Digging for truth

Elly Griffiths' novels combined archaelogy and forensics. She chats to WTLB ahead of appearing at Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival this weekend.

Q: Elly Griffiths is your writing name?
A: Well, I’m half Italian. My first books were mostly about Italy and were written under my real name, Domenica de Rosa. Elly Griffiths was my grandmother’s name and, when I chose to write crime novels under this name, I was aware of turning to the other side of my family – the less familiar Welsh side. Half Italian and half Welsh I should really be able to sing but I can’t, I’m afraid.

Q: Is your protagonist a forensics expert – or something else?
A: I didn’t really think of her as a forensics expert but as an archaeologist. For a long time it had struck me how similar archaeologists and detectives were – all that painstaking work sifting through the evidence – and I thought it would be great to have a novel that combined archaeology and crime. After all, even the Iron Age body that Ruth finds in The Crossing Places was the victim of a crime, albeit two thousand years ago.

Q: Is Ruth the character in your books you most relate to?
A: I do relate to Ruth but my favourite character is probably Cathbad, the part-time druid. He was really meant to be a minor character in The Crossing Places but he popped up again in The Janus Stone and The House At Sea’s End. Now he seems to be taking over the latest book. I’m still not entirely sure whether he’s a force for good for not.

Q: Have you met any forensic archaeologists?
A: My husband is an archaeologist and he introduced me to a wonderful female forensic archaeologist who provided a lot of the background for Ruth. Her work is fascinating. Forensic archaeologists really do assist the police, especially when there are buried bodies involved. They find clues in the soil, the vegetation, the objects found buried in the various layers.

Q: How much of Elly Griffiths may be found in Ruth Galloway?
A: Well, we both love cats and Bruce Springsteen but I’m much more sociable than Ruth. I’ve never lived on my own though the fact that I invented Ruth may suggest that, deep down, I would quite like to.

Q: How do you feel you differ from other writers in the field?
A: Maybe the archaeological element. Maybe the fact that my heroine is overweight and imperfect and not very sure of herself.

Elly Griffiths is the author of The House at Sea's End published by Quercus.

Photo credit: Jerry Bauer