The Locked Room: Hard Times, Covid Times

Elly Griffiths sure writes fast. She has published a new Ruth Galloway mystery every year for the last 14 years. I love, though, that I can watch her characters grow. As of this installment, # 14, Ruth Galloway is almost 52, and the daughter she had after a one-night-stand with Nelson — a very fortuitous one-night-stand, because Nelson turned out to be the love of Ruth’s life (even the fact that the feelings are not reciprocated is okay, it is better to have loved and lost etc) — is eleven.

Both mother and daughter are managing quite nicely. And that’s when covid hits. Boris announces mandatory lockdown. After a few days of this:

Ruth is particularly grateful when the postman knocks at the door with a delivery. It’s an Amazon parcel from Simon (her brother). Ruth usually tries to avoid ordering from the online retailer, preferring to shop at local bookshops, but there is something very comforting about being sent a book. It shows that her brother is thinking about her. Maybe it’s a crime novel, something by Ian Rankin or Val McDermid? Fictional murder is oddly soothing in troubled times. Ruth tears open the cardboard. Government Conspiracies and How to Spot Them. Hmmm.

— the locked room, pp. 132 – 133

Ruth Galloway sounds like someone I would like to have for a friend, or a next-door neighbor. I am sure we would have lots and lots to chat about: mystery novels, for one. I could tell Ruth about a writer named Elly Griffiths and her MC, a dumpy, fifty-ish academic. I could tell her about Ann Cleeves, my other 2022 discovery. I could tell her about Richard Osman, whose Thursday Murder Club series makes me laugh harder than any mystery has ever done before. Or I could tell her about Chris Offutt’s The Killing Hills, whose mournful Appalachian mysteries have domestic angst to rival that of Elly Griffiths’.

Stay tuned.

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