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Norfolk coastline inspires crime novelist

PUBLISHED: 15:13 12 March 2011

Elly Griffiths

Elly Griffiths

Archant

The dramatic coastline of Norfolk provides inspiration for a new crime novel which would make a great TV series, reckons SARAH HARDY as she talks to author Elly Griffiths.

Are you one of the army of people who love a good crime novel? There’s something about them, isn’t there? And when they make it onto the telly, it’s even better!

Nobody can really explain why so many of us have, since novels were first published, wallowed in blood, guts and gore. Strange, if you think about it — and I would run a mile if I ever came anywhere near a murder scene) but detective fiction really is big business.

A newcomer to the scene is Elly Griffiths, who may well live in Brighton, but is very much obssesed with our spooky coastline around north Norfolk and east Norfolk.

The mum of two uses it to great effect in her third Ruth Galloway book, The House at Sea’s End, which has clearly taken inspiration from places such as Happisburgh, the Burnhams and King’s Lynn.

It’s a great read with several strong characters and a juicy plot with all the necessary twists and turns. And, as it’s based in our home area, has a little added oomph.

As Elly explains: “My aunt lived in Norwich and we used to spend a good part of our holidays with her when we were children. She was quite a character – she had a boat and we’d just set off on the Broads, and have all sorts of adventures. And she used to tell us lots of stories about the area – the myths and legends – so I was indoctrinated from a very early age!”

The novel centres on Ruth Galloway, a foresenics expert, who has just returned to work at the University of North Norfolk after giving birth to a daughter, Kate. The father is a colleague, DCI Harry Nelson, who just happens to be happily married. Nobody as yet knows that he’s the dad.

They have to work on another case together involving the discovery of six bodies buried at the foot of a cliff by the sea in east Norfolk. They turn out to be Germans shot during the second world war by members of the Home Guard.

The storyline then really starts to hot up as Galloway and Nelson work out how they were killed and why it was kept quiet – just as the contemporary body count starts to climb considerably.

Who is covering what up? And why? You’ll have to read the book to find out!

Elly is delighted with her latest creation and thinks it has the right balance, with plenty of action and a cooler look at what makes people attracted to each other. “People wonder what Nelson sees in Ruth – he has a gorgeous wife – but he’s attracted to her intelligence and the fact that she isn’t in awe of him. You’ll have to wait to see what happens.”

She is quite disciplined when it comes to writing. “I see my twins, Alex and Juliet, off to school. They are now 12 and go quite early, so I try to write from 8am to about 11am. I have to check on my mother who is house-bound a couple of times a day and do my chores, but I try to write a little more in the afternoon, too. I am still very much at the stage of finding it all a pleasure, it’s a treat for me,” she says.

“I worked in publishing after going to university to study English, but it really put me off writing for a long time. Then when I was pregnant and on maternity leave, I started and haven’t really stopped.”

She receives a fair amount of help from her husband, Andrew, who is an archaelogist with a particular interest in pre-Roman times. “He explains all about sacred salt marshes, what you can find where and why, but I do use plenty of artistic licence I have to admit,” she laughs. Elly has already finished her fourth Ruth Galloway book, but won’t be drawn on how the Ruth/Nelson relationship might have progressed and she has also mapped out a further two novels. And she agrees that it would make a great television series. “Yes, wouldn’t it? I think Norfolk would look great in it! And I could really see Ruth Jones (Ness in Gavin and Stacey) as my Ruth.”

She still returns to Norfolk on a regular basis, enjoying the richness and variety of landscapes. “There are just layers and layers of history on offer,” she says.

l The House At The Sea’s End is published by Quercus, priced £14.99.

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