Monday, September 12, 2011

Review of The Crossing Places by Elly Griffiths (Quercus, 2009)

Dr Ruth Galloway is a forensic archaeologist specialising in ancient bones, working at the University of North Norfolk. She’s single, independent and living in a small cottage at the edge of the salt marshes. Ten years previously a small child had disappeared in the area. Now the bones of a small body have been found, buried in a henge on the marsh, and Ruth has been asked to examine them by DCI Harry Nelson. Nelson is a man haunted by the missing girl, taunted by a steady stream of letters that claim to be directing him to her, full of references to the bible, Shakespeare and archaeological terms. The bones turn out to be two thousand years old, but hoping that Ruth can help him, he shares the letters. Soon afterwards a second child goes missing and Ruth starts to receive threats.

The real strengths of Griffiths writing is characterisation, inter-personal relationships and sense of place. Galloway and Nelson are both strong, well penned characters, with well fleshed out back stories. There’s clearly a sexual chemistry between them that Griffiths does a nice job of teasing along. And there is a colourful cast of supporting roles that are well observed. What really shines in the book though is the sense of place. Griffith places the reader very effectively in the lonely, rural landscape of the fens and the seascape of the marshes. Where the book is a little let down is with the plot. For the most part it’s fine, but personally I had a hard time believing the conclusion and it all seemed a little telegraphed. Overall, an enjoyable read and I’m looking forward to spending a bit of time with Galloway and Nelson.


pattinase (abbott) said...

Now my husband would never give four stars to a book without a credible ending. But I am quite happy to spend time with well-written characters. The ending only matters to me when they are not fully realized people.

Rob Kitchin said...

The strength of the book is the characters and sense of place and I'd be more than happy to spend more time with both. On that basis I'm prepared to forget about the resolution to the case, which was clearly done for dramatic effect but I just thought lacked realism.

kathy d. said...

Exactly what I liked about the first two books about Ruth Galloway.

I like the protagonist because she is a real person with a complicated life.

And the sense of place is quite good in these books, good enough to send me to google maps of the region and information about it.

All in all, I like the series and will keep on reading it.