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Book Author: Elly Griffiths

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

THE POSTSCRIPT MURDERS by Elly Griffiths: Book Review

When ninety-year-old Margaret Smith, known as Peggy, is found dead by her caregiver Natalka, at first glance it appears that she died of natural causes.   Among several other things on the table next to Peggy are her binoculars (which she used for watching birds, she told Natalka, but the caregiver thinks she also used it for watching people), a mystery novel, and a business card saying Mrs. M. Smith, Murder Consultant.

When Natalka starts clearing out the flat at Peggy’s son’s request, she’s so struck by what she finds in many of the books that she goes to the local police station to speak to someone in authority.  She tells Detective Sergeant Harbinder Kaus that many of the mystery novels on Peggy’s shelves are dedicated to her or that she’s listed in the acknowledgements.  Why would so many authors give thanks to this elderly English woman for her help?

“It’s suspicious, isn’t it?” Natalka asks Harbinder, showing her the business card she found.  “A woman dies and then it turns out that she’s a murder consultant.”

In addition to Natalka and Harbinder, two other people quickly learn of Peggy’s death.  Benedict Cole, a former monk in the Catholic Church and now the owner of the seaside Coffee Shack, and Edwin Fitzgerald, another resident of Peggy’s building who worked at the BBC before retiring, were friends of hers.  Natalka voices her thoughts about the death to the men and tells them they must go to the funeral.   “…the murderer always attends the funeral,” she tells them.  “…don’t you know anything?”

After the funeral, Natalka is more certain than ever that the death is suspicious, and she inveigles Benedict into going to the deceased’s apartment with her to look through Peggy’s belongings.  Having gone through her books, they’re beginning on her papers when the door opens and a masked man enters holding a gun.  He keeps it pointed at the two while he bends down, picks up a book from the floor, and leaves.

Natalka, Benedict, Edwin, and Harbinder form a loose quartet trying to discover the truth behind Peggy’s death.  No one but Natalka is totally convinced that she was actually murdered, but then there’s a second death, that of the mystery author Dex Challoner, and it’s clear that he was killed.  It was Challoner’s book that was next to Peggy when she died, and at that point her two friends, her caregiver, and the policewoman move into high gear to discover if there’s a connection between the two deaths and the reason for them.

Elly Griffith’s latest mystery is a terrific follow-up to her Edgar Award-winning The Stranger Diaries The clever plot and believable characters will keep you turning page after page.

You can read more about Elly Griffith 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 Oldies, Past Masters and Mistresses, and an About Marilyn column that features her opinions about everything to do with mystery novels.


THE STRANGER DIARIES by Elly Griffiths: Book Review

Can a curse from a long-dead writer actually hang over into today?  Can the works of Gothic horror author R. M. Holland bring death to teachers at Talgarth High?

Clare Cassidy is an elementary school teacher in England who also teaches an adult creative writing class.  In that class she has been discussing The Stranger with her students.  What makes the short story particularly horrifying to us, she tells her class, is that Holland actually wrote it in the very building we are in now.  Clare, in fact, is in the process of writing Holland’s biography, although after a good start the words seem to have dried up for her.  She wants to write the story of the mysterious author whose wife’s spirit is reputed to haunt the halls of the house where the couple lived, a house that now is the location of the school’s English department.

And she would also like to clear up the identity of the mysterious Mariana whom Holland refers to in his letters.  Was she his daughter, his previously-unknown second wife, a mistress?  Clare is convinced that if she can solve this issue, her book will definitely be picked up by a publisher.

Now, as she exits her classroom, she receives a phone call from the head of the English department, Rick Lewis.  He’s so sorry to tell her, he says, that her colleague and close friend, Ella, is dead.  Not only dead, but murdered.

Clare knows something about Ella she decides not to share with the police when they question her, that a few months ago Ella had a very brief fling with Rick during an off-site teacher training course.  Although Ella had had an affair that ended badly with the head of the English department at her former school, she apparently didn’t learn from that experience and allowed herself to spend the weekend with the married Rick.

What Clare didn’t tell Ella at the time, although she was extremely angry with her, was that Rick had attempted to start an affair with her earlier in the semester, using the same words, “I’m ill with you,” to express his uncontrollable desire.  Clare berates Ella for her foolishness and writes in the diary that she keeps that she doesn’t think she’ll ever forgive her.  But now that Ella is dead, Clare is feeling guilty.

Clare’s diary is very important to her.  Although she has fallen behind in her biography of Holland, she never misses a day writing in her diary.  So when she re-reads the entry she wrote when Ella told her she was planning on spending the night with Rick, she’s stunned to find a note written at the bottom of that page, in very small capital letters–HALLO, CLARE.  YOU DON’T KNOW ME.

Adding to her sadness about Ella’s death and her less-than-truthful interview with the police, Clare is he concern about her teenage daughter Georgie dating Ty, a young man several years older than she is.

The Stranger Diaries is a terrific book.  Clare, Georgie, Clare’s ex-husband Simon, Georgie’s boyfriend Ty, and even the deceased Ella who is killed before the novel opens, are totally realistic characters that Elly Griffiths skillfully brings to life.  This is a mystery that will keep you enthralled until the last pages.

You can read more about Elly Griffiths 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 Oldies, Past Masters and Mistresses, and an About Marilyn column that features her opinions about everything to do with mystery novels.