The Crossing Places – Elly Griffiths


Yesterday morning I started reading a first novel, The Crossing Places, by Elly Griffiths. Late afternoon, I finished it. It combines mystery & archaeology, both of which I really enjoy reading about. Ruth Galloway is a lecturer in forensic archaeology living in an isolated cottage on Saltmarsh on the Norfolk coast. She’s a loner, nearly 40, overweight, estranged from her born-again Christian parents. She’s called in by DCI Harry Nelson to look at some bones discovered in the marsh. Nelson hopes they may be the remains of Lucy Downey who went missing 10 years ago but they’re Iron Age. Ruth was involved in a dig near the site 10 years before when a henge was discovered. Now, she’s excited by the discovery of the remains & also hopes to discover the causeway that may link the two features. Nelson has been receiving strange letters since Lucy Downey disappeared & when another girl is abducted & he receives another letter full of mythological references, he asks Ruth for help. Ruth and Nelson are interesting characters, both essentially obsessed loners – although Nelson is married, he’s not really at home in Norfolk, he only moved there from Blackpool because his wife thought he should go for promotion. Nelson admires Ruth’s professional detachment & there’s definitely a spark of attraction between them. At the end of the novel there’s an intriguing twist that will have an impact on their relationship in future novels in the series. I’d hoped for a bit more about the Iron Age body & the gold torques that were found with it but I suppose only so much can be crammed into a novel, especially a first novel where characters have to be introduced & the mystery plot has to keep ticking along. There were several subplots, all handled very well. I read the book very quickly & I had no trouble keeping track of who was who. The lonely atmosphere of the Saltmarsh was beautifully evoked especially when Ruth strays off the path & becomes lost on the marsh. Griffiths fills in Ruth’s past, the summer of the dig when she fell in love, her relationships with her mentor, the enigmatic Erik Anderssen, her work colleagues & few neighbours. The second book, The Janus Stone, will be published next month in the UK.

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