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The Stone Circle

The Stone Circle

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The Stone Circle

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May 7, 2019


In a chilling entry to the award-winning Ruth Galloway series, she and DCI Nelson are haunted by a ghost from their past, just as their future lands on shaky ground.

DCI Nelson has been receiving threatening letters. They are anonymous, yet reminiscent of ones he has received in the past, from the person who drew him into a case that’s haunted him for years. At the same time, Ruth receives a letter purporting to be from that very same person—her former mentor, and the reason she first started working with Nelson. But the author of those letters is dead. Or is he?

The past is reaching out for Ruth and Nelson, and its grip is deadly.
May 7, 2019

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 Stone Circle - Elly Griffiths



12 February 2016

DCI Nelson,

Well, here we are again. Truly our end is our beginning. That corpse you buried in your garden, has it begun to sprout? Will it bloom this year? You must have wondered whether I, too, was buried deep in the earth. Oh ye of little faith. You must have known that I would rise again.

You have grown older, Harry. There is grey in your hair and you have known sadness. Joy too but that also can bring anguish. The dark nights of the soul. You could not save Scarlet but you could save the innocent who lies within the stone circle. Believe me, Harry, I want to help.

The year is turning. The shoots rise from the grass. Imbolc is here and we dance under the stars.

Go to the stone circle.

In peace.

DCI Harry Nelson pushes the letter away from him and lets out something that sounds like a groan. The other people in the briefing room—Superintendent Jo Archer, DS Dave Clough, DS Judy Johnson and DS Tanya Fuller—look at him with expressions ranging from concern to ill-concealed excitement.

‘He’s back,’ says Clough.

‘Bollocks,’ says Nelson. ‘He’s dead.’

‘Excuse me,’ says Jo Archer, Super Jo to her admirers. ‘Would someone mind putting me in the picture?’ Jo Archer has only been at King’s Lynn for a year, taking over from smooth, perma-tanned Gerald Whitcliffe. At first she seemed the embodiment of all Nelson’s worst nightmares—holding meetings where everyone is supposed to talk about their feelings, instigating something unspeakable called a ‘group huddle’—but recently he has come to view her with a grudging respect. But he doesn’t relish the prospect of explaining the significance of the letter to his boss. She’ll be far too interested, for one thing.

But no one else seems prepared to speak so Nelson says, in his flattest and most unemotional voice, ‘It must have been twenty years ago now. A child went missing. Lucy Downey. And I started to get letters like this. Full of stuff about Gods and the seasons and mystical crap. Then, ten years on, we found a child’s bones on the Saltmarsh. I wasn’t sure how old they were so I asked Ruth—Dr Ruth Galloway—to examine them. Those bones were nothing to do with the case, they were Iron Age or something, but I got Ruth to look at the letters. She thought they might be from someone with archaeological knowledge. Anyway, as you know, we found Lucy but another child died. The killer was drowned on the marshes. The letter writer was a Norwegian professor called Erik Anderssen. He died that night too. And this,’ he points at the letter on the table, ‘reads like one of his.’

‘It sounds like someone who knows you,’ says Judy.

‘Because it goes on about me being grey and sad?’ says Nelson. ‘Thanks a lot.’

No one says anything. The joys and sorrows of the last few years are imprinted on all of them, even Jo.

After a few seconds, Jo says, ‘What’s this about a stone circle?’

‘God knows,’ says Nelson. ‘I’ve never heard of anything like that. There was that henge thing they found years ago but that was made of wood.’

‘Wasn’t the henge thing where you found the murdered child last time?’ says Jo, revealing slightly more knowledge than she has hitherto admitted to.

‘Yes,’ says Nelson. ‘It was on the beach near the Saltmarsh. Nothing’s left of it now. All the timbers and suchlike are in the museum.’

‘Cathbad says they should have been left where they were,’ says Judy.

Judy’s partner, Cathbad, is a druid who first came to the attention of the police when he protested about the removal of the henge timbers. Everyone in the room knows Cathbad so no one thinks this is worth commenting on, although Clough mutters ‘of course he does’.

‘This is probably nothing,’ says Jo, gesturing at the letter which still lies, becalmed, in the centre of the table. ‘But we should check up the stone circle thing. Nelson, can you ask Ruth if she knows anything about it?’

Once again everyone avoids Nelson’s eye as he takes the letter and puts it in his pocket.

‘I’ll give her a ring later,’ he says.

‘How did you know about the stone circle?’ says Ruth.

Nelson is taken aback. He has retreated into his office and shut the door for this phone call and now he stands up and starts to pace the room.

‘What do you mean?’

‘A team from UCL were digging at the original henge site just before Christmas. They think they’ve found a second circle.’

‘Is this one made of stone?’

‘No,’ says Ruth and he hears her switching into a cautious, academic tone. ‘This is wood too. Bog oak like the other one. But they’re calling it the stone circle because a stone cist was found in the centre.’

‘What’s a cist when it’s at home?’

‘A grave, a coffin.’

Nelson stops pacing. ‘A coffin? What was inside?’

‘Human skeletal matter,’ says Ruth. ‘Bones. We’re waiting for carbon-14 results.’

Nelson knows that carbon-14 results, which tests the level of carbon left in human remains, are useful for dating but are only accurate within a range of about a hundred years. He doesn’t want to give Ruth the chance to explain this again.

‘Why this sudden interest in the Bronze Age?’ says Ruth.

‘I’ve had a letter,’ says Nelson.

There’s a silence. Then Ruth says, her voice changing again, ‘What sort of letter?’

‘A bit like the ones I had before. About Lucy and Scarlet. It had some of the same stuff in it.’

‘What do you mean the same stuff?’

‘About corpses sprouting, shoots rising from the earth. Imbolc. The sort of stuff that was in Erik’s letters.’

‘But . . .’ Nelson can hear the same reactions he witnessed in his colleagues earlier: disbelief, anger, fear. ‘Erik’s dead.’

‘He certainly looked dead to me when we hauled him out of the water.’

‘I went to his funeral. They burned his body on a Viking boat.’

‘So it can’t be him,’ says Nelson. ‘It’s some nutter. What worries me is that it’s a nutter who knows a bit about me. The letter mentions a stone circle. That’s why I rang.’

‘It can’t be this circle. I mean, no one knows about it.’

‘Except your archaeologist pals.’

‘Actually, they’ve got funding for a new dig,’ says Ruth. ‘It’s starting on Monday. I was planning to drop in for a few hours in the morning.’

It’s Friday now. Nelson should be getting ready to go home for the weekend. He says, ‘I might drop by myself if I’m not too busy. And I’d like to show you the letter because, well, you saw the others.’

There’s another tiny sliver of silence and Ruth says, ‘Isn’t the baby due any day now?’

‘Yes,’ says Nelson. ‘That might change my plans.’

‘Give Michelle my best,’ says Ruth.

‘I will,’ says Nelson. He wants to say more but Ruth has gone.


Ruth reruns this conversation on a loop as she drives to collect her daughter from Sandra, her childminder. She has deliberately been keeping her interactions with Nelson to the minimum. She sees him every other Saturday when he takes Kate out for the morning but she manages to keep their conversation general and upbeat; they sound like two breakfast TV presenters handing over to the weather forecast. ‘How are you?’ ‘Fine. Getting sick of this weather.’ ‘Yes, when’s the sun going to come out?’ But this latest development takes her back to a time that still feels dangerous and disturbing: her first meeting with Nelson, the discovery of the bones on the marsh, the hunt for the missing children, her last encounter with Erik. Over the last ten years she has, by and large, dealt with these memories by ignoring them but the discovery of the new henge in December, and now Nelson’s mention of the letter, has brought everything back. She can still feel the wind on her face as she ran across the uncertain ground, half-land half-sea, knowing that a murderer was on her trail. She can hear Lucy’s voice calling from deep underground. She can see the police helicopter, like a great misshapen bird, stirring the waters of the tidal pool that had taken a man’s life.

Corpses sprouting, shoots rising from the earth. That’s what Nelson had said, the words sounding strange in his careful policeman’s voice, the vowels still recognisably Lancastrian even after more than twenty years down south. It had to be a coincidence and yet Ruth does not trust coincidences. One of the few opinions that she shares with Nelson.

Kate, her seven-year-old daughter, is drawing at Sandra’s kitchen table and acknowledges Ruth with a friendly, yet dismissive, wave.

‘I’m doing a Valentine’s card,’ she says.

Ruth’s heart sinks. She has managed to forget that it is Valentine’s Day on Sunday (VD she calls it in her head). In her opinion, the whole thing is an abomination: the explosion of bleeding hearts in the shops, the sentimental songs on the radio, the suggestion that, if you are not in possession of a single red rose by midnight, you will die alone and be eaten by your pet cat. Ruth has had her share of Valentines in the past but this doesn’t lessen her distaste for the whole business. She’s never had a card from Nelson; their relationship is too complicated and clandestine. Roses are red, violets are blue. You’ve had my baby but I can’t be with you. She tries not to think about Nelson presenting his heavily pregnant wife with a vast bouquet (he will go for something obvious from a florist, red roses tied in ribbon and encased in cellophane). She wonders who is the intended recipient of Kate’s artwork.

Ruth doesn’t ask though and Kate doesn’t tell her. She puts the card, which seems to show a large cat on a wall, in her school bag and goes to put her coat on. Ruth thanks Sandra and has the obligatory chat about ‘thank goodness it’s Friday, let’s hope the rain holds off’. Then she is driving off with her daughter, away from the suburbs towards the coast.

It’s dark by the time that they get home. When they get out of the car they can hear the sea breaking against the sandbar and the air smells brackish which means that the tide is coming in. Ruth’s cottage is one of three at the very edge of the marshes. Her only neighbours are an itinerant Indigenous Australian poet and a London family who only visit for the occasional weekend. The road is often flooded in winter and, when it snows, you can be cut off for days. The Saltmarsh is a bird sanctuary and, in the autumn, you can see great flocks of geese coming in to hibernate, their wings pink in the sunlight as they wheel and turn. Now, in February, it’s a grey place even in daylight, grey-green marshes merging with grey sky and greyer sea. But there are signs that spring is coming, snowdrops growing along the footpaths and the occasional glimpse of bright yellow marsh marigolds. Ruth has lived here for twenty years and still loves it, despite the house’s increasing inconvenience for a single parent with a child whose social life now requires a separate diary.

It was on the beach at the edge of the marshes that the henge was first discovered. Ruth remembers Erik’s cry of joy as he knelt on the sand before the first sunken post, the sign that they had found the sacred circle itself. She remembers the frenzied days of excavation, working desperately to remove the timbers before the sea reclaimed them. She remembers the druids protesting, the bonfires, the burning brands. It was during one of the protests that she first met Cathbad, now one of her dearest friends. And now they have found a second circle. Ruth worked on the dig in December and performed the first examination on the bones found in the stone cist. Now, during this second excavation, a lithics expert will look more closely at the stones and archaeologists will try to date the wooden posts. Ruth is looking forward to visiting the site again. It will never be the same as that first discovery though, that day, almost twenty years ago now, when the henge seemed to rise from the sea.

‘Hurry up, Mum,’ says Kate, becoming bored by her mother staring out to sea. ‘Flint will be waiting for us.’

And, when Ruth opens the door, her large ginger cat is indeed waiting for them, managing to convey the impression that he has been doing this all day.

‘He’s hungry,’ says Kate, picking the cat up. There was a time when he seemed almost bigger than her; even now on his hind legs he reaches up to her waist.

‘There’s food in his bowl,’ says Ruth. But, nevertheless, she removes the perfectly edible cat food and replaces it with a fresh offering. Flint sniffs at it once and then walks away. He isn’t really hungry—he has just consumed a tasty vole—but he does like to keep his human minders on their toes.

Kate switches on the television, a habit that never ceases to annoy Ruth but she doesn’t say anything. She starts to cook macaroni cheese for supper, one of her stock of boring but acceptable dishes. She tries to read the Guardian at the same time, propped up behind the pots which should contain tea and coffee but are actually full of mysterious objects like old raffle tickets and tiny toolkits from Christmas crackers.

She has left her phone in her bag by the front door but Kate calls to tell her it is ringing. She manages to catch the call in time. Frank.

‘Hi,’ he says. ‘How was your day?’

‘OK. Phil is more megalomaniacal than ever. I’m expecting him to make his horse a senator at any minute.’ Phil is Ruth’s boss at the University of North Norfolk. He adores publicity and is very jealous of the fact that Ruth occasionally appears on television.

‘Same here.’ Frank is teaching at Cambridge. ‘Geoff now continually refers to himself in the third person. Geoff is disappointed with student outcomes, Geoff has some important news about funding.’

Ruth laughs and takes the phone into the kitchen.

‘Frank was wondering if you wanted to go out for dinner tomorrow.’

‘Ruth doesn’t know if she can get a babysitter. Shall we stop this now?’

‘I think we should. I could come over and cook?’ Frank, a single father for many years, has his own small store of recipes but at least they are different from Ruth’s.

‘That would be nice.’ Please don’t let him mention VD.

‘I’ll come to you for seven-ish. Is that OK?’

‘Great. Kate would like to see you before she goes to bed.’ Which, on a Saturday, is becoming later and later. Ruth will have to bribe her with an audio book.

‘See you then.’ Frank rings off but seconds later she receives a text:

Are you pleased I didn’t mention Valentine’s?

Ruth doesn’t know whether to be pleased or slightly irritated.

Ruth is glad that she has the evening to look forward to because the shadow of VD looms over Saturday. It’s not one of Nelson’s Saturdays so Ruth takes Kate swimming in King’s Lynn and even at the pool there are red balloons and exhortations to ‘Treat yourself to a Valentine’s Day Spa’. At least she has arranged to meet Cathbad and his son, Michael, and, after their swim, the children play in the circle of hell known as the Soft Play Area and the adults drink something frothy which may or may not contain coffee.

‘Are you taking Judy out for Valentine’s Day?’ asks Ruth, dispiritedly eating the chocolate from the top of her ‘cappuccino’.

‘No, but I’ll cook us something special,’ says Cathbad. In jeans and jumper with his long wet hair tied back in a ponytail, Cathbad looks like any ageing hipster dad. He still wears his cloak sometimes but Ruth has noticed that more and more, when he’s with his children, especially Michael whose embarrassment threshold is low, Cathbad mimes a slightly offbeat version of conventionality. Apart from running a few evening classes in meditation and past life regression, he’s the full-time carer for Michael, six, and Miranda, three, and seems to enjoy the role. Ruth often ponders on the fact that this apparently makes Judy a ‘working mother’ and Cathbad a ‘stay-at-home father’ as if mothers never have jobs outside the home and caring for children isn’t work. Nelson is, presumably, a ‘working father’ though no one would ever label him in this way. Ruth’s mother often used to describe her, rather apologetically, as a ‘career woman’ but Nelson, who is consumed by his job, will never be described as a ‘career man’. Will Michelle go back to work as a hairdresser after this new baby is born?

Time to stop thinking about that.

‘Valentine’s is crap though, isn’t it?’ she says.

‘I don’t mind it,’ says Cathbad, waving to Michael who is about to descend the tubular slide. ‘I like ritual and saints’ days. And it’s another way of marking the coming of spring. Like Ash Wednesday and Imbolc.’

Nelson had mentioned Imbolc, Ruth remembers. But she doesn’t want to tell Cathbad about the new letter.

‘When is Imbolc?’ she asks. ‘Beginning of February?’

‘It’s flexible,’ says Cathbad, ‘but usually the first or second of February. It used to be a feast dedicated to Bridgid, the goddess of fertility, but then it got taken over by Christianity and Bridgid became St Bridget. In Ireland children still make rush crosses for St Bridget’s Day.’

Cathbad grew up in Ireland and was raised as a Catholic but, like the feast day, he is flexible, incorporating both pagan and Christian traditions into his belief system. Ruth sometimes thinks that what he really likes is any excuse for a party.

‘Are you seeing Frank this weekend?’ asks Cathbad.

‘He’s coming over tonight to cook me a meal.’

‘That’s nice,’ says Cathbad. His expression is bland but Ruth thinks she knows what he’s thinking.

She takes pity on him. ‘It’s going well with Frank. We’ve got a lot in common.’

‘He’s a good person,’ says Cathbad. ‘He has a very serene energy.’

There’s a brief silence during which Ruth knows that they are thinking of someone who could never be described as serene. She says, ‘Michelle’s baby is due any day now.’

‘I know. Judy says Nelson is worse tempered than ever at work. It must be the worry.’

‘Or maybe it’s just bad temper.’

‘No, he has a good heart really.’

‘Let’s hope the baby isn’t born on Sunday,’ says Ruth, ‘or he’ll have to call it Valentine.’

‘I like the name Valentine,’ says Cathbad. ‘It’s got a certain power.’ His children, though, all have names beginning with M, for reasons that are not entirely clear to anyone, even him. He also has a twenty-four-year-old daughter called Madeleine from a previous relationship.

‘Valentine Nelson,’ says Ruth. ‘I can’t see it.’

‘Of course 2016 is a leap year,’ says Cathbad. ‘There’s a certain power in being born on 29th February. Funnily enough, in Ireland leap years are associated with St Bridget. She’s said to have struck a deal with St Patrick to allow women to propose to men on one day of the year.’

‘Bully for her,’ says Ruth. ‘I’m sure Michelle doesn’t want to wait until the 29th to have her baby.’

She thinks about this conversation intermittently over the rest of the day. She doesn’t envy Cathbad and Judy their relationship, or even Nelson and Michelle. By and large, she is happy with her life in her little cottage on the edge of the marshes with her daughter and her cat. If she has ever dreamed of a life with Nelson, the dream ended after the rapturous love-making and hasn’t encompassed life in a confined space with a man who takes up too much room, literally and metaphorically. It’s just that, on days like this, she does wonder if she’ll ever have a romantic relationship again. But, at seven o’clock, there is Frank, bearing chocolates, wine and two steaks in a rather bloody bag. Kate has already had her supper but she insists on showing Frank her collection of Sylvanian animals and all her spelling/maths/ reading certificates (this takes some time as Kate seems to win a new award every week). Eventually, though, Kate is tucked up in bed listening to Stephen Fry reading Harry Potter and Ruth and Frank have their meal.

It’s a nice evening. They talk about work and the idiocies of their relative bosses. They talk about Kate and about Frank’s children in America. Even Flint sits next to Frank and purrs at him loudly with his eyes closed. But, at eleven o’clock, Frank picks up his car keys and sets off home. They kiss on the doorstep, both cheeks like acquaintances at a smart party. Ruth locks the door, turns off the lights and goes upstairs, followed by Flint. What is happening with Frank? They had once had a proper relationship, complete with extremely good sex. Is Frank now just a friend who cooks her meals and takes her out sometimes? Is he seeing someone else, a stunning classicist from Christ’s or an economist from Girton with a PhD and a thigh gap?

But, as Ruth is about to turn out the light, she sees that she is not in bed alone. On her pillow is a card showing a fat ginger cat on a wall.

‘Happy Vallentines Day Mum,’ it says.

Nelson is woken by a knock on the door. Three knocks actually. Staccato and self-important. Bruno, the German shepherd, barks in response. Is it the postman? But it’s Sunday and—Nelson looks at the clock radio—6.30 a.m. Michelle is asleep, lying on her back, her stomach a mound under the bedclothes. She is finding it increasingly difficult to sleep in these last days of her pregnancy and Nelson doesn’t want to wake her. His daughter Laura, living at home while she studies to become a teacher, was out late last night and will be dead to the world. Nelson gets up as quietly as he can and pads downstairs in pyjama bottoms and a ‘No. 1 Dad’ T-shirt, a bit embarrassing but all he could find to wear last night.

‘Coming,’ he mutters irritably. Bruno is standing in the hallway staring at the door. He’s actually not much of a barker; he prefers to assess situations and then act accordingly. Nelson thinks this could be because he came from a litter destined to be police dogs. ‘Good boy,’ says Nelson. He opens the door. There’s no one there. Nelson looks up and down the street but the cul-de-sac is still asleep, no movement except for a ginger cat walking very slowly along a wall. The cat reminds Nelson of Ruth. He turns to go back into the house and it’s only then that he notices the brown paper bag on the step.

In the kitchen, watched intently by Bruno, Nelson tips the bag upside down on the table. Inside is a stone with a hole through the middle and a note, black writing on red paper.

‘Greetings,’ it says, ‘from Jack Valentine.’


‘It’s an old Norfolk tradition,’ says Tom Henty, the desk sergeant who has been at the station for as long as anyone can remember. ‘Three knocks on the door and, when you go to answer it, there’s nobody there but Jack Valentine has left a present, usually in a brown paper bag.’

‘I’ve never heard of that tradition,’ says Clough, halfway through his second breakfast of the day, ‘and I was born and brought up in Norfolk.’

‘It’s an east Norfolk thing,’ says Tom. ‘I was born in Yarmouth.’

By now Nelson is used to the local belief that Norfolk is a vast place where the north, south, east and west regions are separated by massive, immovable barriers. As for Suffolk, it might as well be on a different planet.

‘Whoever left me this is from east Norfolk then,’ he says, pointing to the stone and the note on the briefing room table. Judy picks up the stone and looks through the hole.

‘Cathbad would say that this is a witch stone. Stones with holes in are meant to be magical.’

Clough laughs and chokes on his Egg McMuffin but Nelson has learnt to listen to Cathbad’s pronouncements.

‘In what way?’ he says.

‘I’ll ask him,’ says Judy. ‘I think they’re meant to ward against evil.’

‘I’ll ask Ruth,’ says Nelson, not meeting anyone’s eyes. ‘I’m going to drop in on the dig in Holme later. Just to follow up on that stone circle thing.’

Tom’s thoughts are as slow and deliberate as his speech. ‘Then there’s Snatch Valentine,’ he says now.

Clough chokes again.

‘Present on the doorstep with a string attached,’ says Tom. ‘Child goes to grab the parcel but the string moves it just out of reach. Child chases the present until it’s out of sight. Child is never seen again.’

There’s a brief silence.

‘Bloody hell,’ says Clough, dusting himself for crumbs. ‘That’s a cheerful little story.’

‘Where there’s light there’s dark,’ says Judy. ‘Some cultures believe that Father Christmas is accompanied by an evil imp who punishes bad children.’

‘It’s probably nothing,’ says Nelson, ‘but it worries me that it was delivered to the house. I haven’t said anything to Michelle. I don’t want to upset her. The baby’s due any day now.’

No one says anything. They all know that, in the summer, someone else found Nelson’s house, a man with a gun and a grudge against Nelson. Michelle and her daughter were both held at gunpoint and Tim, a police officer who had once been with King’s Lynn CID, was killed. They all understand why Nelson has not told his wife about this new development.

‘Do you think it’s got anything to do with the other letter?’ says Clough. ‘The one about the corpse sprouting?’

‘Don’t know,’ says Nelson. ‘The first letter was typed, of course, so we can’t get a handwriting match. But what are the

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  • (4/5)
    Elly Griffiths is one of my "dependable" authors. The Ruth Galloway series was my introduction to her books and I have enjoyed every one of them, including this one. Yes, I get annoyed with Ruth and Nelson and the rest. I get annoyed because they act human, and humans can certainly be annoying. They get stuck. They have a hard time making hard choices. But for me, that makes her characters relatable. Her books are always atmospheric, and this was exceptionally so at times. Visiting Ruth's beloved Saltmarsh has been added to my bucket list, thanks to Griffiths' descriptions (but in the summer, thank you!). And as usual, the mystery in this one was a good one that kept me interested and guessing. All in all, another very enjoyable read, that left me wondering "what's next for Ruth??"
    My thanks to Netgalley and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt for providing a copy for an unbiased review.
  • (4/5)
    This was excellent ~ the continuing saga of Ruth Galloway, forensic archaeologist, a very satisfying read indeed. Of course the reader probably needs to feel engaged in Ruth's difficult love life and single parenting, along with her professional interest in Bronze Age digs and the Norfolk country.The crime and mystery scenarios were well done, although, another baby/child abduction seems repetitive. I'm looking forward to The Lantern Men coming out next February.
  • (5/5)
    This has been a series that is sometimes slow to take off but it never disappoints. When the ingredients consisting of very mysterious circumstances…excellent police work…and true to life relationship with everyday problems combine… we are presented with a top notch, superb series. The usual setting is a salt marsh which is almost a character in its own right with its colorful atmosphere. Since references are made to past books…readers should start at the beginning of the series to understand all the intertwined, often complicated relationships. New characters are introduced in almost every book…some good and some not so much. If you like a character driven mystery series …not to mention that you learn a bit about ancient Celtic mythology and archeology…you might want to give this one a try.
  • (4/5)
    It always takes a chapter or two to adjust to the present tense of the Ruth Galloway novels, but once I'm hooked I can't put them down. The Stone Circle is another great addition to the series. Griffiths sets the atmosphere perfectly, and the mystery is engaging. The characters, while sometimes quirky, are all-too-human and realistic. I strongly recommend The Stone Circle.

    I received a digital ARC via NetGalley.
  • (4/5)
    Note: Spoilers for previous books in this series.This mystery, the eleventh in the entertaining Ruth Galloway books, is as good as or better than any of the others in the series.Ruth Galloway, 47, is a self-described overweight forensic archeologist at the (fictional) University of North Norfolk. She occasionally works with Detective Chief Inspector Harry Nelson, 50, of the Norfolk Police. Since Ruth is an expert on bones, the two have teamed up to solve a number of crimes, and Ruth has become seconded to the Serious Crime Unit, which is headed by Nelson.Nelson works at the King’s Lynn Police Station. In actuality, 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. Thus old bones do in fact get excavated quite frequently. Griffiths integrates many interesting historical aspects of this region into her story lines.Although Harry is married with two adult daughters (Laura and Rebecca), Ruth and Harry share a daughter, Kate, now 7. Harry’s wife Michelle allows Harry to see Kate but insists that Harry only see Ruth in a professional capacity. As this book begins, Michelle is about to have another baby, which may or may not be Harry’s; she had an affair with one of Nelson’s detective sergeants, Tim Healthfield. Everyone in the know is anxiously awaiting the birth, since Tim (who has since died) is black, and what the baby looks like will indicate who the father is.Before Michelle’s announcement, Nelson had been considering leaving Michelle for Ruth. But Michelle’s pregnancy changed all that. As for Ruth, she has been dating Frank, a professor at Cambridge who wants to take their relationship further. But emotionally, Ruth is still tied to Nelson.Meanwhile, a new discovery of bones once again draws Nelson and Ruth together. At an archeological dig, ancient bones are found as expected but also bones perhaps only thirty-some years old of a young teenager. Nelson’s team reopens some cases of missing girls to try to come up with a match.Members of the team are able to come up with the identity fairly quickly and even a group of suspects, but as usual, everyone is hiding something and the detectives have to sort it out at considerable danger to themselves.Discussion: I enjoyed this installment a great deal because there was more focus on the relationships among the main characters, who are all likable and funny. The author’s sense of humor is so delightful that I find myself laughing out loud even while reading about murder, but that happens often with the Ruth Galloway series. The women in the book are especially witty in a self-deprecating way. I can’t wait to read more books in the series.Evaluation: This is a very good series. The characters are complex and likable, and you learn quite a bit about ancient Celtic mythology and archeology.
  • (3/5)
    In "The Stone Circle," by Elly Griffiths, forensic anthropologist and university lecturer Ruth Galloway is summoned to examine human remains that are discovered at an archaeological dig. This inquiry and others give King's Lynn DCI Harry Nelson an excuse to see Ruth more frequently than usual, and Ruth is uncomfortable in his presence. She has feelings for Harry but is trying to move on, especially since Harry is married and has no plans to leave his wife. Ruth has been dating Frank Barker, a fellow academic, who Is interested in taking their relationship to the next level.

    The soap opera elements of this book are its most compelling aspects. Why are so many men attracted to Galloway, who freely acknowledges that she is no femme fatale? Perhaps Ruth's admirers are impressed with her keen intelligence, independence, and devotion to her precocious daughter, Kate. In addition to details about Ruth's affaires d'amour, Griffiths' story deals with the fate of Margaret Lacey, a twelve-year-old girl who vanished in 1981; the unexpected appearance of Leif, son of Erik Anderssen, Ruth's deceased mentor; an execution-style shooting; and a shocking abduction.

    The author uses her setting to great effect. She captures the wild splendor and evocative atmosphere of the isolated Saltmarsh, a scenic bird sanctuary where Ruth lives with Kate and their cat, Flint. In addition, fans of Ruth will empathize with her ambivalence regarding her complicated love life. Unfortunately, Griffiths crams too many characters and subplots into "The Stone Circle." Although it is a treat to spend time with Ruth, DS Judy Johnson, Cathbad, and DS Dave Clough, whom we have gotten to know so well over the years, their presence is overshadowed by a series of melodramatic events that do not coalesce into a satisfying whole. "The Stone Circle" veers off in too many directions and concludes with a contrived and disappointing finale.
  • (2/5)
    What can I say, it is important that I like the characters in a book I'm reading..... I mean, seriously, why bother with people you don't like; in real life you wouldn't even think twice about them!So, this gal is some type of archaeologist, and she gets a letter from someone who should be dead. She is digging in a local salt marsh and finds an ancient burial site.... then while digging more, she finds a new burial, which turns out to be that of a young girl who went missing many years before.It seems like everyone in the book are all connected to each other in some manner, like one big incestuous family.Bronx Cheer!
  • (5/5)
    Ruth is back and better than ever! After the disappointing Dark Angel, where Dr. Galloway was reduced to a cariacature caught in a tiresome love triangle, Griffiths has gone back to the beginning and delivered a cracking good story. The past has caught up with all our favorite characters, as Ruth once again discovers the bones of a young female buried in a dig quite near the original henge that started the series. This discovery sets in motion a series of events that solve a cold case from 1981 and also close the loop on several stories within the series.

    Ruth and Cathbad finally have the chance to say goodbye to Erik in a wonderful car trip sequence that includes Erik’s son, his widow, their “miracle baby” Freya, some standing stones, and libations poured freely into the earth. Harry and Michelle welcome their own miracle baby, and Harry finally comes clean to his daughters about his affair with Ruth, and also finanlly admits his feelings for Ruth. There are lots of “circles” closed here, which suggests that Griffiths is perhaps done with these characters or plans to take them all in new directions.

    No matter what she decides, Stone Circle is the book I’ve been waiting for. I couldn’t stop reading. Recommended.
  • (4/5)
    4-1/2 starsI’m now caught up with all the books out so far! It took only around 5 months to read the 11 books, and that’s while reading many other additional books. I flew through this one too because as usual it was hard to put down. These are truly addictive books. The twelfth book is out in the U.K. in February and in the U.S. in June, but that probably means I won’t get a library copy until July. I read this as a buddy read with Hilary. I always love reading with her, all sorts of books. For a long time we were reading mostly historical fiction children’s books. We’ve read most of this series together. It’s particularly fun reading with her because they take place in her area and she’s familiar with the settings. I’m always looking up thigns as I read and after I read because I find the area so interesting. We have this knack for often ending our sections at cliffhangers! Maybe a lot of chapters end like that and we only notice when we have to stop?At first I wasn’t thrilled that the storyline was directly related to the one in book one. I had some worry that maybe the author was running out of story ideas. It turned out to be an exceptionally good mystery though and I had fun guessing throughout. There were lots of good and plausible red herrings. I love the complexity of the multiple mysteries. I found myself almost tearing up with emotion toward the end of this one, for a few reasons, though there is still humor throughout and I enjoy that. It is an excellent mystery with several mysteries. It’s well constructed and believable and fun to guess throughout. I love the characters and the relationships and how they grow and change. I love the humor, I love how emotionally invested I am in people & events, I love the settings and the historical context. I enjoy “being in” Norfolk England and other parts of England. This author is an excellent storyteller and I become easily immersed in the storylines. Brilliant mystery story construction too! All the red herrings make perfect sense and I never feel irked at how things play out the way I sometimes do with other mystery series. I love how Ruth is now reading some great books to Kate and love Kate and I’m enjoying her maturing. Now age 7. As with the previous books, the author explains how one of the character’s names is the name of the winner of a charity auction, the proceeds going to benefit teenagers with cancer. I love this tradition, and the characters are always an asset to the story. Even though they’re minor characters and specific to only one book, they’re a true asset to the story. This was true here too. In the same acknowledgements section in the back the author says there were supposed to be only 10 books. This is the 11th and a 12th book is supposed to be out soon, but now I’m wondering if there will be more/how many more there will be. I hope many if the quality keeps up.Some additional notes including more gripes about (NOT) vegan/vegetarian characters that aren’t, and some real spoilers: I was so glad that baby George is Nelson’s! I was afraid it would be Tim’s. I could have done without Nelson and Ruth sleeping together again when they did, but I guess I do understand. I could do without the soap opera aspect and without any love triangles. I’ve never enjoyed them. I’m so glad all the half siblings finally know each other. Laura has been presented as troubled, with an eating disorder, but I was still shocked at her strong negative reaction to the news of Katie and to her father & Ruth and to her mother having known from the start. It was an over the top reaction in my opinion. When characters I think I know act out of character I’m not wild about that, and that does sometimes happen in this series, not often but it’s jarring when it does. Given that this is a long series and generally well written and with a professional publisher/editor, I’m surprised to notice split infinitives and a couple typos. While not a mistake I prefer the word forever vs. the for ever that is regularly used in this book. This is an annoying this about this series: Fish is not vegetarian. Fish & chips cooked in beef fat are not vegetarian. This author does not seem to understand the definition of the words vegan or vegetarian and should not be writing characters she identifies as one or the other. This has been an issue with several characters. They’re introduced as either vegetarian or vegan and then eat things that obviously aren’t. At first Hilary and I thought maybe the author had forgotten she made those characters veg*n but when so much around this happens in a single book I don’t think that’s it. But at least spinach and trying to add more greens to Ruth’s and Kate’s diet is mentioned. I’ll be eagerly awaiting to see if there is success and if this attempt/diet change is ever mentioned again.
  • (4/5)
    We return to the world of Dr. Ruth Galloway. Dorset, the site of past Celtic civilizations, and a newly discovered stone circle. While excavating a discovery of bones, brings Ruth into the picture. An old skeleton of a girl, and a more recent one of another preteen girl. So once again, Judy, Nelson, and Ruth will share information and attempt to solve the mystery. A new addition, an old love, a baby goes missing and the son of an old friend turned nemesis before his death. Her 11th in series, and I love them as much as I did when I first starting reading. Such a splendid mix of archeology, folklore, history and some great characters including a druid. Relationships are key here, in both the personal lives of these people, and also in the solving the mystery of the bones. I just love the atmosphere created in this series, also the fast pace, because something is always happening. Although the case presented doesn't provide much room for humor, there is some.Cathbad is the resident druid, "Nelson always finds it hard to imagine Cathbad sleeping. Somehow he pictures him hanging from the ceiling like a bat."This series is good stuff, or so I think anywayARC from Edelweiss
  • (4/5)
    Ok faithful fans, cast your mind back….remember book #1? It all began with the search for a missing little girl named Lucy Downey. Now that case has come back to haunt those involved. If your memory is as dodgy as mine, no worries. Nelson & Ruth remember it well. When a stone circle is found on the salt marshes it yields the usual grave goods plus something that triggers memories of an old case…the skeleton of a young girl. It’s like stepping back in time in more ways than one & with Michelle due any day, Nelson really doesn’t need reminders of when he met Ruth. The cryptic symbols & anonymous messages that ensue seem almost normal as Nelson’s crew begin to dig through old reports of missing children. It’s a somber task so when Michelle & Nelson welcome a healthy baby to the family, it’s definitely good for morale. Unfortunately the celebrations are cut short when another little girl goes missing. Yup, just like old times. All the old crew is back & they have their hands full. The historical & current investigations twist & intertwine in unexpected ways that make for a great story full of surprises & suspense. Several of the returning cast also deal with personal issues & some of the relationships are in for a shake-up. As for the new characters, you’ll be eying more than a few of them with suspicion every time they step on the page.I really enjoyed the investigative aspects of the book, particularly the whole story surrounding the body found in the salt marsh. In some ways, this outing is all about the kids…the missing, the hidden & the newly born. For me, there was just one disappointing development. No spoilers here but I was really hoping one element of the overall story arc would remain firmly in the past. Just personal preference & no reflection on this author’s ability to spin a great tale. Linking this book to the first in the series & tying up some plot lines gives the reader a feeling of coming full circle. By the end Ruth has a decision to make & I look forward to seeing how she fares in the next outing.
  • (5/5)
    Elly Griffiths has outdone herself with this latest installment in the Ruth Galloway series (which must be read in order). Not only is the mystery intriguing, but the developments in the personal lives of the characters were very satisfying. I love this series and can't wait for the next.
  • (5/5)
    This was a great read in one of my favorite series. Ruth is called again for her expertise in analyzing the remains found of what appears to be the missing child from 8 years ago. The investigation procedures with the familiar gang of characters but there is a secondary story of Michelle giving birth to her baby and befriending a young woman in the "Mommy & me" class whose baby later is abducted. Great read and am looking forward to the next one.
  • (5/5)
    Elly Griffiths pens one of my favourite mystery series - The Ruth Galloway books. The eleventh book in the series - The Stone Circle - has just released.Ruth is a forensic archaeologist at the University in North Norfolk, England. An expert in bones, she is often called in to assist police, museums and on other digs. And it is DCI Harry Nelson that calls on Ruth's expertise. The two have a complicated past and present. It is this element of the series that has me always curious as what will happen next. The married Nelson is father to Ruth's daughter Kate. And the attraction is still there between Harry and Ruth, despite the fact that his wife is expecting a child.But Griffith's mysteries are just as intriguing. The stone henges and salt marshes that opened this series make another appearance. A young girl's remains are found during a dig in the marsh. And Nelson is receiving anonymous letters telling him to go the stone circle and look for the innocent. Much of this mirrors the first case that Ruth and Harry worked on together. As does the appearance of a archaeologist with ties to that first case. I've learned something from every book in this series as Griffiths' cases use history as a basis.There are many supporting players that I've come to enjoy (and dislike) as well. Griffiths has also fleshed them out with rich, full personal lives. Ruth's boss Phil's pronouncements are always good for a chuckle. Judy and Clough, who work with Harry, are part of Ruth's life as well. This is what I enjoy so much - Griffiths doesn't let her characters be - their lives are evolving as they would in real life. But my personal favourite is the enigmatic Cathbad, self proclaimed Druid.Setting is also a character in Griffiths' books. The Norfolk area, while seemingly bleak, is beautiful in Ruth's eyes. I think I would enjoy living in her little cottage in the Saltmarsh, 'where the sea and the sky meet.'I can't say enough about this series - I absolutely recommend it. But do yourself a favor and start with the first book in the series - The Crossing Places.
  • (5/5)
    Elly Griffiths has done it yet again. Am I surprised? Not at all. She's one of the most gifted crime fiction writers I've ever had the pleasure of reading. Most writers either concentrate on crafting the best mystery they possibly can or on creating vivid characters, both in the attempt to keep readers coming back for more. Griffiths does both with style.In The Stone Circle, there is a mystery that draws the two main characters back into the past. It's filled with excellent misdirection and lots of tension. As the mystery draws closer to its conclusion, readers know something is going to happen, but it's impossible to determine in which direction the threat is going to strike. Along with interesting nuggets of archaeological information, there are perfect drops of humor-- like someone gifting Ruth with a Fitbit or Harry imagining that Cathbad hangs from the ceiling like a bat when he sleeps. When the suspense keeps building, it's nice to laugh occasionally.As always, the lives of the characters play a huge part in the book. The relationship between Ruth and Harry keeps evolving, and secrets are divulged. One of the things that sets Griffiths' books apart from so many others is the fact that she doesn't forget her secondary characters. Judy, Cathbad, Shona, and Dave are all woven deeply into the rich tapestry of life in this series of books.The Stone Circle is one of those books that, once I started reading, I didn't want to come up for air until I was finished, and where Elly Griffiths is concerned, that's par for the course. I love reading the Dr. Ruth Galloway books for their mysteries, for the knowledge they impart about Norfolk's ancient past, and for their wonderful cast of characters. This is a series that I highly recommend... and I urge you to start at the beginning with The Crossing Places. You have some marvelous reading ahead of you!
  • (5/5)
    I received a copy of this novel from the publisher via NetGalley.Erik's son comes over from Norway for a dig and this leads to the discovery of both a bronze age skeleton and some modern remains, leading to the re-opening of a cold case. Then a baby goes missing.I thought every one was on top form in this book and Michelle has her baby and we find out who the father was... As usual the plot itself doesn't bear thinking about too deeply, but at this stage the characters are like old friends and I am almost more interested in their lives than I am in the crimes (and definitely more than I am in the archaeology!)If I were to list my niggles...SPOILERSWhy did Mostyn go to such torturous lengths to ensure Margaret's remains were discovered, rather than just giving the police an anonymous tip off? Why didn't he just tell the police what he knew, either now or at the time of her disappearance? Why did Lief play such games? - he needed a slap. Why did Anna make up an untrue story about her step-father and, given that it was untrue, what was the motivation for her actions?Still, I am enjoying these very much.
  • (5/5)
    Elly Griffiths published her first Ruth Galloway novel, ‘The Crossing Places,’ in 2010; ‘The Stone Circle’ is the eleventh book in the series and is every bit as intriguing as the ten earlier books. All have provided a good read.This installment often refers back to the first book. It can be read alone; prior reading isn’t required for understanding, but since the series is so good, new readers may well want to start with ‘The Crossing Place.’Ruth Galloway, independent woman, single mother, university lecturer in anthropology, and sometimes consultant with the King’s Lynn police department is the center of the novel. As usual, she’s called in to date and evaluate possibly modern bones found at an archaeological site. The identity of the bones and the person who placed them at the site are the crux of the plot.And while the plot is interesting enough (I had no idea “who done it”), the popularity of the series rests with the interesting characters and their interwoven and challenging relationships. They range from Kate, Ruth’s strong-minded seven-year-old, Cathbert her Druid friend who’s married to a local detective, and, of course, DCI Nelson, Ruth’s sometime colleague and sometime lover.The dig this time has ties to Ruth and Nelson’s past. And the bones have ties to a King’s Lynn cold case. I keep reading the series because the characters are honest. Ruth and the married Nelson are complex characters who try very hard not to act out of self gratification. But the connection between them is very strong; and there is Kate to permanently tie them together. The other recurring characters are equally clearly drawn. These fictional characters seem to be living real lives in which no answers are simple, all actions have consequences, and sometimes there just are no viable compromises.[A free publisher's copy was provided the reviewer.]
  • (5/5)
    Thanks to Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishers and NetGalley for a copy of this book for an honest review.In the 11th installment of the award-winning Ruth Galloway series, Ruth and DCI Nelson are haunted by a ghost from their past, just as their future lands on shaky ground. They have received letters similar to those from the past and Ruth has discovered more human bones during her present archeological dig called The Stone Circle, another henge on the saltmarsh. They are the bones of Margaret Lacey, a 12 year-old girl who went missing 30 years ago. The head archeologist is Leif Anderssen, son of Eric Anderssen, friend of Ruth's from years ago. This series needs to be read in order as the characters drive the storyline. My favorite part of the series is reading about the complex situation between Nelson and the two loves of his life, his wife Michelle and his mistress Ruth. Nelson and Michelle are happy about their new baby, George, and decide it's time to tell their daughters that Ruth's Kate is also their sister. The secret is not received too well by Laura and Rebecca.Elly Griffiths is a beautiful writer and I enjoy her descriptions of the Norfolk area and the saltmarsh. Her characters are well-drawn and the plots a mixture of archeology and murder. I'm looking forward to the 12th installment and recommend this series to those who love mystery thrillers from England.
  • (4/5)
    The setting is King's Lynn in Norfolk, England - December 2016. DCI Nelson has received another cryptic letter speaking of buried bodies and stone circles. It's strikingly similar to the writings of a deceased character from an earlier book of this series. Move forward to Valentine's Day and a brown paper bag containing a gift and another cryptic message is deposited on the doorstep of his home. Meanwhile, professor and archeologist, Ruth Gallaway, is party to a dig by the saltmarsh - a mere 100 meters away from where a henge was discovered twenty years previously. It appears that this is a second circle of wooden posts but this one contained a rectangular pit lined with stones and a human skeleton - a truly exciting find. While visiting the site, she thinks she's seeing a ghost, but it's merely the son of her deceased mentor carrying on his father's work. He gives her cause to wonder and her intuition is on high alert. Subsequently, another set of bones is discovered at the site but this time, they're not quite so ancient. The local constabulary is brought in to examine the site, which includes DCI Nelson. This puts Ruth and Nelson in a close working relationship, yet again, heightening the sexual tension fraught between them. These new bones and items found by them are DNA tested and the dental records compared. Thus begins the search for Jane Doe's identity and an investigation into her death.This twelfth book of the Ruth Galloway series is a wonderful addition. The main characters having been well developed in previous books are familiar friends if you've been keeping up with the series. (If this is your first foray into the series, you would be well served to at least read the first book, "The Crossing Places", which sets the stage for the main characters.) These books are the marriage of archeological discovery, a thorough police procedural and the interplay of close personal relationships among the characters. The introduction of new characters provides added tension and more potential perpetrators as each of the many red herrings is eliminated. Also, some of the secondary characters are further developed and given greater voice which really heightens the tension. I have loved this series from the start and look forward to the next installment.I am grateful to Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Co. and NetGalley for having provided an advance uncorrected proof of this book. Their generosity, however, has not influenced this review - the words of which are mine alone. Synopsis (from Goodreads):DCI Nelson has been receiving threatening letters telling him to 'go to the stone circle and rescue the innocent who is buried there'. He is shaken, not only because children are very much on his mind, with Michelle's baby due to be born, but because although the letters are anonymous, they are somehow familiar. They read like the letters that first drew him into the case of The Crossing Places, and to Ruth. But the author of those letters is dead. Or are they?Meanwhile Ruth is working on a dig in the Saltmarsh - another henge, known by the archaeologists as the stone circle - trying not to think about the baby. Then bones are found on the site, and identified as those of Margaret Lacey, a twelve-year-old girl who disappeared thirty years ago.As the Margaret Lacey case progresses, more and more aspects of it begin to hark back to that first case of The Crossing Places, and to Scarlett Henderson, the girl Nelson couldn't save. The past is reaching out for Ruth and Nelson, and its grip is deadly.
  • (4/5)
    DCI Nelson receives anonymous letters letting him know that he has to look for a stone circle and all will be revealed. Those letters remind him of a previous dramatic case which ended with the death of a young child and two men (one of them a murderer). Meanwhile next to an archaeological dig on a beach in Norfolk a new site is started. The bones of a young girl (Bronze Age) is discovered but after futher excavation another,more recent skeleton is found. It is quickly identified as the remains of Margaret Lacey,a 12 year old girl gone missing some 20 years ago. Ruth Galloway is asked to give some forensic backup and is so one more time involved in a crime investigation run by Harry Nelson,lover,not lover,maybe lover... In the meantime, one of the original suspects is found dead,shot through the head in a more modern variation of a stone circle. There are of course many meandering storylines,a missing baby,a new baby for Nelson,druids and their outlook on life and a blast from the past ....To be fair,after the 10th instalment in this series, I was a bit fed up with this Nelson and Galloway thing,it basically took up most of the story!It is still a big deal and frankly I wish they just made up their minds,personally I think it doesn't add anything of major interest ...but the storyline is good,the tension is absolutely there ,the outcome suprising and it really was a very decent mystery story!