Book Review: The Crossing Places by Elly Griffith

They wait for the tide and set out at first light.

She’s, of course, talking of the will-o-the-wisps. Or is she?


     When she’s not digging up bones or other ancient objects, quirky, tart-tongued archaeologist Ruth Galloway lives happily alone in a remote area called Saltmarsh near Norfolk, land that was sacred to its Iron Age inhabitants – not quite earth, not quite sea.
When a child’s bones are found on a desolate beach nearby, Detective Chief Inspector Harry Nelson calls Galloway for help. Nelson thinks he has found the remains of Lucy Downey, a little girl who went missing ten years ago. Since her disappearance he has been receiving bizarre letters about her, letters with references to ritual and sacrifice.
The bones actually turn out to be two thousand years old, but Ruth is soon drawn into the Lucy Downey case and into the mind of the letter writer, who seems to have both archaeological knowledge and eerie psychic powers. Then another child goes missing and the hunt is on to find her.
As the letter writer moves closer and the windswept Norfolk landscape exerts its power, Ruth finds herself in completely new territory – and in serious danger.

THE CROSSING PLACES marks the beginning of a captivating new crime series featuring an irresistible heroine.

I was craving some good ol’ fashioned British mystery novels. I think it’s because of my recent Agatha Christie kick that has left me yearning for more, so when I read the synopsis for this book (after seeing the blurb on the cover by Louise Penny) I decided to pick it up.

I will admit: I figured out who the killer was about a chapter or so after the killer was introduced. That being said – I definitely wavered through the rest of the narrative – Griffiths pulls a lot of punches, the effect of which makes you rattle along with her, trying to figure out what will stick and what won’t – and which clues are red herrings in disguise.

All in all, it was a good read – a fun read even, despite the fact that the victims are young girls.

We start off in the head of Ruth Galloway – fortyish, single, living alone with cats and an expert in her field of archaeology. I know, I know – you’re thinking “Ah, well that’s just typical, isn’t it?” and I was there with you for about five minutes. The thing is – Ruth is so much more than her age and marital status (cats included!). She’s quick to annoy and quick to judge, but slow to anger. She counts her friends as family and as such, her falling outs with them strike deep, and her cats are personable and friendly – not the meowing monsters of so many single older lady narratives. She’s also a no-nonsense type with an avid curiosity that gets her stuck in certain situations she can’t help but get herself into. She’s an altogether very real woman.

The mystery itself is pretty straight forward so far as murder mysteries go: a young girl disappeared ten years ago, thought dead, and now that Ruth has been broguht in to look at some bones in the salt flats, she’s involved herself in the whole of it.

It sounds simple, but the story is full of twists and turns and characters bopping in and out that you’re liable to get lost.

And again it’s a good mystery – a deep one, dark one and it turns out wholley unexpected – even for those of us who suspected.

But the real gem of the novel is the descriptions of the setting: the novel is set in Norfolk – have you seen The Woman in Black with Daniel Radcliffe? The movie is set somewhere on the east coast of England, but the sands depicted can be seen throughout the book – it’s the idea of “the sand keeps what it gets” that also permeates the book. It’s a spooky setting, a sort of desolation that is only emphasized by the relationships Ruth cultivates around her, because at the end of the day, she returns to her home, with its views of the expanse of horizon. There is also an agelessness to it – the reach of Iron and Bronze Age persons that grasps at the soil Ruth trudges over, directing her to find the things she needs to find, and more over, the idea that – we might have more technology, more culture, more civilization – but we’re still the scared superstitious folk of yore.

Like I said: it’s a good mystery novel. It’s also the beginning of a series I intend to read through, Ruth Galloway is definitely a person I intend to keep up with.

Happy reading!







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