Friday, March 9, 2012

Review of The Janus Stone by Elly Griffiths (Quercus, 2010)

Ruth Galloway is a forensic archaeologist at the University of North Norfolk. She is occasionally used by the local police to help analyze any bones discovered. The last case she was involved in, she ended up sleeping with the lead investigating officer, Harry Nelson, and now she’s pregnant. When the remains of a child are found under the entranceway to a former children’s home that is being demolished to make way for an apartment block, she is asked to take a look. The bones appear to have been buried quite recently and the police start an investigation, once again with DCI Harry Nelson in charge. Ruth and Harry dance awkwardly around each other as the case makes slow progress. Then Ruth starts to be threatened and the case takes a more sinister turn.

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.

1 comment:

Sarah said...

This is on my list to read next as I want to catch up with the series. I enjoyed the first book very much. I'm usually happy to suspend my disbelief when it comes to crime fiction!