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The Dark Angel by Elly Griffiths - Review

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Elly Griffiths is one of my favourite writers. She has two series, the Ruth Galloway novels and the Stephens and Mephisto books, and I've read nearly all of them - I've just got the latest Stephens and Mephisto book to read. By rights, that one came out before this one, but I like Ruth too much and I really wanted to get back to her! I'll get to The Vanishing Box soon though, for sure!

So, Dr Ruth Galloway lives on the Norfolk coast with her cat and her daughter, Kate. She's an archaeologist and way back at the beginning of the series she was asked to help the local police out in dating some bones. She had an affair with local DCI Harry Nelson, and eventually had his baby, the afore-mentioned Kate. Ruth and Nelson have a very complicated relationship which is one of the best parts of the series. At the end of the previous book it was discovered that Nelson's wife Michelle is expecting another baby, and that is a major thread in this book, which takes place only six weeks later.

Okay, so, Ruth is feeling down at the beginning of the book because of Michelle's baby and because her mother has recently died, so when an old colleague Angelo rings her about a dig near Rome and asks her to come and have a look, it doesn't take much to persuade her to go, taking Kate with her. Ruth's friend Shona and her son Louis also tag along.

The four stay in a little town set high on the hillside not too far from Formia. They're in Angelo's grandfather's apartment, and it becomes clear that someone doesn't want them there. The descriptions of the Italian countryside were just perfect and so evocative of the area. One of the things I like the best in writing is when it's really sunny and beautiful and yet there's tension underlying, I think it really amps up the threat. I thought Elly did this brilliantly here, with her descriptions of the heat and the town.

Meanwhile, Nelson is in Norfolk. A man who once threatened him is now out of prison, so while Nelson isn't worried he does think he's seen Micky Webb hanging around his house. He's preoccupied with Michelle and the baby, especially since he's worried the baby might belong to his ex-colleague Tim.

I felt like this book was a needed breath of air in the series, taking Ruth out of her normal Norfolk setting and putting her into sunny Italy. I feel like I got to know Ruth better as a character, but I wish she'd had a bit more work to do! I always love Nelson and he actually didn't do anything particularly rashly annoying in this book (he usually does something that makes me groan, and although I won't spoiler, the big thing he does do in this didn't annoy me in the slightest; in fact, I loved it!)

I wish there was a bit more theology in this book, as with the rest of the more recent ones - I feel like the early ones had more theology, which I love. But, in all I'm giving this five out of five because I really enjoyed it, and it was a flash of sunshine in a cold February!

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