Simon Beckett & Elly Griffiths
Fans of Kathy Reichs and Patricia Cornwell may like to look at a couple of very impressive authors with protagonists who specialise in forensic anthropology and archaeology respectively.
Simon Beckett is for some reason, better known on the continent than in the UK. His books, featuring Dr David Hunter, have been translated into 27 languages and are bestsellers in several countries, being particularly popular in Sweden (where they not only produce superb crime writers of their own, but greatly admire British crime fiction), the Netherlands and Germany. His third novel has just been issued in paperback and if it’s like the earlier books, it will be gruesome, menacing and tense but also extremely well-written.
In The Chemistry of Death (2006), David Hunter is living and working as a GP in Norfolk, having given up his distinguished London career in forensic anthropology after his wife and daughter were killed in by a drunken driver. When local women are abducted and murdered, inevitably he is drawn into the investigation. Written in Bone (2007) concerns grisly discoveries on the Hebridean island of Runa and Whispers of the Dead (2009) moves the action to the Body Farm in Tennessee. The Calling of the Grave appeared in February 2011.
Elly Griffiths has written three mysteries featuring Ruth Galloway, a lecturer in forensic archaeology. Norfolk is the setting again and Ruth is an appealing character; 40, overweight, living alone with her two cats and wryly self-aware. In The Crossing-Places (2009), a child’s bones are discovered in a patch of salt marshland. The book is atmospheric, intelligent and lively and the reader is engaged enough to want to hear more of the central characters. They reappear in The Janus Stone (2010) and The House at Seas End (2011) which live up to the standard set by their predecessor. The latest book concerns the discovery of bodies from World War 2.
Incidentally, East Anglia is clearly a dangerous area: before Beckett and Griffiths located their novels among the marshes, fens and Broads, Margery Allingham had visited Suffolk with Albert Campion, notably in The Crime at Black Dudley, Mystery Mile and Look to the Lady. PD James set some of her Inspector Dalgliesh mysteries in the detective’s home county of Norfolk, notably Devices and Desires and Death in Holy Orders. Jim Kelly’s investigating journalist Philip Dryden, whose first appearance was in The Water Clock, lives on a boat in the Cambridgeshire fens near Ely, while his policemen Shaw and Valentine work in Norfolk: Death Toll is their latest outing (and, according to the Guardian, ‘sees the author at the top of his game’), following their debut in Death Wore White, which had a pleasingly high body count and was considered by many to be Kelly’s best book to date, and its follow-up Death Watch. Corn Dolls, Steel Witches and Cut Out are novels by Patrick Lennon, featuring Tom Fletcher of the Cambridge police (of course, Cambridge University–based crime fiction is a completely separate genre).