I adore Ruth Galloway, the protagonist of this series . She is still the funny, brave, insecure and clever woman I first met five years (or seven books) ago and in this outing she seemed to me to be back in top form as far as witty observations go. But despite my adoration for Ruth (foibles and all) I find it increasingly difficult to recommend the titles in this series. This latest outing has a strong premise for its mysterious element but ultimately fails to deliver on that promise, even by the relatively low standards I have for plots when it comes to this series.
The term ghost fields refers to the many small and abandoned WWII airfields that dot the English landscape and it is in one such field that a buried plane is found when excavations are underway for a new housing development. The device by which Ruth (a forensic archaeologist) gets embroiled in this particular case is the discovery of a body in said plane. It soon transpires that the body is a member of a local upper crust family who was known to have died during the war but that death was purportedly at sea and in a plot device that I assume was meant to inject mystery but actually reduced the suspect pool to the point of absurdity, the body is discovered to have been recently moved. The resolution to the languorously paced ‘investigation’ which follows seems to me like it could have been worked out in about ten minutes and it certainly didn’t surprise me at all.
I don’t mean to sound churlish. Or not completely churlish anyway. But if you ignore the soap opera of the personal lives of the regular cast of this series there’s really not much going on here. Griffiths has squeezed as much as possible out of her WWII research (she recently issued a book not of this series set during the period) by sprinkling some tidbits of period detail throughout the story. To pad things out there’s a mildly interesting family saga which unfolds with the surviving relatives of the body in the plane but there really isn’t much of an investigation at all and the set pieces (such as the attack on one of the police officers) don’t really feel all that dramatic due to them never even feeling like they might end in tragedy. Small trucks could be driven through some of the plot holes.
Of course series fans will be interested in the latest goings on with Ruth, her policeman friend (and father of her daughter) Harry Nelson, friendly neighbourhood Druid Cathbad and the rest of the gang but, for me anyway, the balance between the elements of story development has gotten seriously out of whack. There is a point at which unresolved sexual tension between two characters moves from adding drama to being boring and, for me, the relationship between Ruth and Harry has officially reached that point now. Plus there’s not enough Cathbad or archaeology.
As always Griffiths does a great job bringing the Norfolk landscape and its dramatic weather to life and there are moments of pure joy amidst the tedium of this story (e.g. the appearance of a giant duck) but it has become impossible for me to imagine anyone not already heavily invested in Ruth and the gang picking up one of the latter books in this series. Perhaps that quality isn’t necessary or isn’t something Griffiths thinks she needs to do, but books attempting to stand on their own is something I look for in a long running series.
♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦
Narrator Clare Borbett
Publisher Quercus 
Length 9 hours 40 minutes
Format audio (mp3)
Book Series #7 in the Ruth Galloway series
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