Unearthing treasure and terror in north Norfolk
- Credit: Copyright: Archant 2018
The Night Hawks brings Elly Griffiths’ bestselling mix of whodunit and history back to her beloved Norfolk
As treasure hunters find a body on a north Norfolk beach, a couple die at lonely Black Dog farm and rumours of a drowned asylum seeker, a demonic dog and murder swirl across the saltmarshes.
Forensic archaeologist Ruth Galloway is back in Norfolk in Elly Griffith’s latest novel, The Night Hawks, published on Thursday February 4.
The county has haunted Elly Griffith’s novels from the beginning and she calls The Night Hawks, ‘The most ‘Norfolk’ of all my books.’ In it Ruth unearths stories of ancient weapons and legends, running through a modern-day murder investigation. Elly was walking with her archaeologist husband on Titchwell Marshes when she conjured the plot of her first Ruth Galloway novel from the landscape. As he talked of how prehistoric people believed marshland was a sacred place, neither land nor sea, neither living nor dead, but something in-between and a bridge to the afterlife, she saw a story of a missing child and an ancient henge combining distant history with modern policing. “‘Neither land nor sea, neither life nor death.’ As he said these words the entire plot of The Crossing Places appeared, fully formed, in my head and, walking towards me out of the mist, I saw Dr Ruth Galloway,” said Elly.
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The Crossing Places was published in 2009 and Elly has returned to Norfolk many times since, setting her million-selling stories which blend ancient history and cutting-edge forensics with myth and murder, in the maze of ancient chalk pits, tunnels and crypts beneath Norwich, in the pilgrim village of Little Walsingham, at a coastal Second World War airfield...
A Room Full Of Bones, begins on Halloween night in King’s Lynn, The Lantern Men navigates the Fens and The Stone Circle came full circle back to the first Ruth Galloway novel and the marshes between Titchwell and Holme, complete with an unsettling version of Norfolk’s Jack Valentine legend.
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The Night Hawks is the 13th Ruth Galloway book, reuniting the forensic archaeologist with Detective Chief Inspector Harry Nelson. When a group of metal detectorists find a body on the beach Nelson thinks the victim has drowned but soon he is called to investigate the deaths of a couple at isolated Black Dog Farm. Ruth is more interested in a hoard of Bronze Age weapons – until she starts digging at the farm and finds herself in terrible danger. Locations include Cley, Blakeney, Blakeney Point and a mysterious farmhouse near Sheringham. “I was lucky enough to visit Cley last February, just before lockdown,” said Elly. “Otherwise, I had to visit Norfolk in my head. I think that’s why this is actually the most ‘Norfolk’ of all my books. It’s steeped in Norfolk myths and legends.”
Brooding, baleful stories of East Anglian hell hound Black Shuck swirl through this 13th book. Elly has been visiting family in Norfolk all her life and first heard many of the folktales she weaves through her novels while aboard her aunt Marjorie’s boat on the Broads. “My aunt used to know lots of really good ghost stories. We would be gliding along the Broads and she would be telling these stories,” said Elly, whose real name is Domenica De Rosa.
The pen name arrived with Dr Ruth Galloway. “I didn’t think that this new book was significantly different from my ‘Italy’ books but, when she read it, my agent said, ‘This is crime. You need a crime name.’ And that’s how I became Elly Griffiths.”
Elly, or Domenica, like her characters in The Night Hawks, has tried metal detecting. “I have to admit that I do possess a metal detector. I’ve never found anything interesting though!” she said. Elly has also written a mystery series based in 1950s and 1960s Brighton and a stand-alone novel which was a Richard and Judy bestseller and won the Edgar Award, America’s most coveted accolade for crime fiction.
The Night Hawks, by Elly Griffiths, is published on February 4 by Quercus.