‘The Locked Room’ is timely, atmospheric gem

5/5 Stars

I’m breaking my somewhat unwritten rule about not reviewing big name books. But I make exceptions occasionally, and the ending of the new Ruth Galloway installment left me wanting more, so much that it had to go on the list. We’ve had some doozies with the beloved British forensic anthropologist, but Elly Griffiths is torturing us in a new and special way with “The Locked Room.”

I will say, it was a little tough to read this one, being set in 2020, and in our real world. The opening pages start just before lockdown began, and the trickles of concern at the beginning cast a moody pall over the world for those of us sitting in the (not really) post-pandemic world. When I read the title – not even realizing it was in 2020, I assumed it would be about lockdown. This left me unsettled, assuming the experience would be triggering as heck, but I found it oddly comforting. Almost like reading the experience of others, even beloved fictional characters, during these strange times offered a sense of solace. We aren’t alone, no matter how much we might feel like we are. Have you found any books that have brought you similar comfort in these strange times?

I’ve recently learned – as a lover of cozy mysteries – that this series is considered one. This makes some sense. Our heroine is an archaeologist who technically is involved in cases, but she spends most of her life teaching and digging. She also she often finds herself mired in the gritty details of police cases almost by accident. I had simply assumed for the past thirteen books that it was a typical mystery series, because she had a more solid connection to cases than most cozy heroines. Though I suppose that could be said of journalist cozies as well. Perhaps you have thoughts on the subject readers?

The slightly changed, but still lovable, cast of supporting characters always provides a rich and intriguing set of subplots that keep the story moving along and strengthening our main characters. Many no longer feel like supporting characters, making the story feel more like an ensemble piece than purely focused on Ruth and her small family unit.

Griffiths has used this book to provide a subtle sociopolitical report and commentary, which seems to her MO. The way she weaves real-world events into her storyline is an artistry all in its own, almost bordering on modern-day historical fiction. If all history was this enjoyable, we’d all be more knowledgeable on the subject.

One of my favorite parts of these stories is the atmospheric descriptions of the beautiful Norfolk landscape Griffiths has built. She paints such gorgeous scenes that I love the place almost as much as Ruth. Each time the author invites us back to Norfolk, it feels like a warm, familiar blanket wrapped around my shoulders as I sit by the fire and enjoy a haunting tale of mayhem and murder. And with the ending, I know I’m not alone in saying I can’t wait until book fifteen.

Content warning: Lockdown, suicide, domestic abuse, parental death, severe Covid scenes, weight loss topics, diet culture

Your Thoughts

Let me know readers what you think about Ruth Galloway and her various friends and family. And if you’ve found any books or stories during this time that you thought wouldn’t be comforting, but were. Or if you have any thoughts about whether we should consider the Galloway series a cozy or not? I can’t wait to hear your thoughts.