The Saltmarsh, a mystical place, provides the stunning backdrop for a new mystery series.
Ruth Galloway is an overweight 40-ish forensic archaeologist living happily and quietly with her two cats in a Saltmarsh cottage when DCI Harry Nelson calls on her to establish the age of some bones found on a lonely beach. Nelson has never given up the search for Lucy Downey, taken from her parents’ home 10 years ago and presumed dead. But these bones, to Ruth’s delight, are those of an Iron Age child ritually buried. Despite their disparate backgrounds, the tough cop is sufficiently impressed by Ruth’s calm professionalism to show her a series of taunting letters he’s received over the years, presumably from the killer. She’s struck by the use of biblical and literary quotations and some arcane archaeological knowledge. The Iron Age find brings interest from both the university where Ruth teaches and her former mentor Erik Anderssen. The dig they worked together at the Saltmarsh now provides a shoal of suspects for Nelson. Reputed magician Cathbad, Ruth’s former lover Peter, her friend Shona and Erik were all around at the time. When one of Ruth's cats is killed and left on her doorstep and another child goes missing, she’s sucked even deeper into the challenging and terrifying hunt for the truth.
A winning debut. Aficionados may guess the killer early on, but the first-rate characters and chilling story are entrancing from start to finish.