It is now two years on from The Stone Circle and much has changed, not least Ruth having relocated to Cambridge. All the usual characters are there, but the new setting makes everything feel slightly off-kilter to the reader and Ruth, who is clearly having trouble adjusting to her new life.
Despite hoping for a new start, it is obvious that life with Frank is not quite right. Ruth’s main impetus for moving away was to put some distance between herself and Nelson; in this she does not succeed, and the books would not have the same appeal without their relationship at its heart.
Ivor March has been imprisoned for murdering two young women, but will not divulge where two other bodies are buried. In an attempt to get closure for the missing girls’ families, DCI Nelson goes to visit March in prison. The upshot is he will only reveal the location if Ruth is in charge of the excavations.
There is an interconnectedness to the plot with Ruth having been on a writing retreat run by March’s ex-wife, Cathbad’s daughter reporting on the case for the local paper and Nelson’s daughter being a member of the local cycling group. As we have come to expect from Elly Griffiths, there is misdirection galore, and plenty of red herrings to keep the reader guessing.
This series is all the more enjoyable because the cast of characters are so familiar; they are at the heart of the stories, much more so than the mysteries. You could read The Lantern Men as a standalone, but to make sense of all the relationships it would be much better to start at the beginning. The sense of place, mix of crime and archeology, cast of well-written and well-loved characters, and Elly Griffiths’ usual wit and humour all combine to make this a thoroughly entertaining read. Let’s hope we see Ruth return to Norfolk in the next book!