I have been waiting with bated breath for the latest gripping instalment in one of my favourite crime series – the Ruth Galloway books by the fabulous Elly Griffiths (see my blogs on the Ruth Galloway series, The Lantern Men, The Stranger Diaries, and The Postscript Murders and The Night Hawks). When The Locked Room came through my letterbox on the day of publication, I knew I was going to have to exercise extreme self-restraint in finishing the book I was part-way through before starting it. Once I did start I tore through it in a couple of days, as usual completely immersed in the Norfolk coastal scenery, and in the lives of Ruth, Nelson and their friends.
This book is set in lockdown and is one of the first novels I’ve read that tackles Covid head-on. It takes you right back to exactly what you were doing when Ruth sits down to watch the nightly press conferences and when the Prime Minister goes into hospital. The weather and strange sense of time is brought vividly back and we see Ruth trying to entertain her daughter in the garden and on the once-a-day allowable walk. All the pre-vaccine uncertainty about going out and seeing anyone comes flooding back, as do the teary moments of gratitude in the supermarket that I certainly shared with Ruth.
We follow Nelson, Judy and Tanya, who are trying to solve what might be a murder and to track-down what might be a serial killer, despite the constraints of lockdown. There are some upsides to the virus too though. One of these is that rule-breaking Nelson suddenly becomes a lot more available to Ruth. But this is offset by one of the key members of the group coming down with Covid themselves, causing extreme stress for the characters and readers alike. As usual, Ruth manages to get herself into a sticky situation, and something funny is also going on with her new next-door neighbour.
This was a pure joy to read and is Griffiths at her best. I never thought I’d want to escape back into lockdown, but if it means hanging out in this world, then I do. Bring on the next one please!