Ruth Galloway - forensic archaeologist - is pregnant, but she is not sure how or when to tell the father - DCI Harry Nelson. In the meantime there are two fascinating archaeological digs taking place not far from where Ruth lives at Saltmarsh on the North Norfolk coast. One is a Roman site near Swaffham, where she knows the archaeologists working there and the other is the site of an old house in Norwich where the developer is intending to build luxury apartments. Ruth is called in because the headless skeleton of a small child is found under a doorway of the house in Norwich.
From this creepy beginning an atmospheric story unfolds with Ruth's own life becoming increasingly at risk as she and Nelson gradually uncover the secrets the skeleton hides. Ruth is far from being a typical heroine, overweight, unfashionable and ferociously clever with few social graces. But there is something endearing about her fierce independence and her determination to unravel the mysteries presented to her. I really enjoyed this story not least because I am familiar with the area in which it is set. I thought it was cleverly plotted and the final denouement was tense and exciting. There was a reappearance of some of the characters from the first book in this series - `The Crossing Places'. Cathbad, the Druid, Shona - Ruth's somewhat flaky friend, and of course Harry Nelson.
The background of Roman and Pagan mythology and modern day Catholicism is fascinating and well researched and I thought the character of Father Hennessey, the Catholic priest who ran the children's home which formerly occupied the Norwich site, was well drawn and convincing. The relationships between the police involved in the investigation were also interesting. This book is an excellent follow up to `The Crossing Places' and I look forward to reading the next in the series.
on 5 February 2010
Don't you just hate it when you find a fabulous now author and then find they have only written 2 books...? I am really looking forward to hearing more from Ruth and Harry Nelson in future books; I found both 'Crossing Places' and 'The Janus Stone' on the same day and read them both within a couple of days as they were 'unputdownable'! Write quickly please Elly!
The last time I found an author this appealing was a couple of years ago when I discovered Phil Rickman; but he kept me entertained for months with the number of books he had already written!
So what is the appeal? The story is well written and researched, and pacy...but this is not what keeps readers gripped. The characters leap out from the pages; Ruth, with her self contained existence, living in a remote cottage with her cat; her parents with their born again fervour, which is totally alien to Ruth. (I love their reaction to her pregnancy) Harry, who plainly loves his wife and family, but who seems to be headed towards a sort of menage a trois in future books...and my favourite character, who just has to be Cathbad! I can just see him now, purple cloak swirling, a sea breeze tugging at his hair, gazing mystically out to sea...lol...
Is he genuinely posessed of magical powers? I look forward to seeing how he develops. I am really looking forward to seeing how they all develop, so come on Elly, back to the computer...
I am so glad that I enjoyed this book. I found Elly Griffiths' first book disappointing and quite shallow in places but with her second book, she leaves us in no doubt that there is a definite future for Ruth Galloway, forensic archaeologist and DCI Nelson.
The two main protagonists have become more rounded and believable characters and the cast of recurring lesser inhabitants of Ruth's world are more delicately drawn and now provide a believable support network for her.
As in the first book, Ruth is brought in to investigate some recently unearthed bones, and we are drawn into a more recent crime event than it at first appears. The action takes us over much of Norfolk from Norwich via Swaffham to Ruth's bolt hole on the windswept North Norfolk marshes and involves Roman myths, Catholicism and missing children.
Her relationship, or lack of it, with Nelson is intriguing and made all the more interesting by her recent pregnancy, and I felt myself warming to Ruth far more than I had in the first book. I didn't second guess the ending this time and was more than surprised at times. I hope that we see more from Elly Griffiths as I for one am more than happy to follow her journey through life and love on the bleak marshes of East Anglia.
Keen to know what happened to forensic archaeologist Ruth Galloway after the end of Elly Griffiths' crime début The Crossing Places, I started reading the second instalment in her story, The Janus Stone, straight away. Much as I did with The Crossing Places I raced through The Janus Stone, in which Ruth is called into determine the age of a child's skeleton unearthed beneath a house with a chequered past. This time, however, things are further complicated by Ruth's unexpected pregnancy, the result of a one-night-stand with Harry Nelson, the gruff (and happily married) DCI in charge of the case.
Much as I enjoyed The Crossing Places, there were plot elements that I found faintly ludicrous, and I must say the same applies (perhaps to a slightly lesser extent) here. The story follows much the same formula as its predecessor - bones are discovered, Ruth helps Harry in his investigation along with a supporting cast of recurring characters, Ruth ends up in jeopardy as a result - but it's all good fun. There's dark creepiness aplenty and a few shocks, but don't come to these books looking for gritty realism. There's a touch of pantomime about the character eventually revealed as the villain, and it all gets a little bit Hammer Horror in places.
Ruth and Harry's relationship - now platonic - remains convincing, and Harry manages to remain largely likeable despite being a man who has cheated on his wife. His slim, attractive hairdresser, that Griffiths could lazily have depicted as a airheaded cow, is in fact intelligent, kind and interested in the arts, a wise choice on the author's part as it stirs up all sorts of conflicting emotions for not just Harry and Ruth (who, while fond of each other, are in many ways profoundly unsuited to one another) but also the reader. However fond you are of Ruth, it's hard to want Harry's apparently happy marriage to end.
Several more characters return to The Janus Stone from the previous book, most of whom are welcome. I could live without Ruth's flighty friend Shona, who strikes me as something of a stereotype and contributes little, but the rest of the cast - as I tend to think of them; these books do have the feel of a quality TV crime drama - are three-dimensional and engaging. The setting isn't as richly described as it was in The Crossing Places, but I should be fair and point out that in The Crossing Places the geography was integral to the plot, which isn't the case here, so that's probably to be expected.
Once again, then, a gripping if unlikely story, a bit of Roman mythology thrown in, some genuinely funny observations, and characters I wanted to greet like old friends. I'll be saving the next book in the series for a rainy afternoon or perhaps a long journey, rather than getting stuck in straightaway, as for me the recurring plot structures and characters won't benefit from being read in quick succession, but I'll certainly be continuing to follow Ruth's progress.
Griffiths has an engaging style of writing that draws the reader into Ruth and Harry's worlds of archaeology and policing, and their awkward relationship. The two lead characters, along with Cathbad, a local druid, are very appealing and the strengths of the book are the unfolding of their relationship and the sense of place of the Norfolk coast. However, whilst the style of the storytelling, the characters and setting are good, the book struggles more with respect to the plot and the mystery. The Janus Stone overly relies on coincidence (there are a fair few in terms of time, place, people, activity) in order to drive the investigation along, and contains a few elements that didn't stack up. Griffiths has a passage near the end in which a character reflects on the case, thinking that, in so many words, 'such and such was unbelievable, and so was, and also, and yet it was all true'. A direct appeal to readers to forget that they had to suspend their disbelief too many times is not a good sign. Griffiths has a genuinely engaging set of characters and I am hooked on finding out what happens to them when the baby is born, but I really hope that the plotting improves so that it isn't so dependent on coincidence and unlikely plot twists. Overall, a largely enjoyable read as long as one doesn't mind suspending their belief every now and then.
on 29 June 2013
The' Janus stone' is the first and definitely the last Ruth Galloway mystery I'll be reading. It is not by far such a dire book but it is so average in every way that it totally failed to interest me. The plot is far too simple; there's no great detective work there since with such a paucity of possible suspects the reader is not likely to be stunned when the name of the perpetrator is revealed. I found Ruth Galloway a totally uninteresting character and the subplot, her pregnancy with the detective as her baby's father, so conventionally dealt with as to be worthy of a soap opera script. There's no depth at all to any of the characters, I doubt I will even remember what they are called in a week's time. The ending is incredibly botched, the demented killer, the pregnant mother whose baby he intends to sacrifice to the gods, the abduction, the chase, the fog, the knife, the gun, the distraught detective/father to be plunging into the river in an attempt to save his child's mother... all very 'grand guignol' and to be forgotten as soon as possible. Well, there are books to be cherished, kept and reread and books to be disposed of. I will definitely part with this one and not waste any shelf space.
on 23 July 2013
Having read and enjoyed the first in this series, The Crossing Places: A case for Ruth Galloway, and being tempted by the taster for the next book which the publishers (they're a canny lot!) attached at the end, I clicked and bought this next one and started reading it straight away.
Which highlighted the fact that it's virtually the same book. That's not to say that was all bad: if you like a character-driven crime novel that's as much about the investigators as the crime, then you'll probably like this. It's impossible not to warm to forensic archaeologist Dr Ruth Galloway and her fellow investigator DCI Harry Nelson, and to enjoy their relationship - these are real people. It's very atmospheric, too, being firmly set in Norfolk again, and the everyday details and conversations are very well-observed: there's a down-to-earth wit and wisdom in this book that's very engaging.
But reading it gave me a very strong sense of deja vu, because it's the same basic plot structure as the previous one - bones are found, the past is investigated, a child murder is revealed, Dr Ruth's life is threatened, there's a frantic chase to save her. It's a well-worn sort of story, too, all the coincidences are very hard to swallow, and near the end DCI Nelson goes chasing after a shameless red herring which even a child could spot. All this, plus the fact that Dr Ruth is becoming a bit of a Mary Sue victim who protests too much about her unattractiveness (yet most of the men in the book seem to be pursuing her?) means that this series isn't shaping up as well as I'd hoped.
I'll try book 3, just in case it improves, but via the library rather than my credit card.
on 5 November 2010
The skeleton of a child is discovered in a trench by archeologists.
The case seems easy to solve as it seems that the bones are very old.
But that is a bit more complicated and the case become darker after every chapter.
I liked also the atmosphere of the book: a mix of old legends and an investigation in modern times.
Moreover I liked the main character - Ruth Galloway - who seems to be so "normal" with her weight problem and
her love affairs. Her reactions were even funny sometimes.
I found it easy to read in English: well written, no slang...
I will certainly read other books of this author.
In this second book of the Ruth Galloway series, Griffiths gives us more archaeology, more deadpan, quirky humour, and a deeper insight into the intriguing relationship between Ruth and Nelson.
I have to admit that the plot is completely ridiculous (think ritual sacrifice and a love of Roman culture gone mad), a point which Griffiths herself seems to confirm when Robert Graves' I, Claudius becomes a reference point. But the real strength of these books is the great character of Ruth: overweight, close to forty, rather eccentric and completely alive.
The plot is sadly similar to the first book (The Crossing Places) but to offset this Griffiths has a distinctive voice, something becoming quite rare in `popular' fiction, and a wonderful sense of idiosyncratic humour which gives these books true personality. I love Ruth Galloway and am looking forward to her next outing.
First Sentence: 1 June, Festival of Carna The house is waiting.
An old house is being demolished to make way for a new housing complex when work is halted when the headless skeleton of a child is found beneath a doorway. It is learned the house was once a Catholic children's home and two young children went missing. The situation of the skeleton, however, suggests a possible ritual burial.
DCI Harry Nelson is called in, as is forensic archaeologist, Ruth Galloway who is, unbeknownst to Nelson, pregnant with his child after a single night's intimacy. They must solve the mystery of the skeleton as well as protect Ruth from an escalating threat.
Although I enjoyed Griffith's first book, "The Crossing Places," this second entry to the series is so much better. I didn't care for a revelation and open thread at the end of the first book, but it carried over and became a very effective element to the plot of this story.
Ruth is still a wonderful character but, thankfully, less weight and age obsessed and Nelson is more human. Where the relationship between them could have been trite, it worked because of Griffith's voice and the structure of Ruth's character. We learn more about the two main characters, giving them greater dimensionality. I particularly enjoyed that Ruth is an academic who doesn't know Latin. Griffiths balances these characters with well-drawn supporting characters.
I always appreciate the inclusion of poetry and literary quotations within the story as well as the historic, mythological and religious information. It is a skillful author who can both teach and entertain, and Griffiths does it beautiful. I think part of the reason it works so well is, again, the author's voice.
Not only does she create excellent dialogue, but there is a delightful humor to her writing that particularly appeals to me. However, in addition, is a cracking good plot and a sense of menace that escalates in tension and suspense to a very satisfying conclusion.
I am so glad I was willing to try the first book, trusted enough to read this, the second book, and I am now very much looking forward to Griffith's next book.
THE JANUS STONE (Unl. Inves/For. Arch/Ruth Galloway-England-Cont) - VG+
Griffiths, Elly - 2nd in series
Quercus, ©2010, UK Hardcover - ISBN: 9781849161589