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THE LOCKED ROOM by Elly Griffiths: Book Review

The Locked Room begins at a time that seems far, far away, before the world as we know it changed.  It’s the end of February 2020, and we’re hearing the very first rumblings about a deadly virus with origins in China.  But that’s still a couple of weeks away and not at all in the mind of Ruth Galloway.

In her childhood home, Ruth is going through a box of photos and souvenirs that belonged to her late mother.  Ruth’s father has remarried, and the home will soon be updated and redecorated by his new wife.  This bothers Ruth not at all, and she’s glad to have the opportunity to be alone in the house and look through the things that were important to her mother.

The two women were not especially close.  They had disagreed on many things, ranging from Ruth’s professional life as an anthropologist to her private life as a single mother, but Ruth is now missing her mother more than she would have thought possible.

As she riffles through the shoebox, she comes across a photo of her cottage, the one she lives in now, one of three cottages in a row.  She looks at it for a few moments noting that something is “off” about it, but at first she can’t think what it is.  Then it comes to her–these small houses are painted a dull pink rather than white, there’s no picket fence around each one, and the car in front of one has a very strange shape.  Ruth turns the photo over, and she sees written in her mother’s distinctive handwriting:  Dawn 1963.

Why on each would her mother have taken a picture of these houses, more specifically her present house, five years before Ruth was born and decades before Ruth had bought it?  Her mother had always professed to dislike the cottage, asking Ruth, “Why can’t you live somewhere more civilised?”  Her beloved home, miles from anywhere else, surrounded by marshland, had always been one of the bones of contention between the two women.  How could her mother even have known about the cottage then?

And who is the woman in The Locked Room‘s prologue, the one who is locked in a small, dark space?  We will meet her several times in the course of the novel, first alone and then when someone comes to give her water.  But ask as the captive will, she gets no answer about who that individual is or why she’s being held prisoner.  And then her captor begins taunting her, “It’s nearly time.  You know what to do.”

There are a number of other subplots in The Locked Room, as well as a lot of backstory in this, the fourteenth mystery in the series.  Elly Griffiths does a wonderful job in bringing all the different subplots together, as well as letting new readers have the information they need to understand and enjoy the protagonist and the recurring individuals in her life.  The characters, the plot, and the description of Ruth’s home and its surroundings are outstanding.

You can read more about the author at this website.

Check out the complete Marilyn’s Mystery Reads at her website.  In addition to book review posts, there are sections featuring Golden OldiesPast Masters and Mistresses, and an About Marily

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