STARRED REVIEW
June 05, 2017

Following a mystery underground

By Elly Griffiths
Review by
In her outstanding new Ruth Galloway novel, The Chalk Pit, author Elly Griffiths as usual has drawn on her extensive knowledge of archaeology and history, enticing readers beneath the streets of Norwich, England, on a dark journey that will yield some strange discoveries. Archaeologist and professor Ruth travels below ground to a series of abandoned thoroughfares to investigate the age and provenance of some human remains just discovered in an area where a local architect hopes to build a very modern enclave of shops and restaurants.
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We have an understandable human fascination with stories of underground societies. Homeless and often forgotten people have done what seems incredible and unnatural to humankind—a species that has always thrived in the open air and on high ground. Here are the people who choose to go underground; and much has been written about the individuals who shelter in the tunnels and abandoned human byways that exist under earth’s cities.

In her outstanding new Ruth Galloway novel, The Chalk Pit, author Elly Griffiths as usual has drawn on her extensive knowledge of archaeology and history, enticing readers beneath the streets of Norwich, England, on a dark journey that will yield some strange discoveries. Archaeologist and professor Ruth travels below ground to a series of abandoned thoroughfares to investigate the age and provenance of some human remains just discovered in an area where a local architect hopes to build a very modern enclave of shops and restaurants.

At the same time, DCI Harry Nelson is looking into the mysterious disappearance of a homeless woman named Babs, and he hears a rumor that she may have gone underground. Then, two homeless men who knew her are found brutally murdered. Soon Ruth, Nelson and his detective team are pursuing separate investigations in the eerie, claustrophobic yet fascinating caverns beneath the streets where they uncover a trove of unsuspected life and activity.

Readers new to Griffith’s stellar mystery series will soon become familiar with Ruth and Nelson and their singular relationship, as well as with the unconventional, extended family of friends and acquaintances who’ve been with the series since its outset, from the meticulous Judy and Druid-inspired Cathbad to Clough and his love, Cassandra.

Griffiths’ understated, dry humor invests her characters with a special humanity that’s a cut above the ordinary. Behind each character’s façade, their thoughts can be very funny indeed—mostly not too far off from emotions we’ve felt ourselves. Conversely, when the author wants to move you to tears, she can also do that very well indeed.

The novel wraps with a zinger of a final sentence (containing a suspicion that a few skeptical readers may have had earlier in the story), and it's one that guarantees the allure of the next Ruth Galloway book that is sure to follow.

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The Chalk Pit

The Chalk Pit

By Elly Griffiths
HMH
ISBN 9780544750319

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