The Chalk Pit, by Elly Griffiths


Author: Elly Griffiths
Publisher: Mariner
ISBN: 9781328915351
Genre: Crime Fiction


Far below Norwich is a maze of old mining tunnels. When Ruth Galloway is called to examine a set of human remains in one of them, she notices the bones are almost translucent, a sign they were boiled soon after death. Once more, she’s at the helm of a murder investigation.

Meanwhile, DCI Nelson is looking for a homeless woman who he hears has gone “underground.” Could she have disappeared into the labyrinth? And if so, is she connected to the body Ruth found? As Ruth and Nelson investigate the tunnels, they hear rumours of secret societies, cannibalism, and ritual killings. And when a dead body is found with a map of what seems to be the full maze, they realize their hunt for the killer has only just begun-and that more bodies may be underfoot.


I made it to Chapter 8 and then, stopped. I just couldn’t be bothered to go on. The Chalk Pit, by Elly Griffiths is the ninth book in a long-running series, which made me think this was a popular series and might have some merit. The other thing that sold me on buying a copy was the pull quote on the front cover from none other than Louise Penny:

Ruth Galloway is a captivating amateur sleuth — an inspired creation.” She tells us.

Really? Inspired is not a term I would use to describe anything in this book. Dull, tedious, bland, blank, and utterly devoid of any emotional context, in any way, shape, or form, is more accurate. This book has all the excitement of reading an academic paper on the mating habits of nematode worms. Which, quite frankly, sounds more appealing than summoning up the enthusiasm to read one more page, let alone the rest of the book.

The author has chosen to write this novel in third person omni, so that we can follow an overly large cast of dull characters, none of which you can connect with on an emotional level. As each character, the lead protagonist included, has as about as much depth as the paper this murder mystery is written on. Though mystery is stretching it a bit thin too.

Everything is described as if the author is listing what she needs to buy from the supermarket. It’s talked about, it’s mentioned as a lifeless thing, and that’s it. We get no sense of place, no feel for the setting, as the author has no grasp of colour. Talking about a place as if they were, well, dead.

We are told about a place, we are told about a person, we are told about a great many things, but there is nothing in these descriptions to anchor us to the place, the character, or the action—such as it is—as everything is devoid of emotional context. We don’t really get a sense of what anyone feels above a surface description. No reactions, beyond someone mentioning a person is dead.

Even when the lead character, Ruth Galloway, is underground, we’re “told” she’s claustrophobic, but that’s it—there’s never an emotive element to the character or their dialogue. So we, as readers, don’t feel their fear or worries, or get any sense of peril looming. There isn’t any.

We’re continually “told” a thing rather than shown it from action, reaction, or emotion. This is simply bad writing. I have to ask myself if all the others in this lengthy series are written in the same bland manner, what was it that made the publisher like them? I’m obviously missing something … a plot maybe?

Paper characters, dull dialogue, plodding prose, and stilted action that seems like it was all lifted from a made for TV script circa the 50s.

Rating : 2 / 10

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  1. September 3, 2018

    A large cast of dull characters are not something i’d enjoy following around i think… 😀
    Great review tho! 🙂 I totally see why i wouldn’t like this.

    • September 3, 2018

      It was another frustrating buy, Norrie. I had read a few reviews of books from the series, and heard they were really interesting. And I’m always up for a cozy whodunit from the UK, and a UK author as well. But wasn’t expecting the blunt, and rather dull factual way the author writes. It really was, Bill went here and said this and saw so and so. And Jennifer was aghast at finding a dead body … wtf?

  2. Oh no I wasn’t expecting it to be boring and dull… I wanted to read one of her novels after reading a few fab reviews. I don’t know if it was for this novel or not though. Oh well, you can’t love them all, I hope your next read is better

    • August 29, 2018

      Oh, I’m sorry, Inge, maybe you should try get a secondhand, or library copy to read. I know she seems to have quite the following and, for me at least, this just wasn’t a very good read. The prose lacked any empathy, warmth and colour, and, after a while became very tedious to read.

      And no, we can’t all love them all. It’s just how it is. Especially after thoroughly enjoying The Locksmith’s Daughter, which was an excellent read.

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