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The Lantern Men, Elly Griffiths

March 23, 2021

Through another intense period at work I was continuing to read the Elly Griffiths Ruth Galloway mysteries. I’ve read all of them and now have to wait, with the rest of the world, for The Night Hawks to come out on June 29.

I started reading the first book of another Griffiths series, The Zig Zag girl, but quit on p. 88. It wasn’t as much fun as the Ruth Galloways. And I actually did a few things that weren’t reading; I took a couple of very short walks, admired the first jonquils, and made a new recipe. Some of my friends had been talking about how much they liked chicken with 40 cloves of garlic, so I decided to try it. When I put in my grocery order for the week I thought I’d buy the garlic and figured that there must be at least two cloves in each garlic head so probably 12-15 would be enough. When I started pulling the heads apart and finding the cloves it was clear that I’d ordered at least twice as much as I needed. I got them down to segments and then cut the ends with a serrated knife so I could pull the rest of the papery stuff off. It took a lot longer than I expected! Now I guess I need to find some more recipes that call for garlic, as I have quite a bit left over.

Reading the Ruth Galloway mysteries taught me a few odd facts, like that the name Belfast comes from “Beal Feirste,” meaning “river mouth.”

Occasional bits of dialogue loosely related to the mysteries led me to think about things that don’t usually come into my mind, like underground bunkers built in the eighties in case of nuclear war; one character says that there’s an underground city in Beijing and another in Wiltshire with a BBC studio, to which Ruth responds “Someone was telling me about billionaire bunkers the other day. Where the super-rich burrow down to escape nuclear war. Imagine crawling to the surface to find that the only other people to have survived are millionaire arms dealers.”

And there are Ruth’s perspectives on food and eating, which I always enjoy. A male character “dives into his pie with the enthusiasm that only very thin people are allowed to show.” Ruth’s friend Shona says she doesn’t want any supper because “I ate so much at lunchtime” while “so did Ruth, but that was six hours ago.”

To keep going with a series like this you must be at least tangentially fond of the characters, and I found myself warming to one called Cathbad, who “trained as an archaeologist before becoming a druid, shaman, house husband and all-around superhero.” He is especially appealing when we learn things about him like his reaction to a young, good-looking man who skips a stone well: “Leif turns to grin at Cathbad who has a sudden desire to pick up his own stone and send it spinning into the air, describing a perfect parabola as it flies. Stone skimming is a speciality of his, much admired by his children. He’s surprised at the pettiness of his thoughts. He supposes that Leif, with his height and golden looks, arouses feelings of inferiority and competitiveness in other men. It’s just a disappointment that he’s not immune to such things.”

The very British attitudes are interesting for an American reader, too. At one point Ruth thinks about her daughter:
“She used to be able to work when Kate was in bed but these days, and especially at weekends, Kate seems to stay up as late as they do. Ruth has a sneaking suspicion that she would be stricter about bedtimes, and about everything really, if it was still just her and Kate. It’s almost as if she has to put on a good show in front of Frank: look how well Kate and I get on, no need for pesky rules, we’re as carefree as characters in an American sitcom.”

I wish Griffiths would let Ruth and Nelson (Kate’s father) finally get together, but she keeps drawing it out, which reminds me of watching the tv show Moonlighting when it was first on; that show stretched its last season entirely beyond belief for viewers waiting for the the two main characters to achieve their happily ever after.

Perhaps it’s just the last waiting year. We’re all tired of waiting. I was lucky enough to already get a Covid vaccine, the Johnson and Johnson, and by Easter it should be fully effective. We have no Easter plans but we’re starting to think about making a few after that. How about you? Have you gotten a vaccine yet? Are you making plans?

13 Comments leave one →
  1. magpiemusing permalink
    March 23, 2021 3:09 pm

    Huh. I just the other day finished the first of these books – they’d been recommended by my sister-in-law. I did like that there was a teaser for the next one … like two chapters! … but I haven’t yet gotten it out of the library.

    On the one hand, I quite liked the book – nice premise, interesting characters & scenery. On the other hand, it annoyed me no end that she (the protagonist) was repeatedly described as fat, in a very unnecessary way. Not to mention the fact that her height was never revealed, so who’s to say she’s fat? It added nothing and pissed me off.

    • March 23, 2021 5:57 pm

      Since it’s Ruth herself who describes herself as fat and other characters don’t relate to her that way, I think it’s clear that some of the “fatness” is in her mind. It’s a positive thing for me in the whole series, as I mentioned here, that she has a bigger woman’s perspective on the world.
      We can quibble about what makes a person “fat,” and lots of authors do (the most recent one I read defined someone fat as someone who can’t wear “straight sizes” e.g. 12-16), but to someone who has internalized that label as part of her identity, it’s not a matter of a number or of whatever someone else thinks is “necessary.”

  2. March 23, 2021 4:03 pm

    Yay for enjoying all those books! I love garlic, we put it in everything, well not everything but a lot of things. I especially like garlicky hummus and James tells me he can smell when I’ve had it as soon as he walks in the door of the house. We joke about it keeping vampires away. Glad you got vaccinated. James got the Moderna and as of today has reached the fully effective mark. I have not been vaccinated yet and with no risk factors will likely not be able to get mine until the end of April at the soonest. Trying really hard to be patient!

    • March 25, 2021 11:33 am

      I also like garlicky hummus; it’s the best and yes, the smell is very pungent.
      Ron and I and our two friends (the ones we moved to Ohio to be near) all got a vaccine on the same day, so we feel very lucky. But we are of course still anxious about our kids, who, like you, have no risk factors.

  3. March 23, 2021 7:15 pm

    Cathbad is my favorite character in the series. The way Ruth talks about herself sometimes irritates me but probably because it’s all to familiar to the way I’ve talked to myself over the years. I do like how no one else in Ruth’s life seems to be bothered by her body. Yo’uve now gone past me in the series – as I drag out mystery series forever. I’m up to #11 next, The Stone Circle.

    Have you read The Stranger Diaries by Griffiths? It’s SO GOOD – very Gothic, which I love.

    • March 25, 2021 11:35 am

      I was very suspicious of Cathbad at first (a cape, really?) but he’s grown on me. There’s a point at which the reader thinks he has died in a fall and I was surprised at how upset I was, and how relieved when it turns out he isn’t dead after all.
      I have not read The Stranger Diaries! I’ll look for that next. Thanks!

  4. March 24, 2021 7:43 am

    Forty cloves of garlic, good heavens!! I have to admit that I have almost completely ceased to buy fresh garlic because I hate cutting it so much, and I have transitioned to buying it pre-minced in a jar. I AM VERY LAZY, this story at ten. 😛

    • March 25, 2021 11:39 am

      Oh see, this is my story too. I’ve always bought garlic minced in a jar. That’s why I’d never tried buying a head of it and getting out the cloves before!

  5. March 24, 2021 10:13 am

    I sometimes put roasted minced garlic on pizza, but my favorite garlic-related recipe is Geoffrey Zakarian’s sweet potato corn chowder on the Food Network app.

    As for plans, I’m looking forward to scheduling a good massage and visiting my grandma as soon as I’m vaccinated.

    • March 25, 2021 11:42 am

      Lately I’ve discovered that many more of my friends get massages than I would ever have imagined…it seems to be a thing that they didn’t talk about much before, when it was a part of everyday life.
      I’m glad you’ll get to visit your grandma.

      • March 25, 2021 9:16 pm

        Thank you! For me, massages are an occasional extra form of therapy. My favorite places so far have all been Avedas, not least because they’re more affordable.

  6. March 25, 2021 9:29 am

    There’s an old saying (probably attributed to Churchill, it’s always safe to do so anyway!) that the Americans and the Brits are divided by a common language — certainly sharing a similar language doesn’t mean the cultural values and approaches are similar, whether in bringing up kids or making assumptions about the other. But maybe that may apply more to an older generation as youth culture seems to become more homogeneous to ancients like me…

    Garlic? We used to have a clove or three with most roast food — meat or vegetables — but since the other half had long Covid she’s gone off the taste and our meals are a bit blander. Injections? Here in Wales us two oldies have now just had our second Pfizer jab six weeks after the first and count ourselves lucky; because of political issues around the supply of AstraZenica those who had that vaccine first have to wait eleven weeks for their second dose.

    • March 25, 2021 11:46 am

      I think you’re right about the younger generations seeming more homogeneous. Certainly the world feels smaller now, when I can talk to people like you who I probably wouldn’t have met in the normal course of events, than it did when I was in my twenties, before the internet.
      Waiting eleven weeks for a second dose? Wow. It’s like we’ve woken from lethargy and despair and in some cases like that it’s to find our new-found patience sorely taxed.

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