I thoroughly enjoyed the first book in this classy series, The Crossing Places – see my review here. As you can see, this was far too long ago – and recently I recalled that this was a series I had intended to continue. I didn’t even have to track it down – we already have The Janus Stone… *blushes*.
It’s been only a few months since archaeologist Ruth Galloway found herself entangled in a missing persons case, barely escaping with her life. But when construction workers demolishing a large old house in Norwich uncover the bones of a child beneath a doorway—minus its skull—Ruth is once again called upon to investigate. Is it a Roman-era ritual sacrifice, or is the killer closer at hand?
I liked the fact that this book takes up the story only a few months after The Crossing Place and a particular plotline is a direct consequence of an encounter between Ruth and another of the main characters. And yes… for once, I’m going to produce a spoiler – during this book, Ruth discovers she is pregnant.
It wasn’t until Ruth is working through the decision whether to continue with her pregnancy and throughout this murder mystery, is coping with the various symptoms, both physical and emotional, that I realised we hardly ever read of pregnant women in crime novels – unless they are the victims. So I was on the edge of my seat throughout, hoping that the pregnancy wouldn’t be a device which would suddenly end midway through the book to provide more vulnerability for our feisty archaeologist.
A main strength of Griffiths’ writing is her characterisation. Ruth is a complex, three-dimensional protagonist, who feels vulnerable about her appearance – she struggles with her weight. And one of the joys of this novel was the collection of other characters, a number who first appeared in the previous book. While Ruth is the main character, there is another protagonist who also drives the action and that is Detective Harry Nelson, who is leading the investigation triggered by discovery of the disturbing skeleton. Though I think my favourite character is Cathbad, whose mysticism is regarded with scepticism by Ruth, although she is fond of him and his knack of turning up when she most needs him.
However, while I enjoyed the writing, the characterisation and the excellent scene setting, I was slightly underwhelmed by the melodramatic nature of the plot. I am definitely going to continue with this series, but while halfway through the book I was confidently expecting to give this book ten stars, I ended up giving it eight due to this aspect of the story.