Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Book Review: The Crossing Places

In a comment to my Booking Through Thursday post last week (March 19), Janet mentioned Elly Griffiths as one author whose books might send her running to the bookstore.

I could not recall reading anything by this author, but when I looked her up, I seemed to vaguely recognise one of the titles – The Crossing Places. When I checked my Kindle collection, it turned out I already had it there; among the many that I have downloaded for free (or very cheap), and then after a while forgot why…

As the weather turned back to cloudy with icy winds this weekend, it seemed a good time to just stay in and curl up with a good mystery book. So I did!

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The Crossing Places (Ruth Galloway #1)

The background setting is Norfolk on the east coast of England and the main character is Ruth Galloway, forensic archaeologist at a local university. She is often called in to help the police when old bones are found – and sometimes the other way round, i.e. archaeologists having to call in the police. There is a lot of archaeological digging going on in the area, and it is often hard to determine at first glance exactly how old finds of human remains may be.

So among the background characters we also get to know some of the local police (especially Detective Chief Inspector Harry Nelson), and other archeologists and university staff, for example.

Many of the crime scenes and finds of archaeological interest named in the books are fictional, but as they are more or less based on similar places and things, the overall impression is realistic, and there is a lot of general information about history, traditions and folklore etc included as well.

In The Crossing Places, an archaelogical find in a saltmarsh becomes intriguingly linked to a modern time missing person case.

Quote from the author’s website:

The Crossing Places is about layers. Layers of time, history and memory. It is set in Norfolk, an area of Eastern England that has been inhabited for over 6000 years by, variously, Stone Age, Bronze Age, Iron Age and Roman settlers. It was also, until 10,000 years ago, physically linked to Scandinavia. Thus, the Norse or Viking influence is strong is Norfolk. Perhaps because of its history, it is also a place steeped in superstition and folklore. Norfolk is famous for its ghosts.

Ruth Galloway, the heroine of The Crossing Places, lives on the edge of desolate marsh land known as the Saltmarsh. The name is fictional but the area is very closely modelled on the North Norfolk coast, places like Holme-next-the Sea where the real Seahenge was discovered.

Iron Age man considered marshland sacred. They saw it as a bridge to the afterlife – neither land nor sea, life nor death. It is thought that this is why they often buried bodies (who may or may not have been murdered) on the edge of marshland.  ---

In general I’m no big fan on police novels with a lot of forensic detail; but in these books it is a bit different, as the focus is on archaeology. I also think that the author has managed to put together quite an interesting mix of characters – some of them almost bordering on caricature, but in a kind of good-humoured way.

I read this book pretty much in one swoop… And then of course when I found the second one in the series also available cheap, I could not resist the temptation to straight on to

The Janus Stone (Ruth Galloway #2)

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In The Janus Stone, some of the background relationships from the first novel continue to develop; but the crime/mystery focus this time arises from two different excavations: One made in connection with an old Victorian mansion (for a period of time in the past also used as a children’s home) being torn down to make room for a new block of flats. The other of a Roman villa in the countryside. In both cases, the skeletons of children are found buried underneath.

Janus, referred to in the title of the novel, was the two-faced Roman God of doorways – the God of endings and beginnings.

It’s no doubt good business strategy of Amazon to lower the price of one or two books at the beginning of an interesting series… The third one not free or extremely cheap, but still only a “click” away… Who can resist??

Quote for Teaser Tuesday

“Detective Chief Inspector Harry Nelson is sitting by a pool with a glass of beer in his hand, thinking dark thoughts. It is evening and fairy lights, strung in the trees, are twinkling manically in the still water.”

The House at Sea’s End (Ruth Galloway #3),
chapter 2 (= where I am right now…)

13 comments:

  1. What a pretty teaser! I like stories set in archaeological digs, as I watch documentaries on them.

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    1. I like to do that too, Ginny (watch documentaries on archaeological digs). This series includes several "winks" at the British show Time Team by the way, if you've ever seen that!

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  2. I think I might like this series. I read them in order and like to get the next one to have it handy.

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    1. I would recommend reading this series in order, yes, as it is one of those with background relationsships developments as well.

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  3. This sounds great, Monica! I am quite sure that, years ago (before I started blogging and had my kindle), I have read one of Griffith's Ruth Galloway mysteries. I think I'll have a look at the kindle shop for the series right now.

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    1. I can imagine that you would enjoy this series, Meike - knowing you like England :)

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  4. amazon has sold me several books that way.. i get the first one free and three times now, i have purchased the next in the series and on two of those i bought 4 of the series. of course they were only 3 to 5 each.. I love Amazon

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    1. There are seven so far in this series and the later ones (including the third one that I just bought) are not so cheap. But if I don't grow tired of them I'll probably want to read the rest as well... I'll make the decision one book at a time for now.

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  5. I do love this series, Ruth is such a mess, I can so identify with her. Her next book comes out this month in the UK and in May here in the States. I don't know if I can wait till May.

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    1. I'm glad you drew my attention to the series, Janet! :)

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  6. Decided I couldn't wait till May and ordered it from the UK.

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  7. I think I would like this series, I do enjoy mysteries in series.

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