The House at Sea’s End by Elly Griffiths

houseJudge a book by its cover

Apart from one of us who knew this writer and had read previous books, no-one would have picked this book by its cover. The cover emphasises the author and the title with a fairly insignificant picture so presumably aimed at people who know her work. Reading the word-bites on the back might have sparked interest but an uninspiring cover made that less likely.

Plot and setting

The description of the Norfolk coast, the coastal erosion and the lighthouse made us all think of Happisburgh which made the setting easy for us Norfolk folk to visualise. The anxiety about potential invasion in the Second World War was believable and therefore the plot understandable.

The first half of the book was slow and took a while to become interesting but the second half was more pacey.

The central theme of a film hidden years ago under some steps and the clues in the form of book titles was worrying since we thought that film with associated audio would probably have only been available to professionals as home “Super 8” movies were picture only into the seventies when video tape appeared. We might need other advice about this as the author must have thought of that.

Characters (Beware Spoilers!)

The characters we found tricky as they were not that well defined. This may be because there are two previous books in this series and that we had probably missed a lot of character establishment in those.

The main character, Ruth, was apparently torn between effective single motherhood and an interesting job. She was apparently over-weight and unattractive but nevertheless worthy of being made pregnant by another lead character, Nelson, and subsequently slept with again when the chance arose despite his happy marriage to an attractive wife. Maybe there was some build-up to this in the previous stories.

Cathbad was a rather stereotypical Druid with an associated Druid-type name. His involvement seemed rather peripheral to the actual story. His sleeping with Judy once didn’t seem necessary. Tatjana and the Bosnia connection didn’t seem to be needed either but maybe this was a throw-back to previous stories. Several other characters drifted in and out. The only one who seemed reasonably interesting was Judy.

The eventual murderer, Craig, had an odd background as archaeologist and gardener to various properties and a rather unlikely connection to his victims so we were a bit surprised by the ending.

The end of the book contains a fairly obvious hook to further developments for the existing characters so we presume that this author has had success with these characters and is planning for more.


Only one of us had heard of Elly Griffiths. The Norfolk connection is nice and the scenic description is recognisable. The archaeological detail is fairly slight but interesting. Whether an archaeologist is actually appropriate to an incident 70 years ago when police forensic people are available was debatable.

On the whole we thought the writing was fairly simple and easy to read rather than stylish. Most people would not pick this author again although we didn’t have the advantage of reading the previous books. A few were enthusiastic and would read other books.


A light easy read with nothing very complicated to it.

Hempnall Book Group

Reserve your copy here.


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