Sunday, 6 March 2016

The Crossing Places by Elly Griffiths

Elly Griffiths has created an appealing amateur detective in her character, Ruth Galloway. Not that Ruth necessarily thinks of herself as an amateur. As a forensic archaeologist, her specialist area is bones and every archaeological dig is an investigation into the past. But when she meets gruff Northerner, Detective Inspector Harry Nelson, suddenly modern day deaths become part of her job and with her fine mind for puzzle solving, Ruth and Nelson become a crime solving team.

The Crossing Places
starts off the series with the discovery of a child’s skeleton which Nelson feels could be the body of a young girl who went missing ten years before. Ruth reveals that the bones date from the Iron Age and suddenly a team of archaeologists move in.

This doesn’t stop the letters though. Nelson has been receiving mail from the assumed killer of the child for years which are full of religious and literary references and it has become the case that dogs his career. When another child goes missing, it seems as if the killer has returned and the letters are more important than ever.

There will be danger for Ruth as she solves more and more of the clues that lead to the murderer. Danger also lurks in the Norfolk setting where Ruth lives, the Saltmarsh, where the sea meets the sky and according to the ancient people who worshipped here, this is the path between life and death.

Griffiths builds the tension nicely towards a showdown on the marshes with a few surprises to keep the reader guessing. The characters are appealing: big, abrupt Nelson who has a grudging respect for Ruth’s professionalism; Ruth, overweight and happily living alone on the marshes with her cats, now suddenly thrown into modern world crime. There are some interesting minor characters too, such as the mysterious druid, Cathbad, and Ruth’s vivacious friend Shona.

The Crossing Places is a better-than-average mystery, the writing straightforward and with that immediate present tense that pulls you in. I particularly enjoyed the atmosphere of the ancient world conjured up by the archaeological finds and the wild and stormy Norfolk setting. While one or two scenes were perhaps a little clunky, the book kept me turning the pages, making it the perfect holiday read. I’ll be back for a few more Galloway and Nelson mysteries for sure.

Posted by JAM

Catalogue link: The Crossing Places

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