No two persons ever read the same book. --Edmund Wilson

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

2011/14: The House at Sea's End -- Elly Griffiths

"I am now 86 and in poor health, and the memory of a particular event in 1940 has haunted me all my life ... A great wrong was done many years ago ... and unless we tell the truth to the generations that follow, the evil will lie waiting beneath the earth." (p.116)
  1. The archaeology featured in The House at Sea's End is more recent -- Second World War -- than in Griffiths' previous novels: I missed Ruth's insights into the remote past.
  2. The plot revolves around the discovery, on a rapidly-eroding beach, of six skeletons dating from the Second World War. The men were executed: someone still alive knows why, and by whom.
  3. Entwined with current events is the story of Ruth's Bosnian friend Tatjana, who she met whilst excavating mass graves in Srebrenica in 1996. Tatjana enlisted Ruth's help in finding the bones of her family, and also the man who killed them. Now Tatjana's in England, bringing with her some memories Ruth's tried to forget.
  4. Ruth's utterly devoted to her daughter Kate, and worries about juggling career and single motherhood. Tatjana, herself a bereaved mother, seems to be the first person who's confronted her about her duty to her daughter; Ruth now understands her friend's grief a great deal better, and the novel charts her growing understanding of the strength of the maternal bond.
  5. Plenty of soap-opera character interaction: will anyone guess the identity of the man who fathered Ruth's baby, Kate? (Yes, if he carries on being so bloody obvious.)
  6. I'm becoming increasingly interested by Cathbad, the erstwhile druid, who has struck up an improbable friendship with DCI Nelson and who seems to have a knack of showing up at just the right moment.
  7. Broughton, the (fictional) Norfolk coastal village that's gradually falling into the sea, reminded me a lot of Happisburgh: the author confirms in an afterword that Happisburgh was an inspiration.
  8. One of the victims bequeaths some books, and a list of numbers indicating 'the order in which they should be read', to a friend. Ruth and Nelson (and other members of the police force) struggle with the code, yet my cat could decode the Secret Message: it was incredibly obvious, and I wasn't convinced by their inability to work it out.
  9. There are too many red herrings in this novel, and not enough information for the reader to spot the murderer on their own. Even DCI Nelson admits that there are loose ends, but he lets them go.
  10. Hurrah for local libraries, without which I would not have been likely to read this recently-published novel. (I don't usually buy books in hardcover.)

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