The old bones discovered on a bleak and crumbling Norfolk beach lead to a number of present-day deaths.
Forensic archaeologist Dr. Ruth Galloway is just returning to work after the birth of her daughter Kate, whose unnamed father is married DCI Harry Nelson. Ruth adores her daughter but is finding it hard to juggle motherhood and her cherished job and is additionally stressed by Nelson’s obvious concern for and desire to share in the life of their daughter. Now her life gets even more complicated when she’s called to the site of a mass grave and identifies the bones of six different men, bound and shot in the head. Further testing reveals they’re most likely Germans. Ruth’s local bit of coast was a choice spot for a German invasion, and the Home Guard, led by the father of an MP who now owns a family house endangered by relentless erosion, was determined to repel any attempt. One of the few Home Guard members still alive, all of them pretty old, hints at a secret they swore to protect with their lives. When a German reporter arrives they hear about Operation Lucifer and the possibility of a British war crime. As the elderly witnesses start to die suspicious deaths, Ruth and Nelson struggle to come to terms with their relationship while delving into a cold case that’s become hot enough to burn a group of suspects desperate to hide the past.
Griffiths’s third (The Janus Stone, 2010, etc.) offers not only an excellent mystery but a continuing exploration of the lives of complex, sometimes unlovable characters.