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The Chalk Pit

The Chalk Pit

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The Chalk Pit

valoraciones:
4/5 (25 valoraciones)
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364 página
6 horas
Editorial:
Publicado:
May 30, 2017
ISBN:
9780544750524
Formato:
Libro

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Winner of the CWA Dagger in the Library Award
 
Praise for Elly Griffiths’ Ruth Galloway series
 
“Gripping.” —Louise Penny | “Highly atmospheric.” —New York Times Book Review 
“Remarkable, delightful.” —Associated Press | “Must-reads.” —Deborah Crombie
“Wonderfully rich . . . A great series.” —Guardian | “Smart, down-to-earth, and completely believable.” —Mercury News
 
Far below Norwich is a maze of old mining tunnels. When Ruth Galloway is called to examine a set of human remains in one of them, she notices the bones are almost translucent, a sign they were boiled soon after death. Once more, she’s at the helm of a murder investigation.
 
Meanwhile, DCI Nelson is looking for a homeless woman who he hears has gone “underground.” Could she have disappeared into the labyrinth? And if so, is she connected to the body Ruth found? As Ruth and Nelson investigate the tunnels, they hear rumors of secret societies, cannibalism, and ritual killings. And when a dead body is found with a map of what seems to be the full maze, they realize their hunt for the killer has only just begun—and that more bodies may be underfoot.
Editorial:
Publicado:
May 30, 2017
ISBN:
9780544750524
Formato:
Libro

Sobre el autor

Elly Griffiths nació en Londres y trabajó en el mundo editorial durante varios años. Decidió dedicarse a la escritura cuando su esposo comenzó a estudiar Arqueología. Para su exitosa serie, con la arqueóloga Ruth Galloway como protagonista,  también contó con la inspiración de su tía, que le contaba leyendas y mitos de Norfolk. Los ecos del pantano, la primera novela de la serie, se ha publicado con gran éxito en nuestro país.

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The Chalk Pit - Elly Griffiths

HMH

First Mariner books edition 2018

Copyright © 2017 by Elly Griffiths

All rights reserved

For information about permission to reproduce selections from this book, write to trade.permissions@hmhco.com or to Permissions, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company, 3 Park Avenue, 19th Floor, New York, New York 10016.

hmhbooks.com

First published in Great Britain in 2017 by Quercus

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

Names: Griffiths, Elly, author.

Title: The chalk pit : a Ruth Galloway mystery / Elly Griffiths.

Description: First U.S. edition. | Boston ; New York : Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2017.

Identifiers: LCCN 2016051674 (print) | LCCN 2016058406 (ebook) | ISBN 9780544750319 (hardback) | ISBN 9780544750524 (ebook)

Subjects: LCSH: Galloway, Ruth (Fictitious character)—Fiction. | Women forensic anthropologists—Fiction. | BISAC: FICTION / Mystery & Detective / General. | FICTION / Mystery & Detective / Women Sleuths. | GSAFD: Mystery fiction.

Classification: LCC PR6107.R534 C48 2017 (print) | LCC PR6107.R534 (ebook) | DDC 823/.92—dc23

LC record available at https://lccn.loc.gov/2016051674

Cover design by Martha Kennedy

Cover photographs: (skull) © Joe Clark/Tetra Images/Corbis; (bench) © Keith Bishop/Getty Images

Author photograph © Sara Reeve

v5.1218

For Sarah K. Huber


Prologue

3.20 a.m., 3 June 2015

He shouldn’t really be driving; they all know that. But Solly has probably had the least to drink of all of them and, besides, he has a calm self-possession that makes him able to carry off all sorts of excesses and still remain the reliable, charming boy next door. ‘Boy from the next-door mansion,’ as Dennis once put it.

But there are no buses and no one has the money for a taxi so Solly takes the keys from Em and drives slowly and carefully round the one-way system. Dennis and Em don’t help by going ‘Whee’ at the corners and shouting witticisms to the few pedestrians to be seen in Norwich at three o’clock on a Wednesday morning. One of them, a police officer pushing a bike, looks up and shakes his fist.

‘Get off and milk it!’ yells Dennis.

‘Shut up, Dennis,’ says Grace. ‘People hate students enough as it is.’

Grace is sitting next to Solly and feels obliged to talk to him, to keep him concentrating on the road. This is difficult enough when the road in question keeps swooping up in front of her and tying itself in knots. God, just how much had she drunk? Those tabs on top of it too.

Solly is doing well though, not speeding, looking from left to right at junctions. They are heading out of town now on the A147. Dennis and Em have fallen asleep but Grace tries to stay awake for Solly’s sake. They take the turn into Denning Road. Solly goes slightly wide but there’s nothing coming so no harm done.

‘I like this road,’ says Grace. ‘I’d love to live in one of those big houses.’

‘Then you’ll have to marry a rich man, darling,’ says Solly, slurring slightly.

‘That’s a bit . . .’ She can’t think of the word. ‘Crap,’ she settles for. ‘I might get rich on my . . . on my own . . . in my . . . Christ! Solly!’

But he has seen it too. A man standing in the middle of the road with his arms outstretched. There’s something biblical about him: long hair and beard, wearing robes or some kind of cloak. Grace yells and Solly jams on the brakes. The car skids to the other side of the road and Dennis and Em wake up.

‘What the . . . ?’

‘There was a man . . . a man in the road,’ says Grace.

But when they get out of the car there is no one there, just the long road between the tall dark houses.

1


‘Today our acronym is COAST. Concentration, observation, anticipation, space and time.’

The speaker, a woman in her fifties, with short hair and keen-looking spectacles, beams around the room. DCI Harry Nelson, in the back row, stares back, stony faced. In his head he works on another acronym: crap, outrageous, abysmal . . .

‘You might be saying to yourself,’ says the woman, ‘why am I wasting a morning at a speed awareness course? The answer is because it can save lives.’

She looks at them solemnly, glasses glinting. The man next to Nelson, who earlier introduced himself as a minicab driver called Steve, is apparently asleep. Nelson gave his name simply as Harry and didn’t vouchsafe an occupation.

The woman writes her name—Bev Flinders—in insultingly large letters on the whiteboard. She says that she is a driving instructor. ‘Definitely not a policewoman!’ Some of the more unctuous class members laugh.

‘So why do we have speed limits at all?’

Bev’s voice drones on. The room, a prefab in the station car park, is too warm and smells of instant coffee. Unlike Steve, now snoring gently, Nelson doesn’t feel tempted to sleep. He’s too busy brooding on his wrongs. He shouldn’t be here at all. He should be out solving crimes, maybe speeding slightly in the process but you can’t catch criminals keeping to the thirty-mile-an-hour speed limit, can you? But his boss has ordered him to attend this course along with Steve, two HGV drivers and a clutch of women who seem to view it as a pleasant morning out. Yes, not content with giving him a tangled love life and a stressful working life, God has now delivered the biggest blow of all. Nelson has a woman boss.

Ruth has no time for such introspection. She is currently delving deep, not into her own life but into the ground below Norwich. She is in a cellar below the Guildhall, a square, crenellated building that stands like a little castle in the heart of the city. The Guildhall is now council offices but it has, in its past, been a toll house, a court and a prison. The most dangerous prisoners were kept here, in underground cells. The undercroft, this lower region is called, and plans are afoot to develop it as an exhibition space and even a restaurant. This part is quite pleasant, the walls are stone and there are some rather attractive vaulted pillars, but Ruth knows that things are about to get worse. She is going to have to go lower still, into a tunnel that has previously been closed off. Ted, from the Field Archaeology team, has removed the planks covering the tunnel entrance and is looking at her expectantly. Ruth knows that, as the head of Forensic Archaeology, she should go first but the problem is that she has never been that keen on small, enclosed spaces . . .

‘After you.’ Ted grins, showing piratical gold teeth.

‘Perhaps it would be better if I followed you. You’ve got the torch.’

Ted looks as if he knows what she’s thinking. But, to his credit, he doesn’t just hand her the torch but ducks his head and enters the tunnel. Ruth follows, taking care to keep close to Ted’s high-vis tabard. The tunnel leads downwards and the plastered walls give way to chalk, the floor moving quickly from brick to rubble that crunches underfoot. Ted’s torch picks out a well-crafted roof, lined with brick and flint.

‘Probably an old chalk mine,’ he says, his voice echoing slightly. ‘Lots of chalk mines in Norwich.’

Ruth puts her hand on the wall. It’s unpleasantly moist to the touch, as if it’s sweating.

‘There’s a tunnel from the castle to the Guildhall,’ says Ruth. She doesn’t want to speak much as she has the idea that she has only so much breath to spare. She is unpleasantly conscious of all that stone and earth above her. Her hard hat feels as if it is pressing down on her head.

‘Someone once told me that you could walk all the way from UEA to the town centre under ground,’ says Ted. ‘Shall we just keep going?’

Since the University of East Anglia is situated about three miles out of the city, Ruth doubts this. There’s something disconcerting about the idea of these underground thoroughfares, as if the city has a dark twin, another life going on beneath its surface.

‘I’ve heard that there’s a tunnel from the Guildhall to St John’s,’ she says, not answering Ted’s question.

‘The Catholic cathedral?’ says Ted. ‘Maybe our body is a bricked-up nun or some such.’

He sounds incredibly cheery about the prospect. The reason Ted and Ruth are in the tunnel is because of a grisly discovery made by a surveyor working for an architect called Quentin Swan, who is planning to build an underground restaurant below the Guildhall. The surveyor, Mark Copeland, was assessing the site for health and safety risks. In the course of his investigations he sampled the ground using something called a borehole drilling machine. According to Copeland’s report, which Ruth read that morning, the hand-held machine pulls out a vertical plug of soil, and in this sample were what looked like human bones. Copeland informed the council, which owns the building. The council called the police and then Ruth, in that order. When Ruth arrived at the Guildhall she had half expected to see Nelson waiting for her but there had only been Irish Ted in his high-vis vest and hard hat.

‘The bones were buried, not bricked up,’ says Ruth. ‘We’re nearly there, I think. Copeland said about halfway along.’

‘Yes.’ Ted shines his torch. ‘Here are the little beauties, if I’m not mistaken.’

On the tunnel floor is a neat pile of earth, obviously excavated by the borehole machine. In amongst the chalky rubble, Ruth can see something that gleams even whiter in the darkness. She bends down. They are human bones; she can see that immediately. She thinks she can see a tibial shaft, maybe a femur. She takes a photograph and starts sketching the location in her notebook. She has almost forgotten that they are underground.

‘Is it a whole skeleton?’ says Ted, behind her.

‘I don’t think so,’ says Ruth. ‘Unless the rest of the body is still buried. We might need to get a proper excavation done.’

Ruth opens her backpack and takes out gloves, a trowel and a small brush. Ted kneels down beside her. He’s an experienced field archaeologist and knows the procedure well. Ruth lifts out the first bone. It is a tibial shaft but it is broken, smashed almost, in the middle. Ruth shines her torch on it and sees faint parallel lines scored into the bone. She runs her gloved fingers over the end of the bone; it is blunt, not quite rounded.

‘What is it?’ says Ted.

‘I don’t know,’ says Ruth, ‘maybe nothing.’ She passes the bone to Ted who marks it with a tiny number and places it in an evidence bag. Ruth then marks it on her skeleton sheet. It doesn’t take them long. There are four long bones: two tibias, part of a femur and an arm bone, probably a humerus. There are also some smaller bones that look like ribs. All the bones have a dull shine, almost as if they are made of glass.

‘How old do you think they are?’ asks Ted. ‘They’re completely defleshed.’

‘Yes,’ says Ruth. ‘That could mean that they’re old but they look so clean. You’d normally expect some discolouration with old bones.’

‘These tunnels must be pretty old,’ says Ted.

‘Some of the chalk tunnels are medieval,’ says Ruth, ‘but this doesn’t look like a mining tunnel to me. It could be linked to one of the churches, like I said. We must be some way from the Guildhall by now.’

‘Perhaps we’ve found our nun after all.’

‘Perhaps. It’s going to be hard to determine the sex without the pelvic bones or the skull. Unless we can get some DNA. We’ll know more when we send the bones for carbon-14 testing.’

‘Do you think they’re all from the same body?’ says Ted.

‘I think so,’ says Ruth. ‘The leg bones look the same length.’

‘Long bones,’ says Ted, ‘probably a man. I wonder where the head is?’

‘And the rest of the skeleton.’

‘It’s a mystery, Ruth,’ says Ted, ‘and I know how much you like a mystery.’

Ruth is silent. She enjoys an intellectual puzzle as much as the next archaeologist but she’s not sure how much mystery she wants from bones buried in a medieval tunnel. It would be nice to have an answer, actually. A nice, safe academic answer that could be filed away in a report.

Ruth packs the bones into a box marked Pathology. Ted shines the torch on her while she does this and then hands it over with a flourish.

‘You go first. I’ll carry the box.’

Ruth doesn’t mind going first on the way back. Her back aches and her mouth is dry. She’s longing to be above ground again, drinking tea in the Guildhall cafe. She thinks again of the layers of soil and stone above her head. It’s almost as if the weight is crushing her, making it impossible for her lungs to expand . . .

‘Are you all right?’ says Ted, behind her. ‘You’re panting.’

‘I’m fine,’ says Ruth, making an effort to breathe properly. She can see the entrance now, the dim light in the undercroft looking as bright as a beacon.

When she steps through the archway, though, she sees that the light is partly coming from a torch held by DS Judy Johnson.

‘Judy! I didn’t think it would be you.’

‘The boys are all busy,’ says Judy. ‘And when I heard that you’d found another body . . .’

‘It’s not a body,’ says Ruth. ‘Just a few bones. And I didn’t find them. The surveyor did.’

‘You didn’t fancy coming down for a look?’ says Ted, emerging from the tunnel with the box.

‘No, you’re all right,’ says Judy. ‘So, were the bones human?’

‘Yes,’ says Ruth, ‘but we won’t be able to tell how old they are until we get the carbon-14 analysis.’

‘We’re guessing old, though,’ says Ted. ‘My bet is medieval. Want to have a flutter?’

‘No thanks,’ says Judy, a bookie’s daughter. ‘When will you have the results?’

‘I’ll send the samples off today,’ says Ruth. ‘It’ll probably take a couple of weeks.’

‘And no idea what the bones were doing in the tunnel?’

‘No,’ says Ruth. ‘It looks like they were buried and the surveyor disrupted them digging for samples.’

‘Could be a bricked-up nun,’ says Ted. ‘Don’t forget the nun.’

‘Where are you off to now?’ says Ruth to Judy, as they climb the stairs to the upper levels. ‘Have you got time for a cup of coffee? There’s a good cafe here.’

‘That would be great,’ says Judy. ‘I’ve got a bit of time. Clough and Tanya are on a call out Denning Road way. A massive great hole appeared in the road last night.’

‘What about the boss man?’ asks Ted.

‘Speed awareness course,’ says Judy.

Ted and Ruth burst out laughing and after a few seconds Judy joins in. They are still laughing when Quentin Swan hurries in through the main doors, anxious about the fate of his subterranean dining experience.

2


Nelson drives back to the station in a foul temper. He feels no compulsion to stay in third gear in order to keep below the speed limit, nor does he check his speed limit regularly or ease off the accelerator, all of which are recommended in the workbook which formed part of his ‘National Speed Awareness Course Pack’. Instead he takes pride in breaking almost all the traffic rules in the short journey from the Portakabin to the police station. He screeches into the car park, parks at an angle and slams in through the back door.

The desk sergeant, a doughty warhorse called Tom Henty, hears the door slam and calls, ‘DCI Nelson?’

Nelson opens the connecting door to the reception area. ‘What is it, Tom?’

‘You’ve got a visitor. Two visitors.’

‘Who is it?’

‘One’s Aftershave Eddie. I’ve put him in Interview Room One because people started to complain. The other’s a young woman called Grace Miller.’

Nelson groans. Aftershave Eddie—so called because he is known to drink any substance containing alcohol—is a homeless man who sometimes sleeps in the police station porch. If Nelson sees him, he usually gives him money to buy a meal even though he knows that the meal will be entirely liquid. He used to encourage Eddie to contact a charity for the homeless but the man always refused, with some dignity. DS Judy Johnson has tried even harder, contacting charities and even booking Eddie into a hostel. But Eddie always replies that he is a free man and beholden to nobody. Nelson respects this even though he lives in fear of coming across Eddie’s lifeless body in the street one day.

So what is Eddie, who once told him that ‘with my family you steer clear of the police’, doing in Interview Room 1?

‘He said he wanted to talk to you and only you,’ says Henty. ‘DS Clough told him he could wait.’

Thanks a million, Cloughie. ‘Is DS Clough still over at Denning Road?’

‘Yes, sir.’

‘What’s taking him so long? It’s just a hole in the road.’

‘Takes me back to 1988,’ says Tom, ‘when that hole appeared in the Earlham Road. A bus disappeared into it, you know.’

Nelson sighs. Tom is about the tenth person to have told him about Earlham Road this morning. It’s partly because of this historical precedent that the Serious Crimes Unit were required to attend but Nelson can’t quite see what’s keeping Clough there. He has probably checked into a cafe for a second breakfast. Mind you, he’s with Tanya who never eats a carb if she can help it.

‘What about the other visitor?’ he says. ‘Grace whatshername?’

‘She’s a student. Seems like a nice girl. Says she wants to talk to you about something odd that happened last night. Doesn’t know if it’s important but thought she should report it anyway.’

This sounds intriguing. Deciding to take the least appealing option first he heads for Interview Room 1.

The first thing that strikes him is the smell. He has only ever encountered Eddie in the open air before. Here, in the windowless interview room, the smell of unwashed clothes and alcohol is almost overpowering. No wonder people in the reception area were starting to complain.

Nelson keeps his face as expressionless and professional as he can. After all, he’s pretty sure that Eddie would rather not smell this way.

‘Hallo, Eddie. What can I do for you?’

‘Hallo, chief.’ Eddie has a faint Irish accent which reminds Nelson of parish priests in his youth. It gives Eddie a strange gravitas, helped by his Gandalf-like hair and beard. Looking at the man’s face for almost the first time, though, Nelson is shocked to see that they might be almost the same age.

‘I want to talk to you about a missing person,’ said Eddie. He sounds very dignified and formal, even though a can of Tennent’s Super is visible in his coat pocket.

‘Talk away,’ says Nelson, wondering why Eddie couldn’t have had this conversation with Tom Henty.

‘It’s a woman,’ says Eddie. ‘A woman called Barbara Murray. I haven’t seen her for over a week and I’m starting to worry.’

‘Is she . . .’ Nelson tries to think of a tactful way to frame the next question.

‘She’s a rough sleeper,’ says Eddie, coming to his rescue. ‘She’s only a young woman really, not more than forty, but she’s had a very tough life, children taken into care and all the rest of it. I try to keep up with her quite regularly. I usually see her in the Vancouver Centre on a Wednesday because that’s when they do the soup run. She wasn’t there yesterday or the week before and nobody seems to have seen her.’

‘Is it possible that she could be in a hostel? Or has she got family somewhere?’

‘Her family are all in Scotland, as far as I know. I don’t think she would have gone to them. She always said there was a lot of bad blood between them. It’s possible that she’s gone to a hostel but it’s odd that no one has seen or heard of her. We’re quite a close community. We look out for each other.’

Nelson thinks that it’s rather touching that Eddie should refer to the rough sleepers as a community. But then he supposes that a life on the streets makes you value human contact. For his part, he can’t even remember his neighbours’ names, although Michelle is always inviting them over for drinks.

‘So nobody’s said anything to make you think that Barbara might be in danger?’

Eddie is silent for a minute. He runs a hand over his long hair. The dirt is ingrained in his fingernails but the hand itself is rather beautiful, with long tapering fingers like a pianist.

‘Someone said something. Could be nothing.’ He pauses again. ‘My friend Charlie who sleeps up by the Customs House, Charlie said that he heard a man talking to her, something about her children. He said that Barbara had seemed upset.’

‘Did Charlie recognise the man who was talking to her?’

‘No. He said that he looked like a do-gooder. A charity worker,’ Eddie amends.

‘Maybe he put Barbara in contact with her children.’

‘Maybe. But Barbara told me that two of them were adopted and two in care. I don’t think she had any contact with them.’

‘She has four children?’

‘Yes. The oldest must be grown up by now. Barbara told me once that she fell pregnant when she was still a teenager.’

It’s not an unusual story, thinks Nelson, but no less sad for that. It is fairly unusual, though, to find a woman sleeping rough. Women tend to have support networks or, failing that, hostels take them in. Not Barbara evidently.

‘Give me a description,’ he says, ‘and I’ll have an officer check at the hostels and with local charities. I’ll ask on the street too. But, as I say, she’s an adult woman with no fixed address. It’s more than likely that she’s just moved away.’

‘Thank you, DCI Nelson,’ says Eddie. ‘I knew you were a good man. That’s why I asked for you. The others, they look through me or they give me the odd pound. That policewoman, she’s been kind but you’ve always treated me like a human being.’

Nelson is moved by this tribute, even though he knows that it is largely undeserved. He doesn’t do much for charity, beyond a couple of standing orders, and he’s been guilty of hurrying past rough sleepers in the street. But he does have a social conscience; it’s part of the reason why he became a policeman.

He takes a pad of paper from the desk. ‘Let’s have a description of this Barbara then.’

His second interviewee couldn’t present a greater contrast. Grace Miller is pretty and blonde, dressed in jeans and a minty green T-shirt. She reminds Nelson of his daughters’ friends, those impossibly slim young women with their luxuriant manes of swishy hair. What’s happened to all the overweight spotty teenagers? He’s sure that when he was growing up, the girls at the neighbouring grammar school were nowhere near this confident and attractive. Mind you, by the time he was twenty-three he was married to Michelle, the most glamorous of the lot.

‘Sorry to keep you,’ says Nelson, sitting beside Grace in the Suite, the room usually reserved for sensitive interviews. It actually has comfortable chairs and a pot plant. There’s also a two-way mirror, although today no one is on the other side.

‘That’s OK,’ says Grace, twisting a paper cup in her hands. ‘I know you’re very busy.’

Nelson waits. He knows that nice middle-class girls (in his eyes being a student makes her middle class) don’t just walk into police stations for fun. Eventually Grace says, ‘It’s something that happened last night. I know it’ll sound a bit mad . . .’

Nelson waits some more. After a few more moments of cup-shredding Grace says, ‘The thing is, I don’t want to get my friends into trouble. We were quite drunk at the time. And my friend was driving.’

Nelson sighs. ‘It’s no offence to have been drunk. We can only charge you if we catch you while you’re actually over the limit. I hope your friend doesn’t make a habit of drinking and driving though.’

‘Oh no,’ says Grace. ‘He’s very sensible. He’s studying law.’

In Nelson’s eyes that’s not a guarantee of sensible behaviour. He’s no great fan of lawyers. He waits for Grace to continue with her story.

‘We went to a club in Norwich and it was late, about three a.m. There were no buses and we couldn’t afford a cab so Solly, my friend, drove Em’s car. Em wasn’t going to drink but she did in the end because her boyfriend . . .’ She stops. ‘Sorry. That isn’t relevant. Anyway, Solly was driving back when we suddenly saw this man in the middle of the road. It was so scary. He just popped up from nowhere. Solly swerved to avoid him. Anyway, we stopped, and when we looked back, the man had vanished.’

‘Vanished?’

‘Yes. Just vanished into thin air. The thing is, we were all quite high . . . drunk . . . and we thought we must have imagined it. Solly just carried on driving. But now I keep thinking, what if we hit him? What if he’s lying by the road somewhere?’

She looks really distressed, the last remnant of paper cup crushed in her hand. Nelson says, ‘Where was this?’

‘Denning Road.’

Denning Road . . . the site of the mysterious hole. Nelson looks at Grace. How can she sit there looking so clear-eyed and smooth-skinned when she was up drinking until the early hours last night? The young truly are a different species. Nowadays one extra pint in the pub can make Nelson feel rough as a dog the next day.

He asks Grace if she saw the local news that morning. ‘No,’ she says, ‘I got up late and came straight here. I never really listen to the news anyway.’

‘A two-metre-wide hole has appeared in Denning Road.’

Grace’s eyes grow wide. ‘Do you think my man fell into it?’

‘I don’t know,’ says Nelson. ‘But I’ll tell my officers to have a good look. You did the right thing coming to see me. Can you give me a description of the man?’

‘It sounds crazy,’ says Grace, ‘but he looked a bit like Jesus. You know, long hair and a beard. And he seemed to be wearing some sort of cloak.’

The long hair and beard reminds Nelson of Aftershave Eddie. But the cloak reminds him of someone else entirely: Cathbad, part-time druid and partner of DS Judy Johnson. Cathbad makes a speciality of turning up in odd places. Could he have materialised on Denning Road last night?

‘Could you say roughly how old he was?’ he asks.

Grace’s smooth brow furrows. ‘He could have been any age. I think his hair was quite dark though. He looked like he could have been a tramp. That’s one reason why I came, really. I thought that if the man was sleeping rough, perhaps no one would notice if he went missing.’

Coming after his conversation with Aftershave Eddie, this makes Nelson look curiously at Grace Miller. It seems an oddly pertinent comment for a young woman. How old is Grace? Eighteen? Nineteen? He asks what she is studying.

‘Sociology,’ is the answer. She’s a second year at the University of North Norfolk, where Ruth works. He assures Grace

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  • (5/5)
    9th in the series. Love the stories and the evolving relationships, but the resolution of the mystery is becoming more tenuous with each entry. In the Chalk Pit Ruth and DCI Nelson investigate the maze of old mining tunnels below Norwich to find a homeless woman and the reason homeless men are being murdered.
  • (4/5)
    Ruth Galloway is a forensic archaeologist who teaches in the University of North Norfolk, England, and occasionally assists the police with their inquiries. In "The Chalk Pit," DCI Harry Nelson, DS Judy Johnson, and DS Doug Clough investigate the killing of homeless men and the disappearance of Barbara Murray, who "sleeps rough" and is mentally ill. In addition, Ruth excavates human bones found at a construction site and sends them to be tested. Do they date back to medieval times or were they buried more recently?

    This ninth book in the Ruth Galloway mystery series has its strengths and weaknesses. Ruth is an admirable, albeit flawed, character. She is dedicated scientist, kind-hearted, a devoted mother to her six-year-old daughter, Kate, and always up for a challenge. However, she is self-conscious about her appearance--she could afford to lose some weight--sensitive about her status as a single mum (she longs to be with the father of her child, although he is unavailable), and can be stubborn. The novel moves along at a brisk pace as the detectives follow various leads and track down witnesses. DCI Nelson, who may be "lacking in charm sometimes, but matchless in an emergency," clashes with his overbearing and unreasonable female boss, broods over personal matters that have no easy solution, and confers with Kate when he is in a bind.

    The plot is far-fetched, and the identity of the villain does not ring true, but "The Chalk Pit" is still an entertaining and amusing diversion. We are treated to geographical tidbits about London, especially its underground caverns, and get to know a bit more about Ruth's parents and siblings. The author focuses on the harsh and dangerous existence of those who have no family, job, or fixed address; may be addicted to drugs or alcohol; and are generally shunned by society. "It's so thin, the line between respectability and chaos." For good measure, Griffiths throws in a final twist that will likely complicate Nelson's life immeasurably. Ruth is an expert at keeping a stiff upper lip. She will need all of her inner strength and resilience to face the future with equanimity.
  • (5/5)
    This series is without a doubt one of the best. They have believable plots as well as characters that grow with each addition, giving the reader more insight into just who they are. That ongoing character evolution is one of the enjoyable aspects of this series. That angle is present here along with plenty of informative history and social commentary. Can't wait to see if the twist at the end means what I think it does.
  • (4/5)
    This is quite superior to the previous [The Woman in Blue], nicely paced and connected just a bit more to archaeology. But Griffiths throws quite a curve at the end of the book regarding the relationships between Nelson and his wife, on the one hand, and Ruth, on the other. There's always the next book.
  • (5/5)
    Another intriguing read from Elly Griffiths. If you haven't started reading this series, you should start ow. It is one of the best mystery series out there. The characters are very interesting and a few are quite unique. I'm looking forward to the next one as the storylines of the characters are heating up with some hot relationship issues.
  • (3/5)
    I think this may be the best one in the series yet! Or at least as good as the first one. And the last sentence...I can't wait for the next one!
  • (4/5)
    I still enjoy this series, the characters have evolved well; the first will always be a favorite. I do recommend starting this from the beginning "The Crossing Places".
  • (3/5)
    This is my first Ruth Galloway novel. I'm always hesitant to jump into a series this far along, but I was pleasantly surprised to find this reads well as a stand-alone. The story starts out slow. In fact, the first half reads more like a drama than a mystery. The characters personal lives all intertwine with friendships and love interests. We spend a lot of time managing child care with various characters and obsessing over a love triangle. While some of this was interesting, for me the focus was too much on the drama and not enough on the mystery and police work.The murder mystery aspect is centered around underground tunnels and the homeless population, and we spend time with various members of the investigative team as they search for answers. The pacing picks up through the last third of the book, with the plot finally taking precedence over the personal dramas. I thought the plot had immense possibilities beyond the small amount of time allotted to the crimes. It's a fascinating concept that was overshadowed by the characters' personal, and often mundane, lives. That being said, the writing style is certainly engaging. And, given all the glowing reviews, I'm in the minority with my complaints. *I received an advance copy from the publisher, via Amazon Vine, in exchange for my honest review.*
  • (4/5)
    Warning! Spoilers for the earlier books in the series...Another compelling installment in the series of crime fiction about Ruth Galloway, forensic archaeologist. Ruth is called in to investigate when bones are found underground, at the site of a planned restaurant development. Meanwhile her friends in the police try to work out why homeless people are going missing.For me, the most engaging part of this series is seeing Ruth's life change: her daughter is growing up, and there are some lovely references to children's books.
  • (5/5)
    4.5 One of my top five series, a series that I wait impatiently for the next offering. Adore the mix of archeology, police procedural and the personal lives of these oh, so interesting characters. The pace is always swift, and the plot intriguing.In this one though she outdid herself, as she tackles the homeless, the danger, lack of awareness and sympathy they endure daily. Well I guess in the UK they are called rough sleepers, here in the U.S we call them homeless, or if one is being politically correct, housing challenged. I have never before, though there may be some out there, read a book that made these unfortunate people so, sympathetic, so real, individuals with past lives and talents. Treating them with respect and care, making us take notice. It is these kind of details that make this such a great series.She applies the same talent to her characters, they are flawed but real. Dealing with many of the same things we deal with daily. In this book, I came to appreciate Judy, her quest to do right by those forgotten by most of society. As for Ruth, an incident that looks promising come to an abrupt and startling halt. Or does it? Well that's the cliffhanger for the next book, form which I will now wait impatiently. ARC from publisher.
  • (5/5)
    Yet again Elly Griffiths has woven her magic throughout a story of abandoned mining tunnels, murder, the homeless, and the personal lives of those trying to stop a killer. The archaeology and the history of the old chalk tunnels under Norwich are integral to the mystery, but-- as always with Griffiths-- it's the characters who make her Ruth Galloway books something special. Nelson is saddled with a boss whom he refers to as "She Who Must Be Obeyed." In so many books that I read, that's how the boss remains-- a one-note piece of cardboard. Not here in The Chalk Pit. Readers get to see a different side of Nelson's boss that just might change their opinions of her a bit. Griffiths also puts names and faces to several members of the homeless community in the Norwich area-- what they have to do and where they have to go in order to survive. It is a personal and much-needed look at a maligned segment of many countries' populations.Even in this serious mystery, we're treated to a bit of levity now and again, as when single mother Ruth mourns the days when she could leave the house with just her small purse and her cell phone-- something all mothers undoubtedly miss. The Chalk Pit's mystery I found to be a bit easier to solve this time around, and the solution did strain my credulity a bit, but this is still a very good read. Be forewarned: while the mystery is solved by book's end, it does end on a cliffhanger involving the personal lives of the two main characters. Fellow fans of this series are going to be as eager as I am for the next book to discover what happens. And if you've yet to sample this wonderful series, you need to do something about that, like getting the first book The Crossing Places. You've got a lot of fantastic reading in store for you!
  • (4/5)
    I thoroughly enjoy this series about forensic archaeologist Ruth Galloway, who finds herself repeatedly teaming up with the police whenever some bones need deciphering. In this case, it's a partial skeleton found far beneath Norwich, England, on the site of a proposed restaurant/pub. Meanwhile, DCI Nelson and his team are investigating a series of murders of homeless persons, or rough sleepers as they are apparently more commonly referred to in the UK. Could the two cases be connected?I thought the mystery here was well done and the homeless community were portrayed very sympathetically but not sentimentally, if that makes sense. All the usual characters had their stories moved forward, and although I'm not a big fan of the latest development in Ruth's personal life I'm willing to wait and see how Griffiths works it out in the next book.
  • (5/5)
    Elly Griffiths' Ruth Galloway mysteries are hands down one of my favourite series. The ninth entry is The Chalk Pit.The series takes place in the Norfolk area of Britain. The area is home to lots of history - and bones. (I find I always learn a little something reading these books.) Ruth Galloway is a forensic archaeologist. She is a lecturer at the university, but is often called by the police for assistance. This time 'round, Ruth is called in when bones are found in an old chalk mine tunnel that an entrepreneur is turning into an underground restaurant. DCI Nelson and his team are also busy - a number of 'rough sleepers' have disappeared - amongst rumours that they may have gone 'underground'.Griffiths' blending of historical fact with a mystery is always fascinating. Her plotting is excellent and always captures my interest. But what brings me back, book after book, are the characters. I have become so engaged in their lives. As I've said before.."Griffiths has created a wonderful protagonist in Ruth. I just really like her. She's decidedly unique and different. She is a single mother at forty plus, overweight, messy, introverted, but highly intelligent and curious. Griffiths has not endowed her with super sleuth abilities, rather she comes off as an actual person - unabashedly and happily herself." The supporting cast is just as interesting and engaging. Cathbad, the enigmatic, self proclaimed Druid is a perennial favourite of mine. For those that also follow this series and taking care not to spoil things....Griffiths provides some surprising twists in the lives of Ruth....and Harry. I can't wait to see what transpires next!This is the first time I've chosen to listen to one of the series. I always find that I become more immersed in a book through listening. And it depends on the narrator doesn't it? Well, reader Jane McDowell did an excellent job of interpreting Griffiths' work. My mental image of Ruth didn't change - it was only enhanced by McDowell's voice. She provides different tones and inflections for other supporting characters. Her voice is easy and pleasant to listen to. I think I would chose to listen to the upcoming tenth novel as well. The Dark Angel, due out mid 2018.The Chalk Pit is wholeheartedly recommended! (As is the entire series - do yourself a favour and start at the beginning with The Crossing Places)
  • (4/5)
    In The Chalk Pit, Ruth Galloway is called in to analyze bones found in a development site in Kings Lynn. At the same time, DCI Nelson and his team are investigating a missing person within the homeless community. Then a local woman goes missing, and things get even more serious when a homeless man is found murdered. The investigation goes deep into the challenges faced by the homeless and their support systems. Alongside the mystery, there are interesting developments in the lives of Ruth and Nelson. They seem to have fallen into a comfortable routine, with Nelson regularly spending time with their daughter Kate as well as his wife and adult daughters. When Ruth’s mother is suddenly hospitalized, Nelson doesn’t hesitate to take Kate for an afternoon. And when Nelson is injured during the climactic chase scene … well, let’s just say Ruth and Nelson have “a moment.” But that’s not all -- the book ends on a cliffhanger with significant implications for Nelson. Bring on the next book!
  • (4/5)
    Predictably good mystery that Ruth is able to solve; underground tunnels, murders of homeless men and kidnapping of local women. Ruth and Nelson's relationship is becoming more of a compelling soap opera - can't wait to start next book!
  • (4/5)
    I'm finding the series seguing into something of a soap opera trope. I liked this story anyway, because I'm interested in ancient civilizations as well as how forensic archaeology contributes to solving present-day mysteries. I admired the author's handling in writing of homeless folk and the tremendous difficulties they face. Chalk tunnels under Norfolk towns are very interesting, although I'm not sure how extensively these occur in reality. The familiar characters, especially Ruth and Cathbad, continue to be entertaining. But the final twist was bizarre and really, was it credible? Not wishing to spoil the suspense in this novel, so that's all I'm saying. Highly recommend that people read the RG books in sequence, though.
  • (4/5)
    Buddy read with Hilary. We’re racing through this series. We’ve read the first 9 books in 2019, and started buddy reading them not too many books from the start. I’m hoping to make book 10 my first book finished in 2020. I have one other book to finish in 2019.I am grateful that at the end of each book there is an author’s note where she explains what is real, what is changed, and what is completely made up with places & people, etc. The general settings are real and the characters seem so much like real people so I’m glad for this information. I love these books. I love the characters and the relationships (though could do with less soap opera style content) and the humor is great. I love Kate and seeing her grow & change. I love the settings, though I know some of the uses of some of the ones in this book are made up for the story, but so much is real too. One reason it’s particularly fun reading with Hilary is that she is a local so she knows so many landmarks, towns, etc. that appear in these books. I appreciate that these books are not too gory and that most violence is off the page or at least not over the top. I like that there are scary parts but they’re not too scary for my taste; I do scare easily. I always love coming back to the regular characters, and all of the new and/or temporary characters are also always interesting. I always enjoy not only the people but the dogs & cats in the stories too. In this particular book I loved the inclusion of the storylines about rough sleepers (homeless people) and appreciated how they and the well-off people interacted and how each were depicted realistically and all with their faults and assets, problems and strengths. That was important to me and made for good stories. My first guess/main guess(?) of the culprit was correct but there were several other candidates (as usual with the books in this series) and I really didn’t know until the reveal who did the murders and the kidnappings. As always, I had fun guessing. Just as Ruth does with her cat Flint I also used to tell my dog exactly what time I would be back or how many hours I would be gone. I love it!I am enjoying the identity of Nelson’s new boss.Ruth seems like a good mother and her relationship with her daughter gets more interesting as Kate gets older. I do wish there was more of Kate in the books but I love what is there. I like how Ruth takes Kate seriously. Because Hilary first mentioned the poor food choices, I now almost laugh when I read about what Ruth feeds Kate, what Kate eats and Ruth often too, when specific foods are mentioned. I hope the nutritional quality of foods improves. The next book is partly set in Italy. Maybe there? They now have at least one person they know with a vegetable garden and a fruit tree so maybe they’ll get some of the harvest?I hope Kate’s experience with a night terror does not become a regular event for her! I was wrong about its implications, but I like Kate and don’t like to think of her and Ruth suffering like that on any kind of regular basis. I think if Kate’s new interest remains an interest I will enjoy that. There is one event in particular that happens at the end of this book that has me even more curious about and eager to go on and read book 10. Michelle’s third pregnancy, when Ruth’s Kate is six. I like that this mystery was excellent. The mysteries have been improving as the series goes on. I still care most about the characters, settings, etc. I like how in this book there is quite a bit more of the story after the mystery is solved. I’m hoping that means the author feels as I do, that these aren’t only mysteries, but general fiction too. I’ve been meaning to write the author or a mutual friend, someone I know on Goodreads who has gotten to know the author. (a couple tiny spoilers but one huge spoiler if readers haven’t read through book 9): I hope to find the “right time” to do it soon. I love this series. I’m racing my way through it. One annoying thing though is that the author sometimes seems to forget what’s she’s said about her characters. At one point near the start Cathbad was introduced as a vegetarian, then it was obvious from what he was wearing and particularly what he was eating that he wasn’t a vegetarian. A woman character in a later book was introduced as a vegan then seemed to definitely not be given what she was eating. Most recently it was said that Kate’s parentage was out in the open with everyone, including Nelson’s two oldest daughters but in this book, Laura and Rebecca don’t seem to know that Kate shares their father and while Kate knows Nelson is her father she doesn’t know that his other two much older daughters are her half-sisters. It gets confusing. It’s a relatively minor quibble but it's still annoying. I love the books and that makes these things even more distracting for me. Wow! We read this one in only three days! 4-1/2 stars
  • (4/5)
    I enjoyed this one, although there was a lot going on: missing women, stabbed men, mysterious holes, underground tunnels. The ending was utterly bonkers and unrealistically successful. I'm a bit confused about Michelle's baby, but no doubt all will be revealed in the next instalment. Nelson's panic when Laura met Kate was very entertaining.
  • (4/5)
    Note: Spoilers for previous books in this series.This is the ninth book in the Ruth Galloway Mystery Series. Ruth Galloway, now 46, is a self-described overweight forensic archeologist at the (fictional) University of North Norfolk, who occasionally works with Detective Chief Inspector Harry Nelson, 48, of the Norfolk Police. The two teamed up to solve several crimes since Ruth is an expert on bones, and she became seconded to the Serious Crime Unit, which is headed by Nelson.Nelson works at the King’s Lynn Police Station. King’s Lynn is a seaport in Norfolk, England and Norwich is a town in Norfolk. During the 11th century, Norwich was the largest city in England after London, and one of its most important. Griffiths integrates many interesting historical aspects of this region into her story lines.In this book, Griffiths features the famous chalk pits of Norwich. Beginning in the Middle Ages, Norwich was mined for chalk and flint, and today many of the mines still exist under the city. These tunnels can cause instability when construction cuts into them, and occasionally holes open up in the city. Famously, a large red bus fell into a hole in Earlham Road in 1988, and in this book, the residents often refer to that event. Tales have proliferated about secret tunnels and possible uses to which they have been put.As this story begins, excavation for an underground restaurant has opened up one of these tunnels, and bones have been found in it. Ruth is called in, and Harry as well after analysis shows the bones not to be medieval but recent.Ruth and Harry share a daughter, Kate, 6. Harry’s wife Michelle allows Harry to see Kate but insists that Harry only see Ruth in a professional capacity. But because there are always bones being dug up in the Norwich area, their liaisons occur rather frequently, although not as often as either of them would like (even if neither will admit it to themselves). Members of Nelson’s crime team are also recurring characters, and in this story Judy Johnson, one of Nelson’s detective sergeants, plays a large role, as does her partner David (Cloughie) Clough. All of the characters have to juggle the demands of their professional duties with the needs of their private lives, especially because of the young children involved. This story also focuses on the homeless people of the area, called “rough sleepers.” One of them has gone missing, and a couple of others soon turn up stabbed in the heart. The detectives speculate that there could be some relationship between these occurrences and rumors of an underground refuge for homeless people in the old chalk mines. But none of the rough sleepers want to talk about it, because when they do, they end up dead.The book ends with a build-up of tension as the danger increases for those getting close to the truth. In addition, there are a couple of surprising cliff-hanger type developments in the characters’ personal lives. I can’t wait to see what happens next!Evaluation: I really like this series, with its well-drawn characters who seem very much like real people. Both Nelson and Ruth have wonderfully wry senses of humor. I also love that one comes away from these books learning a great deal more than how to commit a murder.
  • (4/5)
    Another perfect forensic archeology mystery from Elly Griffiths and her Ruth Galloway Mystery Series. This ninth book in the series is equally as suspenseful and engaging as its predecessors. It delicately and respectfully brings to light the lives of those who choose to live on the streets and the challenges and dangers which many face each day. What happens and who truly cares for those among them who disappear? Would society even notice? Someone did and now they're gone.Synopsis (from author's website):Boiled human bones have been found in Norwich’s web of underground tunnels. When Dr Ruth Galloway discovers they were recently buried, DCI Nelson has a murder enquiry on his hands. The boiling might have been just a medieval curiosity – now it suggests a much more sinister purpose.Meanwhile, DS Judy Johnson is investigating the disappearance of a local rough sleeper. The only trace of her is the rumour that she’s gone ‘underground’. This might be a figure of speech, but with the discovery of the bones and the rumours both Ruth and the police have heard that the network of old chalk-mining tunnels under Norwich is home to a vast community of rough sleepers, the clues point in only one direction. Local academic Martin Kellerman knows all about the tunnels and their history – but can his assertions of cannibalism and ritual killing possibly be true?As the weather gets hotter, tensions rise. A local woman goes missing and the police are under attack. Ruth and Nelson must unravel the dark secrets of The Underground and discover just what gruesome secrets lurk at its heart – before it claims another victim.
  • (4/5)
    This is a really interesting book in the series. Ruth discovers a bone in one of her archaeological digs and this involves notifying the police. Meanwhile a homeless woman goes missing, a housewife and mother of 4 is missing, another homeless man is found stabbed on the steps of the police station and then Cluffs partner goes missing. It all centers around the underground site that is being developed as a shopping, dining and condo mall. There is a secondary storyline involving Ruth’s parents and one involving Nelson’s family.
  • (5/5)
    The Chalk Pit – An Ingenious Detective SeriesElly Griffiths is one of the UK’s best crime writers and has the award to prove it, but one of her biggest fans is Val McDermid who knows a thing or two about crime writing. Her prose, and deft skill at being able to make the complicated seem simple is a thoroughly modern crime thriller with Dr Ruth Galloway as the forensic archaeological expert, and DCI Harry Nelson a battle-hardened detective and leader of a great team. Elly Griffiths, has created fantastic characters, a great backstory, plenty of human interest and blended them into an ingenious story.Bones have been found in one of the many chalk tunnels below Norwich and Dr Ruth Galloway has been called in to deal with the matter, and any excavation and testing of the bones. She notes that the bones been boiled which is not something medieval, but could be suggesting something far more serious.Nelson is investigating the murder of Aftershave Eddie, a rough sleeper who always sleeps on the steps of the station, is it coincidence that this has happened shortly after he had informed Nelson about Babs, one of the few female rough sleepers, who has gone missing. Ds Judy Johnson is leading the investigation into Babs and is getting to know a large number of rough-sleepers in Kings Lynn during the search. As another murdered victim who also happens to be another rough sleeper, appears, Nelson realises finding out information is going to be a lot tougher.When a local woman goes missing, while her children watch the TV and awaiting the arrival of their father, Nelson cannot find any clues to where she has gone. As this is happening in full view of the press he is aware that he is under pressure to get a result quickly.The relationship between Galloway and Nelson, who have a child together, but he is still married with two adult children, is complicated to say the least. Things will not get any easier for these two especially as they will come in to contact through their work, and their daughter, who still does not know she has older sisters. Galloway’s life gets more stressful, especially when her mother has a stroke and her daughter is asked to perform in a play.One thing that Elly Griffiths’ writing does do is not sacrifice her characterisation for her prose, but it aids it, and makes it even more enjoyable. This really is a fantastic crime series that continues to develop and getting better with every book.
  • (4/5)
    Anthropologist Ruth Galloway and her sometime lover DCI Nelson return in Elly Griffiths’ ninth Ruth Galloway mystery ‘The Chalk Pit.’This time they’re searching in the chalk tunnels beneath the city of Norwich for missing women. But the true heart of the novel, is, as always, the relationship between Ruth and the married Nelson. The mystery merely serves as a vehicle for their story.However, the erstwhile plot does deserve at least quick notice. A local developer planning to build an underground restaurant in the chalk tunnels beneath the city discovers a human remains. Ruth is sent to investigate the bones and determine their age.Meanwhile homeless men are dying and women are going missing. Nelson and his team are charged with determining whether there’s a tie to the tunnels.I enjoyed my read. Ruth and Nelson do seem to have a strong attraction to each other, but Griffiths should be warned - this is a storyline that’s getting worn. It’s time to provide resolution. I enjoy a light mystery, but I’m not a fan of the continuous plot contrivances of soaps.[A free publisher's copy was provided the reviewer.]
  • (5/5)
    With The Chalk Pit, Elly Griffiths adds another highly satisfying and intelligent installment to her Ruth Galloway series. The Chalk Pit is the 9th book, and the characters and plot line remain outstanding, likeably quirky and original. The Chalk Pit centers around Norwich’s hidden underground tunnels and the discovery of human bones. Initially the bones are thought to be medieval, but Ruth quickly determines that they are recent, and as a result, DCI Nelson and Ruth must work to solve a murder. Meanwhile, women are going missing and homeless men (rough sleepers as they are called in Norwich) are being murdered. As the story unfolds, Ruth, DCI Nelson and the rest of the crew work to figure out whether these incidents are related and attempt to solve the various crimes.The characters in this book are simply fantastic. I love reading about them all and seeing them develop over time as the books continue. Ruth and DCI Nelson’s interactions are always interesting, and for a while I had high hopes that things might resolve themselves in a manner that I would like, but apparently that is for another book. However, that did not lessen my enjoyment of The Chalk Pit. Griffith’s portrayal of the homeless population is empathetic and kind, and the underground tunnels are an intriguing inclusion in the story.I highly recommend this entire series and specifically The Chalk Pit. Thanks to Houghton Mifflin Harcourt and NetGalley for the chance to read this ARC in exchange for an honest review.