Review: The Crossing Places by Elly Griffiths (Ruth Galloway, #1)

To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven. A time to be born and a time to die; a time to plant and a time to pluck up what has been planted. A time to kill and a time to heal.
Rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ (4.5/5)

What’s This Book About?

Genre: Crime Fiction

Synopsis: North Norfolk coast, 2009. A child’s bones are found near a prehistoric henge, and police call local forensic archaeologist Dr Ruth Galloway to date them. Could they be the remains of Lucy Downey, a local girl who disappeared a decade ago?

Paperback copy of The Crossing Places by Elly Griffiths

DCI Harry Nelson continues to hunt for the missing Lucy, while someone sends him bizarre anonymous letters about ritual sacrifice, quoting Shakespeare, T.S. Eliot and the Bible. He hopes Ruth can help him finally lay this case to rest.

Then a second child goes missing, and Ruth finds herself in danger from a killer who may be closer than they seem…

What I Thought:

A Very Promising Start™ to the Dr Ruth Galloway crime series! It flowed well, being in turns chilling, informative, tense and funny, and I really enjoyed it.

The two main characters, Dr Ruth Galloway and DCI Harry Nelson were both complex and distinct personalities with fleshed out lives and relationships with other characters. I particularly liked that we had a leading lady who is single, overweight, and – gasp – not conventionally attractive – who is depicted as genuinely satisfied with her independent life and career, and is by and large completely self-sufficient. I found Ruth to be a refreshing and realistic character whose head I enjoyed inhabiting. The book is tinged with feminism and even the girl-hate developed into both women realising that each were amazing in their own right, once they bothered to get to know each other, that is.

I also loved the accurate depiction of forensic archaeology! I’m studying it right now as part of my Master’s degree, and there is a very particular delight that comes with your recent essay topic (bog bodies – look them up! They’re fascinating!) being a key part of the plot. Griffths’ husband is an archaeologist, so I’m sure that contributed to Ruth reading very convincingly as a professional academic and archaeologist. Thrills-wise, I was definitely rather jumpy while reading this. What seemed fascinating in an essay now took on a much more sinister tone, and several twists I didn’t see coming at all! I wasn’t entirely surprised by the identity of the culprit, but I certainly hadn’t settled on a prediction before it was revealed.

Although The Crossing Places was, overall, easy to read, I did find that its present-tense narrative was initially slightly confusing. I still think that past-tense narration better suit this book, but I do wonder if the preponderance of present-tense in YA books has swayed me slightly. Perhaps I’ve grown used to teens narrating in present-tense and now find it jarring in an adult-focused novel… though there are definitely other adult and present-tense narratives out there, of course, Wolf Hall being one.Overall, a clever, twisting book with strong character voices that I really enjoyed reading! I look forward to reading The Janus Stone soon.

(Coincidentally, this story takes place in Norfolk and I was staying there on holiday while reading it! The book referenced several places I’d visited, e.g. Blakeney, and that definitely helped me picture the scenes more clearly.)

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