Elly Griffiths The Night Hawks has her winning combination of crime and archaeology

  • The Night Hawks, by Elly Griffiths. Quercus, $32.99.

The Night Hawks is Elly Griffiths' gift from Covid lockdown to her multitude of fans, combining, as always, crime with archaeology and the myths and legends of her beloved Norfolk.

Griffiths has said that "the place is always the starting point for my books. I like locations with lots of atmosphere and history, the wilder the better". As The Night Hawks begins, conditions in Norfolk are indeed wild, as "on this very eastern edge of England, the tide is coming in. It rolls over dark sand at Holme, it crashes against the multicoloured cliffs at Hunstanton, it batters windows at Happisburgh, reminding home owners that this land is just on loan."

In the early hours of the morning, on Blakeney Point, a group of metal detectorists, the Night Hawks, are racing the dangerous tides. Iron age coins have been found nearby and they hope to make a significant discovery. As they find coins and a metal torgue, the tide brings in the dead body of a young man.

DCI Nelson is called to the scene and believes the body to be a drowned illegal migrant. There's nothing to identify him except an unusual tattoo on his neck to help identification.

Nelson also calls Dr Ruth Galloway, because of the discovery of "old metal" on the beach. Ruth is his sometime lover and mother of his child. The complication is that Nelson is still married with a family of his own.

Ruth is newly appointed head of Archeology at the University of North Norfolk and is already having difficulty with the opinionated new senior lecturer, David Brown. Uninvited, he accompanies Ruth to Blakeney Point.

Ruth is scornful of detectorists calling them "amateurs who charge around looking for treasure", but she quickly realises the Night Hawks have found a Bronze Age burial. David Brown believes it could be a Beaker burial and explains a controversial theory that when the Beaker people arrived in Britain 4000 years ago, they brought with them a virus which wiped out the native Neolithic Britons.

The next night, Nelson is called out again, when screams and gunshots are heard at Black Dog Farm, a bleak, isolated place near Sheringham. Inside the police discover the bodies of eminent research scientist Dr Doulas Noakes and his wife Linda, who have died in an apparent murder suicide. Noakes has named his farm after the Black Shuck, a local legend of "a gigantic black dog who appears to people just before they die". To Blackpool-born Nelson this confirms "What a lunatic bloody place this is".

The Night Hawks interweaves emotional conflict within a complex, intriguing story of obsession and family secrets.

This story Bleak, atmospheric thriller about family secrets first appeared on The Canberra Times.