The Crossing Places by Elly Griffiths
Ruth Galloway Series #1
2009 AudioGO Ltd.
Reader: Jane McDowell
Finished on March 5, 2015
Rating: 4/5 (Very Good)
When a child’s bones are found on a desolate Norfolk beach, Detective Chief Inspector Harry Nelson calls in forensic archaeologist Dr Ruth Galloway. 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 witchcraft, 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.
My friend Kay (of Kay’s Reading Life) is a voracious reader of mysteries. She has recommended many, many titles on her blog and I find that I am constantly jotting down authors and lists of series to explore, thanks to her. Susan Hill’s Simon Serrailler series is one of those recommendations which I have enjoyed immensely. I have also started the Deborah Crombie series (many of which Kay sent to me), but I need to get back to it, as it’s been a year or so since I last read one of the Gemma James books. The latest addition to my mystery reading is Elly Griffiths’ Ruth Galloway series, which I began listening to late last month. The Crossing Places introduces us to Ruth Galloway and Chief Inspector Harry Nelson, as well as several supporting characters, many of whom I’ve since seen in the second book, The Janus Stone. In addition to a wonderful cast of characters, Griffiths’ mysteries have a great sense of place. I could practically smell the Saltmarsh.
They get out of the car and walk across the rain-sodden grass towards the marsh. The wind is whispering through the reeds, and here and there they see glimpses of still, sullen water reflecting the grey sky. At the edge of the marshland Ruth stops, looking for the first sunken post, the twisting shingle path that leads through the treacherous water and out to the mudflats. When she finds it, half-submerged by brackish water, she sets out without looking back.
Silently, they cross the marshes. As they get nearer the sea, the mist disperses and the sun starts to filter through the clouds. At the henge circle, the tide is out and the sand glitters in the early morning light.
I can also picture the view of the marshland from Ruth’s kitchen:
The kitchen barely has room for a fridge and a cooker but Ruth, despite the books, rarely cooks. Now she switches on the kettle and puts bread into the toaster, clicking on Radio 4 with a practiced hand. Then she collects her lecture notes and sits at the table by the front window. Her favourite place. Beyond her front garden with its windblown grass and broken blue fence there is nothingness. Just miles and miles of marshland, spotted with stunted gorse bushes and criss-crossed with small, treacherous streams. Sometimes, at this time of year, you can see great flocks of wild geese wheeling across the sky, their feathers turning pink in the rays of the rising sun. But today, on this grey winter morning, there is not a living creature as far as the eye can see. Everything is pale and washed out, grey-green merging to grey-white as the marsh meets the sky. Far off is the sea, a line of darker grey, seagulls riding in on the waves. It is utterly desolate and Ruth has absolutely no idea why she loves it so much.
Care to learn more about Ruth Galloway? (From the author’s website):
Ruth is Head of Forensic Archaeology at the University of North Norfolk. How she came to be interested in archaeology, much less forensic archaeology is a bit of a mystery. She was born and brought up in Eltham, South London, and the nearest she ever came to pre-history was listening to her father’s endless stories of his childhood in Margate.
Then, when Ruth was ten, her parents found God. They became Born Again (their capitals) and embarked on an enthusiastic career of Going to Church and Praying for People (especially for Ruth for whom God remained resolutely hidden).
Ruth took refuge in her books and, after excellent A Levels, went to University College London to study archaeology. She graduated with a first and went on to do an MA at UCL and a PhD at Southampton University. It was at Southampton that she first met Erik Anderssen, the charismatic Norwegian academic who became a great influence in her life. On Erik’s recommendation, Ruth got a job teaching at the new University of North Norfolk and was present at the scene of Erik’s greatest triumph – the discovery of a Bronze Age wooden henge on a Norfolk beach.
The Henge Dig, as it became known, changed Ruth’s life forever. Not only did she meet Peter, the man who was to be her partner for ten years, but she uncovered secrets which were eventually to lead to murder.
Ruth lives alone on an isolated stretch of coastland called the Saltmarsh. She has two cats.
I was able to figure out who was responsible for the crimes fairly early, but that didn’t detract from my enjoyment of this audio production. I enjoyed getting to know Ruth and Nelson, both of whom are very likeable characters, as well as learning a little bit about archaeology and Norfolk, England. I’ve now read the second book in the series and am anxious to continue with The House at Sea’s End (#3).
If you opt for the audiobook, be sure to take a glance at a copy of the print edition. The author has included a drawing of a map of the Saltmarsh and the surrounding area. I wish I had found it prior to listening to the book.