to men.

Nelson is a character that I see as always changing. Sometimes he takes on the persona of a grizzly old man, sometimes he is a young hardened man that looks younger than his years. The way I see him depends on his actions within the book. I have always found Nelson to be a complex character and one who is uncertain about many aspects of his own life. Through the series I have enjoyed the ‘will they, won’t they’ relationship between Nelson and Ruth but I do believe I might be getting a little bored with it.

It is very easy for me to visualise here because I know the characters so well that everything appears vividly in my mind’s eye. I haven’t been to Norfolk but knowing the landscape isn’t essential to being able to understand and visualise the setting.

I mentioned before that I’m getting a little bored with Nelson and Ruth’s ‘will they, won’t they’ dance. It’s probably an unpopular opinion but the way the series has progressed, shows that the two of them will probably never be an item. Griffith’s has had many chances to place the two of them together permanently and yet has always shied away from doing so in creating new scenarios or events to push them away from each other. At this point in the series, while I have great feeling for both the characters, I don’t see them as needing to be together anymore. In fact, I feel like Ruth’s character would flourish more and have a chance for more growth, if she were to move on from Nelson. However, I don’t think that is a journey that Griffith’s will take. I think Griffith’s, like many fans of the series, will keep pushing the ‘will they, won’t they’ angle.

It’s irritating in a way because by this point, in book 12, it feels almost backwards to continue to pair these two together. It makes me think of Ruth like an abused puppy going back to its master. As a long-time lover of the series, it’s disappointing.

Despite the points I make above, I did enjoy this book. It was different and thrilling enough to keep me interested and it gave me ample opportunities to make my own theories up. I had one strong theory that stayed with me for the majority of the book, and though the theory was wrong, I thought it was very cunning of Griffith’s to write the reveal in such a way.

I do feel uncertain as to where the series will go now because the original team has moved on from what it once was. It will be interesting to see where the characters that are still in play will go. Characters like Tanya who has always been secondary might be pushed into the limelight. I would enjoy seeing Nelson’s older daughters featured more. I know Laura was in this book quite a bit, but I would like to see more of them and see them grow into something more than secondary characters.

I would also like to see more of Michelle. I think, a few books back, we got more of a glimpse into her and her life. It was refreshing to see but since the birth of her son, she has gone back to being a secondary character and has almost blended into the wallpaper a bit. It would be nice to see her pushed forward as well.

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