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Ruth Galloway #1

The Crossing Places

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Forensic archaeologist Dr. Ruth Galloway is in her late thirties and lives happily alone with her two cats in a bleak, remote area near Norfolk, land that was sacred to its Iron Age inhabitants—not quite earth, not quite sea. But her routine days of digging up bones and other ancient objects are harshly upended when a child’s bones are found on a desolate beach. Detective Chief Inspector Nelson calls Galloway for help, believing they are the remains of Lucy Downey, a little girl who went missing a decade ago and whose abductor continues to taunt him with bizarre letters containing references to ritual sacrifice, Shakespeare, and the Bible. Then a second girl goes missing and Nelson receives a new letter—exactly like the ones about Lucy. Is it the same killer or a copycat murderer, linked in some way to the site near Ruth’s remote home?

304 pages, Hardcover

First published February 5, 2009

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About the author

Elly Griffiths

71 books7,504 followers
Elly Griffiths' Ruth Galloway novels take for their inspiration Elly's husband, who gave up a city job to train as an archaeologist, and her aunt who lives on the Norfolk coast and who filled her niece's head with the myths and legends of that area. Elly has two children and lives near Brighton. Though not her first novel, The Crossing Places is her first crime novel.

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5 stars
13,336 (26%)
4 stars
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3 stars
11,767 (23%)
2 stars
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568 (1%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 5,337 reviews
Profile Image for Julie .
4,078 reviews59k followers
September 16, 2019
The Crossing Places by Elly Griffiths is a 2010 publication.

So many of my GR friends read the Ruth Galloway series, making me wildly curious about it for a long time. I went in blind, however, not really knowing what the premise was, and I'm glad I did. While this first book has some issues, I understand now why the series is so popular.

Ruth is a forensic archaeologist in her late thirties. She is unmarried and lives with her two cats. However, her quiet, orderly, slightly dull life is rudely upended when she is approached by Detective Chief Inspector Nelson to examine a child’s bones found on a beach.

Hoping the bones belonged to the missing child in case he was never able to solve, Nelson is disappointed to learn the bones are from the iron age. But, then a second child disappears, and Ruth finds herself, not only embroiled in a murder case, but a potential victim as well.

The pacing is a bit slow and understated as the reader is slowly given glimpses into the character’s personas while the case marches on in a methodical manner. I loved the atmosphere of the book, which is creepy, a bit gray, but not too heavy. While one would think I’d instantly take to Ruth, I had a very hard time warming up to her at first.

Ruth’s family sounds exhausting, and I can understand her negative attitude, but the repeated harping on religion grew old, and even offensive on one occasion. That, coupled with animal violence, made me consider quitting the book at one point, but I was invested in the mystery enough to want to see it through.

As it turns out, I was glad I stuck with it. This serves as a reminder to me to exercise patience, because good things come to those who wait. Ruth’s love of animals, her body image problems, and her very human responses to danger, which wasn’t a common occurrence in her life, felt very realistic and understandable.

I loved the way the book concluded and feel like maybe Ruth and I might be able to forge a tenuous friendship after all.

Overall, this was a little bit of a rocky start to the series for me, but I really liked the way everything developed and am curious to see how the series progresses from here.

3.5 stars
Profile Image for Brenda.
725 reviews146 followers
May 17, 2016
I was pleasantly surprised by this book! I really enjoyed getting to know Ruth and Nelson. I think I needed something without gore, cussing, psychological darkness. Not that this was light reading by any means. The salt water marsh setting was a major character, and the archeological artifacts and mythic stories added a sense of doom. I've already ordered the next two books in the series!
Profile Image for Richard Derus.
2,977 reviews1,989 followers
March 1, 2015

Rating: 1.875* of five (p126)

The Book Description: 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.

My Review: Hell, damn and BLAST!! I love the idea for this series. I am a fiend for archaeological settings in novels. I am a fan of tart-tongued women. (Look at my friends list and tell me that's exaggerated.) And I am always down for another series, since that makes the spaces between discoveries of books fuller and more bearable.

But it's just not good.

When he has gone, Ruth sits on the sofa, at the opposite end to the place where there is a faint bloodstain on the faded chintz. She looks at the remains of her meal with Shona and wonders, dully, how long ago it was that they sat at this table talking about men.
(p126, US hardcover edition)

And that is where my patience snapped. The rest of that paragraph floated past me like poop down the john. A huge sucking sound was heard, the bowl of my mind filled up with clear water, and there was no more interest to be found by me in this book. This writing is what, politely (yes, I do know what the word means), I would characterize as “serviceable.” But laddies and gentlewomen, I am over 50 and the days ahead number fewer than the days behind. What am I doing mucking about with “serviceable” when so much that's GOOD awaits discovery?

So no more Mr. Nice Guy. You don't cut the mustard, writer dear, you're on the scrapheap of history.
Profile Image for Adina .
891 reviews3,542 followers
February 11, 2020
‘The human desire is to live, to cheat death, to live forever. It is the same over all the ages. It is why we build monuments to death so that they live on after we die.’

I've recently tried a few other mystery series but I either abandoned them after the 1 st volume or did not even finish it. I read quite a few positive reviews about Ruth Galloway series and after another one of those I decided to finally give this one a go. So glad I did.

Ruth Galloway is an almost 40 years old, plump archaeologist and bone expert. She is independent, living with two lovely cats living at the boundary of a salt marsh in Norfolk. One day, she is asked by Detective Chief Inspector Nelson to identify some bones found in the above mentioned marsh. The detective hopes they are the remains of a little girl who disappeared 10 years ago, a case that obsessed him for too long. The bones prove to be from the Iron Age but once Ruth becomes involved in the investigation she gets in deeper and deeper. She is showed some disturbing letters received by the inspector, full of literary, biblical and archaeology references and which might include clues on the body's location. As she gets more insight in the mystery and another girl disappears her life also become in danger.

I enjoyed the writing, the atmosphere and the main characters (Ruth and Nelson). We are revealed Ruth's personality from the first book, maybe too much so. I might have enjoyed a bit more haze but having a fully formed person in my mind has its advantages.

Unfortunately, I guessed the culprit from the beginning but there were enough twists and turns to keep me interested. All in all, it was a satisfying debut of a series that seems to keep a good quality.
September 30, 2019
I know that this book had mixed reviews when it was published but the audiobook was wonderful! The narrator got all of the accents right on and by her rendering of the novel I could absolutely picture the salt marshes, the wind, the mud and smell the salt in the air. What an incredible place these marshes are and I didn't know anything about them.

The characters I found to be interesting. Ruth Galloway is a forensic archeologist who lives at the edge of the marshes because she loves the solitude. Unexpectedly she gets a call from the local police, Detective Inspector Harry Nelson would like her to come in and help with a case.

There has been a missing girl, 10 years gone, Lucy Downey, and now some letters have arrived for Harry and he is hoping Ruth can help him decipher the message.

Harry is hoping that Ruth's recent find of child's bones may be Lucy. However the bones turn out to be from the Iron age, 2,000 years old.

Ruth had been involved in a dig in the area ten years ago and knows the area quite well. At any rate Harry and Ruth work together and are able to solve the case of another missing girl, sadly uncovering her bones in the search for Lucy Downey.

Ruth's past starts to converge with the present when her ex-instructor and mentor Erik arrives on the scene along with her ex-boyfriend Peter and another friend from the dig, Shona.

There is more than one mystery in this story and I found it to be engrossing. It is, I would say, more of a traditional mystery, but the location and the addition of other frightening, creepy events kept me engrossed.

I will definitely be listening to more of this series and I recommend it especially to British mystery lovers.
Profile Image for Liz.
2,145 reviews2,763 followers
October 7, 2019

Earlier this year, I read The Stone Circle, the 11th in the series. Now, I’ve finally had time to go back and start at the beginning.

I’ve got to give credit to Elly Griffiths. I don’t think I’ve ever read a book where I felt I had such a complete feel for a main character in such a short period of time. She truly gives you a fully formed main character in the first few chapters. And Ruth is a great character! Almost forty, single, living on the edge of the salt marsh with her cats; she’s an archaeology professor at the nearby university. She’s drawn into a murder investigation by the DCI when old bones are found in the marsh.

Griffiths does an equally good job painting the landscape. The salt marsh is as important a character as any of the people. And on top of all this, you have a great mystery. This book moves along at a strong pace, with very little downtime. It’s a great mystery and it kept me guessing up until almost the end.

Very glad I’ve got 9 more books to read in this series.

Profile Image for Sandysbookaday .
2,050 reviews2,105 followers
June 21, 2023
EXCERPT: Then she hears it. A sound outside her window. A pause, a muffled cough and then, unmistakably, footsteps, coming closer and closer. She listens, her heart thumping with such huge, irregular beats that she wonders if she is going to have a coronary, right here on the spot. The knock on the door makes her cry out with fear. It has come. The creature from the night. The beast. The terror. She thinks of The Monkey's Paw and the unnamed horror that waits at the door. She is shaking so much that she drops her wine glass. The knock again. A terrible, doom-laden sound, echoing through the tiny house. What is she going to do? Should she ring Nelson? Her phone is across the room, by the sofa, and the idea of moving suddenly seems impossible. Is this it? Is she going to die, here in her cottage with the wind howling outside?

ABOUT 'THE CROSSING PLACES': Forensic archaeologist Dr. Ruth Galloway is in her late thirties and lives happily alone with her two cats in a bleak, remote area near Norfolk, land that was sacred to its Iron Age inhabitants—not quite earth, not quite sea. But her routine days of digging up bones and other ancient objects are harshly upended when a child’s bones are found on a desolate beach. Detective Chief Inspector Nelson calls Galloway for help, believing they are the remains of Lucy Downey, a little girl who went missing a decade ago and whose abductor continues to taunt him with bizarre letters containing references to ritual sacrifice, Shakespeare, and the Bible. Then a second girl goes missing and Nelson receives a new letter—exactly like the ones about Lucy. Is it the same killer or a copycat murderer, linked in some way to the site near Ruth’s remote home?

MY THOUGHTS: I have read various and random books from the wonderful Dr Ruth Galloway mystery series at various times over the years, but never the whole series from beginning to end. So that is what I am now doing, beginning with this, the first in the series.

Elly Griffiths doesn't waste any time introducing her characters - we meet Ruth and Nelson and are thrown into the mystery from the very first page.

I love Ruth's character. Although outwardly she is a successful lecturer and archeologist, independent and respected, inwardly she is subject to the same self-doubt we all have. Is she too fat? Is she ever going to fall in love again? Should there be more to her life?

Nelson, whom Ruth is also meeting for the first time on the first page, comes across as taciturn and grumpy, yet he is a man who has never given up on the ten year old case of the missing child, Lucy Downey. He definitely has a soft, caring side, it's just not on display often.

There are numerous other interesting characters - Cathbad (Michael Malone), a mysterious and all-knowing Druid, in his flowing purple cape. He is the antithesis to the solid, practical Nelson, who doesn't have time for all this mumbo-jumbo. Shona is Ruth's best friend, and is always in love with someone unsuitable, currently a married man. Ruth is her shoulder to cry on, her sounding board, her rock. But Shona is always there to support Ruth, too. While Ruth may sometimes envy Shona her careless beauty and ability to love freely, she also knows that Shona's lifestyle is not one she could live.

The setting on the salt marshes is very atmospheric. The desolation is added to by the archeological stories, and myths and legends of sacrifice woven into the storyline. The slightly unusual title of this book is very apt and well explained.

The plot is engrossing with more than one mystery and Ruth's past coming back to encroach on her present life.

I really love that at the end of the book is a 'who's who of all the main characters.

I already have the second book in this series, The Janus Stone, lined up to read.

FAVOURITE QUOTES: 'When she bought the cats her mother asked her straight out if they were 'baby substitutes'. 'No' Ruth had answered, straight-faced. 'They're kittens. If I had a baby it would be a cat substitute.'

'If you wanted to make a map of your sitting room for archeologists of the future, what would be the most important thing?'
'Er...making sure I have a full inventory of objects.'
He had laughed. 'No, no. Inventories are all very well in their place but they do not tell us how people lived, what was important to them, what they worshipped. No, the most important thing would be the direction. The way the chairs were facing. That would show archeologists of the future that the most important object in the twenty-first century home was the large grey rectangle in the corner.'


#TheCrossingPlaces #WaitomoDistrictLibrary

I: @ellygriffiths17 @quercusbooks

T: @ellygriffiths @QuercusBooks

THE AUTHOR: Elly Griffiths' Ruth Galloway novels take for their inspiration Elly's husband, who gave up a city job to train as an archaeologist, and her aunt who lives on the Norfolk coast and who filled her niece's head with the myths and legends of that area. Elly has two children and lives near Brighton.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Waitomo District Library for the loan of The Crossing Places by Elly Griffiths for review. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions.

For an explanation of my rating system please refer to my Goodreads.com profile page or the about page on sandysbookaday.wordpress.com

This review and others are also published on Twitter, Instagram and my webpage https://sandysbookaday.wordpress.com/...
Profile Image for Phrynne.
3,326 reviews2,145 followers
March 13, 2019
I very much enjoyed Elly Griffiths' writing in The Stranger Diaries which made me seek out this book, the first in her series about Ruth Galloway. I found it to be a very promising start.

Ruth is a very interesting character, someone who likes to be alone and considers herself over weight and not especially attractive and yet she seems to have a lot of friends and several men who appear to be interested in her. DCI Harry Nelson is one of these men and it will be interesting to see how things turn out given that he is married and claims to be in love with his wife.

The Crossing Places is a little different from the usual mystery novel in that Ruth is a forensic archaeologist and University lecturer living next to the wild Saltmarsh near Kings Lynn in Norfolk. Of course her expertise is of value to the local police when bones are discovered buried in the marsh. Are they from a recent death or are they hundreds of years old?

A nicely written and enjoyable read which sets the scene for more good things to come.
Profile Image for Kim.
426 reviews512 followers
March 1, 2013

I thought I'd like this novel much more than I did. It's not terrible. Indeed, it has some good features. However, I found it disappointing and predictable overall.

First the good points. The central protagonist, Ruth Galloway, is an academic forensic archeologist. Her occupation has plenty of potential for an absorbing crime fiction series and the narrative contains some interesting discussion about matters archeological. In addition, the location - the salt marshes of Norfolk in the east of England - is suitably atmospheric and a welcome change of pace from the more usual urban or village settings of English crime fiction.

However, the not-so-good aspects of the novel overwhelm the more positive ones. Griffiths is by no means a terrible writer but her prose is on the clunky side. This is partly because she chose to tell the story in the third person and in the present tense, which is tricky to get right. Hilary Mantel pulls it off in Wolf Hall, but then Mantel is a rather exceptional writer. The device is much less successful here. The characterisation is also not particularly successful. Ruth Galloway, while a likeable protagonist, is a walking cliché: a late thirties, overweight, single woman whose cats are her substitute children. And before readers of this review comment that I'm the one creating a cliché about cats being a substitute for children, Griffiths has her character specifically state that this is the role the cats play in her life. The supporting characters have little depth and are also very much on the cliché spectrum. Another real weakness with the novel is the predictability of the plot. Even though I'm generally not good at solving fictional crime before the big reveal, I easily identified the villain from virtually his first appearance.* The villain is so obvious that I didn't even feel clever about having done so.

This is the first novel in a series. I'm not going to completely dismiss the possibility of reading the second in the series, as I liked Ruth, the details of her occupation and the setting, but I won't be making it a priority and I doubt I'll go any further than number 2 unless the quality of the writing improves markedly. This one is possibly better than just okay, but it doesn't quite hit the heights of good, so the rating comes in at 2-1/2 stars.

*I appreciate that revealing the gender of the villain is a spoiler, but given the details of the plot, the villain was inevitably going to be male. Here's another spoiler provided as a warning to sensitive readers. While the narrative is not especially gruesome or graphic, that may be a deal-breaker for some.
Profile Image for Beverly.
835 reviews313 followers
November 19, 2022
Engrossing murder mystery, The Crossing Places, is the first in a series about Ruth Galloway, an archaeologist with an emphasis in bones and Detective Nelson, a hard-driving cop with a soft core for justice for the innocent. Both of the main characters are likeable and just odd enough to be interesting.

Where the author really excels is the setting. Her marshland, neither sky, nor land, is eerie and atmospheric and the addition of the Celtic ancient henge, causeway and thousand year old sacrifices makes it even more arresting.
Few places that I read about makes me want to see it, but these descriptions do. This is a fictional place in Norfolk, but based on a real place, a crossing place for the old ones, between earth and heaven and hell.
Profile Image for ij.
215 reviews177 followers
July 8, 2019
The Crossing Places was written by Elly Griffiths (pseudonym). Many believe that this was her debut novel, however, she published The Italian Quarter, under her real name Domenica de Rosa, in 2004. The author got her idea for the book while on holiday in Norfolk, United Kingdom with her archaeologist husband. They were walking on Titchwell Marsh, and nature reserve.

The Crossing Places, a mystery, is about a forensic archaeologist, Dr. Ruth Galloway, who is called in to examine human remains (bones) found in a saltmarsh near her home in Norfolk. Norfolk is on the east coast of the U K, with the North Sea being on its northeast coast. DCI Harry Nelson believes the bones are those of Lucy Downey a five year old girl who went missing about ten years ago. The bones were determined to be from the Iron Age. DCI while being disappointed with the results likes the way Ruth works and continues to consult her.

Another girl, Scarlet Henderson, has been recently kidnapped and Nelson believes the two cases are related because he has received letters on both cases that are similar in writing styles. The story contains many other subplots.

The setting and characters I believe are well developed. One can visualize the setting from the descriptions used by the author. I liked the main characters, Ruth and Harry. The story held my interest throughout the book. I plan to read the next book in the series and recommend this book to those who like mysteries.
Profile Image for Leila.
442 reviews212 followers
February 5, 2020
This series was recommended to me and I was drawn into it from the first page. The elements of archeology,mystery, mythology, folklore, atmosphere were so real. All of these filled the book right from the start. I liked that the author told us the story through Ruth the archaeologist helping the police in their enquiries because of her knowledge of both the area and the pre-historic nature of the henge. By the end of the book I felt I knew her as a good friend and a good person. I loved the little background bits about her cats one of which brought tears to my eyes. I loved the growing relationship between Ruth and DCI Harry Nelson another well drawn character whom I felt I knew. I thought their friendship was handled with sensitivity. There were many twists and turns in the plot and various ways of lifting the suspense such as moving from the thoughts and lives of each main character. When danger begins to threaten Ruth the story becomes quite chilling. Highly recommended to me by Hilary, I in turn highly recommend this book too. I have already begun the next book in the series.
Profile Image for Carol She's So Novel꧁꧂ .
816 reviews616 followers
January 9, 2018
This was a very solid start to the series.

Griffiths gives Ruth both a complete world and persona, without too much info dumping.

I became absolutely absorbed in her story & wanted to find out what happened to the two missing girls.

Some of the writing really captures the feelings of those involved;

"What I'm afraid of," says Delilah suddenly in a high, strained voice, "is that one day someone asks me how many children I have and I say four, not five. Because than I'll know that it's over, that she's dead."

And the end line of each chapter has a wonderful hook, that makes the book very difficult to put down.

For me, the book fell away slightly at the ending. It Was All a Bit Much. Too many strands to tie in, too many odd/mad/difficult/criminal people.

I also didn't like the gratuitous swipe at a mother breastfeeding a toddler. Felt like the author climbing on to her own little hobby horse.

But I am more than keen to read another instalment of Ruth's adventures.
Profile Image for Barbara.
1,393 reviews4,902 followers
November 9, 2021

In this first book in the 'Ruth Galloway' series, the archaeologist helps the police investigate cases that involve missing children.


When a child's bones are discovered in the saltmarsh at Norfolk, along the coast of England, Detective Chief Inspector Harry Nelson asks Dr. Ruth Galloway - an archaeologist at a local university - to help excavate the remains.

Ruth discovers that the skeleton, which was interred with two Iron Age torques (metal necklaces), is 2,000 years old.

Iron Age Torque

Ruth is thrilled with the find but Nelson is disappointed. He thought the bones might belong to Lucy Downey, a five-year-old child who disappeared a decade ago - a case that's haunted Nelson ever since.

Soon afterwards a four-year-old girl named Scarlet Henderson vanishes, and Nelson suspects she was taken by the same person who abducted Lucy. It turns out the police received a series of taunting letters after Lucy vanished, and similar letters have now arrived about Scarlet.

The letters contain quotes from literature and the Bible, as well as references to local archaeological sites and obscure poetic hints about where the girls are buried.

Nelson asks Ruth to help analyze the letters, and she's soon assisting the police with their inquiries. Against all odds, Nelson and Ruth seem drawn to each other. Ruth is a frumpy, overweight, fortyish academic who lives in an isolated cottage on the saltmarsh with her two cats, Sparky and Flint.

And Nelson is a burly, lifelong cop who resides in King's Lynn with his beautiful, stylish wife and two teenage daughters. Nevertheless, the sparks between Nelson and Ruth threaten to burst into flame.

Nelson realizes that Lucy's abduction 10 years ago occurred shortly after a major archaeological dig in Norfolk. People who worked on the dig include: Ruth; Erik - a renowned archaeologist who was Ruth's mentor in college; Cathbad - a 'druid' who objected to the digging up of an ancient henge; Shona - a gorgeous professor who's Ruth's best friend; and Peter - who was Ruth's boyfriend at the time. Other residents of the saltmarsh are David - who manages the local bird preserve; and Sammy and Ed - a couple with a vacation cottage in the area. Some of these folks are persons of interest to the cops.

As the police investigate the suspects and search for evidence they're assisted by Ruth, who has (almost supernatural) intuitions about the case. The book has some twists, and ends in an exciting, dramatic climax.

I like the story, and Ruth and Nelson are refreshing characters. Nelson is a traditional, hard-working detective (unlike the many fictional sleuths who are troubled alcoholics....LOL). I also enjoyed the bits of the book about archaeological digs, henge circles, causeways, cursuses, Iron Age rituals, and so on....which are quite interesting.

Henge Circle

Wooden Causeway

Excavation of ancient Cursus

Iron Age Death Ritual

The Norfolk location - with its marshes, flats, dunes, beach, sea, and tides - is practically a character in the story, and I could almost sense the salt spray on my face. The geography is integral to the plot since characters are often endangered by swiftly approaching tides and dangerous mud holes. (You wouldn't catch me out on those marshes in the dark!)

Norfolk Marsh

I have some problems with parts of the plot that don't ring true (that is .....are completely unbelievable), but overall this is a good start to the 'Ruth Galloway - Harry Nelson' series. I'll probably read additional books about this dynamic duo.

You can follow my reviews at http://reviewsbybarbsaffer.blogspot.com/
Profile Image for Hilary .
2,264 reviews404 followers
September 11, 2019
Thank you to goodreads friends Lisa and Laura for bringing this series to my attention. Ironically this series that my US friends discovered is set not far from me and half way through the book I realised the cover shows Horsey Windpump, a National Trust place we visited a couple of weeks ago. It was interesting to read about this setting as it is an amazing area, although the author has said the setting is fictional, those who know the area will recognise it well.

I haven't read many mystery books and practically no crime or police books but I found myself drawn into this mystery and the characters in this first book. I enjoyed the archeological details, a close friend is a keen interest in archeology so I was familiar with the terms used and the periods of history in relation to this area. Although bad things happen in this book, there isn't gratuitous descriptions and on the whole it isn't depressing or really sad although

The characters were good, I enjoyed Ruth's character a lot and look forward to reading more about her. I liked the summary of the characters at the end of the book, this can be really helpful to build up a picture of them that helps you remember who's who.

There was a surprise at the end, a happy one but not without it's complications.
Profile Image for The Book Whisperer (aka Boof).
343 reviews235 followers
August 11, 2010
Despite being a lover of crime fiction I hadn’t heard of this book or author before I was invited to go to the Harrogate Crime Fiction Awards last month. Elly’s book The Crossing Places had been shortlisted along with people like Ian Rankin and Mark Billingham and it was what she said on stage about her book having many layers that piqued my interest. What an acolade to have your book nominated and then shortlisted for such a high profile event as this, and I love that there was two debut authors on this list as it brings unknown authors to the fore. And thank goodness it does – I LOVED this book!

Ruth Galloway is in her late 30′s, has cats, is slightly overweight and orders loads of books from Amazon (what’s not to love?). She is a forensic archaeologist at the University of Norfolk, specialising in bones, and is called out to the saltmarshes on the Norfolk Coast by Police Detective Harry Nrelson when a body is unearthed. The body is discovered to be that of a young girl from the iron age, but it brings to the surface the disappearance of a five year old girl, Lucy Downey, who has never been traced and whom Harry Nelson can’t get out of his head. He then shows Ruth a series of letters he has been sent over the years with cryptic clues about Lucy’s disappearance and asks Ruth to help him decipher them. In the midst of this, and almost 10 years to the day since Lucy vanished, a four year old girl is snatched from her back garden and Harry fears that the perpetrator has struck again.

What I loved most about this books is the setting and the characters. The saltmarshes on the north Norfolk coast sounded so bleak and wind swept that I longed to be there in Ruth’s little stone cottage sipping coffee and reading books while rain hurled itself at the windows. I loved the image of the sand dunes and sea spray and the solitude. Ruth and Harry are wonderful leads too: Ruth is a woman after my own heart and Harry is a straight-talking northern bloke (and being a northerner myself I loved his tell-it-like-it-is attitude but also recognising his warm heart under his no nonsence exterior).

Reading this book made me want to do two things: 1) go for a long weekend on the north Norfolk coast – which we are now doing around my birthday in October and 2) want to rush out and buy the second in the series, The Janus Stone (which I have also now got and it is high on my pile!)
Profile Image for Lisa Vegan.
2,802 reviews1,234 followers
August 3, 2019
Thanks to Goodreads friend Laura (of the 3 Lauras, the artist Laura) for suggesting this. I’d been having a hard time finding a book that held my interest long enough to keep reading. I didn’t think I was in the mood for a mystery but this one was the right book at the right time. It’s the book that ended what felt like my long reading slump. It wasn’t really that long but I had tried several books before this one worked.

I guessed the culprit fairly early on but I wasn’t sure and there were plenty of other possibilities. All the red herrings were fun. I loved the structure of the book, the storytelling, and especially the atmospheric setting and the characters, especially Ruth. I really love Ruth. Regarding her there was a bit of a surprise at the end, a surprise to me, and I’m curious about how that will affect future books.

I’m happy that this series already has 11 books, soon to be 12, and I’ve been told that they keep getting better. I’m really excited to have another mystery series to read. I’ve given up on most of the ones I used to read, or they’re done.

I will read the second book sooner rather than later, though not immediately, partly because I don’t have time and partly because these books are a bit too dark for me to read them one right after the other.

A very solid 4 stars.
Profile Image for Stephanie.
34 reviews21 followers
April 15, 2012
The One Sentence Summary: A forensic archaeologist called in to examine a body found preserved in a salt marsh is drawn into the police investigation for two missing girls abducted ten years apart, and perhaps, into the killer’s crosshairs herself.

The Meat and Potatoes: Ruth Galloway, a short, stout forensic archaeologist living in a cottage on the barren saltmarsh where she was involved in a dig ten years prior, is called to examine a body found only steps from her home. Though the body is from the Iron Age and can’t possibly be that of a girl abducted ten years prior, the body and the abduction seem linked by letters that taunt the police with cryptic messages that the girl will be found “where the Earth meets the sky.” Then another young girl goes missing. The abductions seem to be connected to the Bronze Age henge that was excavated on the salt marshes, the Iron Age body that marks a mystical boundary, and the causeway connecting the two. As the evidence begins to point to someone with archaeological knowledge and ties to the land itself, Ruth has no choice but to take a closer look at the people in her life. Her mentor, her former lover, her best friend—all were involved in the excavation of the henge at the time the first girl went missing.

The Crossing Places creates an interesting intersection of archaeology and law enforcement, of history and the present. The setting, the harsh and dangerous marshland in the fictional town of Saltmarsh outside Norfolk, England, is creative and works well in the story.

The characters are believable, if a bit cliché. While Ruth, a nearly-forty overweight bookworm, is not the typical heroine of crime novels, she is the typical spinster academic, complete with cats as child-substitutes (a fact that is noted by the character herself). The other main character, Detective Chief Inspector Nelson, fits the traditional cop role almost to a T. He is a large, physical man with a gruff manner and a fairly stereotypical view of women, academics, and non-traditional ways of life such as the New Agers that he encounters in the story. He is given greater depth as the story goes on and we get more into his head, but the initial distaste carries through the novel.

The Crossing Places is written in the third person, present tense, which is also unusual. It seems calculated to give a feeling of immediacy to the events of the novel, but it ends up just being confusing and distracting. Griffiths uses the past perfect (had walked, had visited, had thought) most often to discuss events in the past, even though, as the present is in the present tense, the simple past (walked, visited, thought) would work in most cases.

The Praiseworthy: The best thing about The Crossing Places are a series of interludes, set in Italics, in a first person voice. These are presented without context, and the reader is left to interpret them for themselves. These interludes give us piecemeal information about the crime, increase the intrigue of the story, and present the most genuine voice in the novel.

The Shortcomings: Unfortunately, the writing is the biggest shortcoming in The Crossing Places. Overall, it’s very simplistic and employs a lot of devices that are the first things cautioned against in any creative writing program. Consider how the author first introduces the physical description of her main character:
Ruth . . . stares unseeingly into the steamy mirror. She knows what she will see . . . . Shoulder-length brown hair, blue eyes, pale skin—and however she stands on the scales, which are at present banished to the broom cupboard—she weighs twelve and a half stone.

Instead of taking the time to drop the character’s description more naturally into the narrative, Griffiths lays it out for us all at once, as the character stands in front of a mirror. This device is convenient, overused, and lacking in creativity. Griffiths also conveniently drops in explainers of technical jargon when she thinks it necessary for the readers. Early in the story, Ruth is speaking with DCI Nelson and mentions using Carbon 14 analysis to date the body that she has just examined. Although I find it inconceivable that an educated detective would be unfamiliar with Carbon dating, he asks what it is and Ruth promptly explains. I find this even stranger since I would assume that even Griffiths’s readers would have a cursory understanding of this process.

Probably the biggest problem with the writing though is the use of the present tense. The present tense begins to falter when used to tell any tale with a significant timeline, and the events of The Crossing Places occur over the course of a few months. Also, having the narrative present in the present tense is especially jarring when the characters reflect on the past, as opposed to the more typical device of past tense for the narrative present and past perfect to describe distant events. Oddly enough, even one of the characters objects to the use of the present tense, albeit in the speech of a mother who had murdered her child: “’She gets on my nerves,’ said the mother, apparently unrepentant. ‘She’s a little devil.’ The present tense. It still gets to him.” I have to admit this gave me a little chuckle.

Other problems with the writing include use of exclamation points that result in campy overemphasis (“Ruth pretends to consider but, of course, she is utterly fascinated. Bones! On the Saltmarsh!”), ellipses creating overdone dramatic effect, (“It could be anything. It could be a find. It could be…”), and phrasing which lets all the tension of a situation drain away. Consider this paragraph, which concludes a chapter:

This is obviously meant to be a very dramatic moment, but the way the paragraph is constructed takes away all of the suspense.

The Verdict: I would recommend this book to readers who have a fascination for archaeology, enjoy crime stories, and don’t have a problem with subpar writing.

Profile Image for Ken.
2,206 reviews1,329 followers
January 27, 2020
Having previously read Griffiths other series based in 1950's Brighton, I've always been curious to try her more popular character Dr Ruth Galloway.
This introductory story didn't disappoint and I'm now desperate to read all of these too.

Dr Galloway is such a loveable character to spend time with, this rapidly approaching 40 year old enjoys spending time with both her cats and either a good book or Radio 4.
In a way she's of a bygone time that really seems to fit the setting, as she's slightly out of the loop with current affairs.

As the local forensic archaeologist Ruth is asked by the police to look at some children's bones which have recently been discovered by a pre-historic henge.

Once a second child disappears Ruth finds herself in great danger as she closes in on the truth.

A great and promising start to launch a series as both the characters and setting are easy to enjoy.
There's something reassuringly familiar whilst being distinctive at the same time, the fact that anthropology is very popular at the moment is well signposted as one of Ruth's students had brought her a life size cutout of Star Trek character 'Bones', which is clearly a nod to Kathy Reichs...

I can't wait to read more!
Profile Image for Ivonne Rovira.
1,942 reviews200 followers
September 12, 2014
Once an author had a thought: If I set a section of this novel in present tense, it will make a contrast with the rest of the novel and the main narrator. It will breathe some immediacy into that segment and, along with italics, will really distinguish one section from another, one narrator from another.

As with most innovation, lesser lights immediately fell upon it. If a section is good, wouldn’t the entire novel be even better? And won’t the present tense bestow a sense of immediacy and a frisson that my writing lacks?

The answer is no. Present-tense verbs just disorient the reader — especially in a mystery novel where so much of the action occurred in — you know — the past. It just seems amateurish, an admission that the plot can’t generate enough excitement, so the author must employ gimmicks. Additionally, when the past perfect tense crops up — as it must in a mystery — the usage particularly jars as it isn’t contraposed with past tense but present. I thought I could get used to it, but the misguided present-tense usage annoyed me almost to the very end of the novel.

Which is a shame, as so many readers are likely to give up without giving this otherwise serviceable debut mystery a chance. Elly GriffithsThe Crossing Places provides an interesting heroine in Ruth Galloway, a zaftig forensic archeologist and lecturer at the fictional University of North Norfolk near England’s eastern marshy coast. Pushing 40, she’s a woman who knows her own mind and who isn’t about to be bullied, patronized or rendered silly by any man. Detective Chief Inspector Harry Nelson, her partner in the investigation, proves less believable: He’s equal parts Lancashire hardnosed policeman and a man sensitive enough to appreciate Ruth’s self-reliance and intelligence, an unpolished giant of man with antiquated ideas about the world but an out-of-character appreciation of a modern woman. Much of Nelson’s character seems designed simply to contrast with either Ruth herself or one of the other men — reedy academics all — in her life.

The mystery’s plot — the disappearance of two preschoolers near Norfolk’s desolate, gray Saltmarsh area a decade apart — proves intriguing, as is the novel’s exploration of the regrets everyone encounters on reaching middle age, of the little bits of condescension that women everywhere must endure from men who remain certain that they know better, and of how love survives despite flaws and betrayals and the terrible, terrible tribulations that life throws at some. While the final 30 pages are suspenseful, most readers will have figured out the perpetrator long before then, and his motivation never seems plausible.

Still, as this is Griffiths’ first mystery novel, it’s only right to make some allowance. All in all, The Crossing Places merits three stars and a promise to read — eventually — the second novel in the series, The Janus Stone. But not for a while.
Profile Image for Karen.
1,420 reviews202 followers
June 26, 2023
Ruth is a forensic archaeologist and University lecturer living next to the wild Saltmarsh near Kings Lynn in Norfolk.

Of course, her expertise is of value to the local police when bones are discovered buried in the marsh.

Are they from a recent death or are they hundreds of years old?

And so, the mystery begins where she has the opportunity to work with Detective Chief Inspector Harry Nelson.

What will become of this “working” relationship?

At first, I thought I was having déjà vu with the Bones character, Dr. Temprance Brennan (and her working with and attraction to FBI agent Seely Booth), but, Ruth is quite interesting, and the setting is quite different, and there is something to appreciate about this difference.

The author does an equally good job painting the landscape. The Saltmarsh is as important a character as any of the people.

The story held my interest throughout the book.

I plan to read the next book in the series and recommend this book to those who like mysteries – especially forensic ones.
Profile Image for Fictionophile .
1,062 reviews340 followers
February 24, 2015
This is the first in a series by Elly Griffiths which features Ruth Galloway,
a forensic archaelogist who lives alone with her two cats in an isolated cottage on Norfolk's Saltmarsh coast.
Ruth is ascerbic, solitary and strangely loveable. She works as the Head of Forensic Archaeology at the University of North Norfolk.
Thirty-something and a bit overweight, she does not have much of a social life, nor does she want one. However, she is drawn to DCI Harry Nelson, the police inspector who was instrumental in solving the mystery in "The Crossing Places".

Since reading this novel, I have read the rest in the series and they continue to be of the highest quality. Highly recommended!
Profile Image for Carol.
834 reviews499 followers
March 24, 2020
The Hook In my role as Adult Services Librarian I often recommended books to others. Had I read each and every one of these? Of course not yet. In reality I hadn't read any but knew I had patrons that would enjoy them. There were always certain books that I knew would appeal to me as well as those I suggested to those I served. One was The Ruth Galloway Series by Elly Griffiths. When I heard that book 12, The Lantern Men, was being released I thought it's now or never.

The Line - ”Why do we feel the need to create a heaven?”

The Sinker - Ruth Galloway is a forensic archaeologist. In itself, this would be enough for Ruth to interest me but there's more to this 40ish year old woman than just the digging. She lives in a pretty rural spot in Norfolk, alone except for her feline companions; somewhere I read happily, but I'm not certain that's true. She seems a bit set in her ways but that all gets upended when DCI Nelson asks her to help in identifying the bones of a child found on the beach of a secluded marsh area near her home. Nelson is hoping they are the remains of Lucy Downey, a young girl missing for nearly a decade, a case that haunts him. When a second girl goes missing, and Nelson begins receiving letters with cryptic references to human ritual sacrifices similar to those he received when Lucy disappeared, he is more convinced that this is the same person responsible for both children's disappearance.

I was hooked immediately, initially by the prologue, then by the beginning pages with the description of the waking of Ruth's day, from ”the slow climb out of sleep”, the reference to a shower's relation to water and baptism, the vigorous scrub of her towel, the first glimpse of an ordinary woman in the mirror, one whose image reflects little comfort, a sigh, ”I am not defined by my weight, fat is a state of mind.” The choice of clothing is telling, no jeans, as they do not fit so well after reaching size 16. Finally we move on to a look at her cottage, not so sad inducing as her image of herself makes us feel. Seems a comfy home, ”The stairs lead directly into the sitting room: sanded wooden floor, comfortable faded sofa, large flat-screen TV, books covering every available surface. Archaeology books mostly but also murder mysteries, cookery books, travel guides, doctor–nurse romances. Ruth is nothing if not eclectic in her tastes. She has a particular fondness for children’s books about ballet or horse-riding, neither of which she has ever tried.” It's the books of course that really catch my interest.

The Crossing Places was a good pick for a dive into a new series. Good recommendation from my favorite librarian.

NOTE There is violence to an animal. If this upsets you, skip this one.
Profile Image for Gumble's Yard - Golden Reviewer.
1,823 reviews1,387 followers
October 4, 2022
#1 of the Ruth Galloway novels – a series of crime novels featuring a Norfolk based forensic archaeologist and of particular interest to me given my interests in both Norfolk and archaeology (see my review of “The Janus Stone”).

This book (and the resulting series although the book originally was potentially a one-off) was inspired by the author’s husband who had retrained as an archaeologist and her Norfolk based Auntie (who told her many of the legends of the area) and was sustained by regular holidays to Norfolk once the series commenced.

In particular, as widely quoted, the author was walking across Titchwell Marsh, close to the North West Corner of Norfolk (and near Tichwell Manor where we celebrated my late Father’s 80th birthday) when her husband explained how “prehistoric people thought marshland was sacred. Because it’s neither land nor sea, but something in-between, they saw it as a kind of bridge to the afterlife. Neither land nor sea, neither life nor death.”.

Titchwell is also very close to Holme Beach – the site of the Sea Henge (https://www.explorenorfolkuk.co.uk/se...) – a 4000 year old Bronze Age timber circle (with an upside down tree at its centre) re-discovered in the late 1990s and controversially )with the opposition of the local druids but strong support of local birdwatchers) removed to Kings Lynn Museum.

Ruth Galloway is an archaeologist at the fictional University of North Norfolk outside Kings Lynn (my birthplace) and lives in a remote cottage on an isolated salt marsh (which reminded me more of Cley-Next-The Sea, Stiffkey or Salthouse but which is clearly meant to be much more Westerly and closer to Lynn). She moved there after a few Summers previously being involved in a dig with an inspirational and charismatic Scandinavian archaeologist – Erik Griffiths – as a group of them (including one of her now closest friends Shona an English lecturer, and he rex-boyfriend Peter) - uncovered another henge.

Ruth now specialises in bones and the book begins with her being visited at the University by DCI Harry Nelson – a walker has found some bones near where Ruth lives and he thinks they may be connected with the unsolved abduction of a young girl around 10 years previously. In fact the bones are nearly 2000 years old – which then leads to two interacting investigations: Ruth’s interest in the ancient burial and what links it may have with the henge (she is still in touch with Erik and comes back into contact with the eccentric Cathbad – who lead the Druid protests) and Nelson’s in the unsolved murder which is increased when another young girl disappears. The two stories become very interlinked and Ruth herself starts to be the subject of threats while Nelson is baffled by a series of letters he receives from someone claiming to be the abductor of the first girl.

I must admit I did not take an instant shine to either of the two main characters.

Ruth is rather too obsessed with her weight (to an extent I felt was uncomfortable), a cat lover (why – in Norfolk?), dislikes the second homers in the nearby cottage (which would be OK if she was not a furriner herself) and particularly dislikes her born again Christian parents (who for me are the heroes of the series despite their gross misrepresentation).

Nelson is a rather stereotyped Northern born policeman who strongly dislikes Norfolk (having moved for a promotion and stayed due to his glamorous wife’s successful beauty business) amd it seems Arsenal.

So I had initially hoped that George Martin style Griffiths would undermine the genre by killing her protagonists – but alas no.

But I have to say that the characters, their nuances and weaknesses did grow on me over time even if this does seem to be a series with many of the cliches of the genre (not least of which is far too much coincidence and repeated murders dragging in the same small group of characters).

The archaeological detail is interesting and the police procedural detail more convincing than other crime genre novels I have read (even if that is a low bar to cross).

I did also like the overlapping back stories – the story of the stone henge excavations and the way relationships forged there still evolve; and a backstory involving Norman and a police colleague of his killed in some Manchester riots leading to a controversial conviction of a rioter (who was known to Erik, Shona and Cathbad)

I also enjoyed (despite the pagan oddities of Cathbad and Erik) the ideas of liminality which were the book’s original inspiration and which permeate the writing.

The relationship between Ruth and Nelson developed in I thought a surprisingly subtle and believable way with the two coming together briefly for comfort after the grim discovery of a young girl’s dead body – and had rather a nice and promising twist at the end.

Some criticisms.

The villain in this case is I think rather too obvious in a kind of personification of Chekhov’s gun or a process of eliminate-everyone-the-characters-suspect.

The back two story lines overlap a little too much and a little too much with the main murders – the book is simply too insular in that respect.

I do not follow why Shona and Cathbad were not arrested for wasting police time – and to be honest I would have preferred them to be arrested for wasting reader’s time (but Cathbad alas looks like a permanent feature)

The cover features a picture of Horsey windpump – which while it may be in Norfolk is around a 100 minute drive from where the book is set (even more bizarre as the second book reaches a climax in Horsey Mere)

But definitely a series I will follow – not least as I bought the first 10 books in a special offer!
Profile Image for Carolyn (on vacation).
2,248 reviews642 followers
May 12, 2019
This is an excellent start to Griffiths' series featuring forensic archaeologist Ruth Galloway who lives on the lonely and remote Norfolk salt marshes. Her specialty is bones so when a child's bones are found on the marsh, Ruth is called in by DCI Harry Nelson to date the bones. Nelson is hoping the bones are those of a missing girl who disappeared ten years ago as he would love to solve the case for her parents. However, the bones are much older and Ruth thinks they may be linked to an Iron age henge that she was involved in uncovering some years ago. When another young girl goes missing, Ruth is drawn in to the investigation when Nelson needs some help again with a series of letters referring to archaeology, religion and old myths.

Although the plot is somewhat predicable, the setting of the salt marsh with it's ancient henge give the mystery a very atmospheric and menacing feel. There are also quirky characters to engage the reader such as Ruth's neighbour, David, warden of the bird sanctuary and Cathbad the Druid, who was opposed to disturbing the Iron age henge. And then there is Erik, the viking, leader of the archaeolgical team that uncovered the henge and now back in Norfolk for a sabbatical. Ruth is an intriguing character, believing herself to me plump, middle-aged and unattractive, preferring to live alone with her cats, although she develops a warm, easy friendship with Nelson that suggests an ongoing relationship in future episodes. A solid start to what promises to be an interesting series.

Profile Image for Geles.
175 reviews32 followers
December 18, 2020
“Los Ecos del Pantano” pertenece a una serie que, por el momento, lleva ya once títulos publicados, pero éste es el primero que se publica en español y el que da inicio a la saga.
Ruth Galloway, es una arqueóloga forense que vive con sus dos gatos, Sílex y Chispa, totalmente dedicada a su profesión. Una mujer independiente y algo solitaria, que padece sobrepeso.
Nos encontramos con un libro entretenido y bien documentado, donde la autora desarrolla una trama en torno al descubrimiento de un Henge, entrelazando la investigación policial con la arqueología.
Una trama sencilla y sin grandes giros pero que mantiene la intriga hasta el final y donde por una vez nos encontramos con una protagonista que no es la típica mujer diez.
Profile Image for LJ.
3,159 reviews311 followers
January 5, 2010
First Sentence: They wait for the tide and set out at first light.

Archaeologist Ruth Galloway is a single, overweight woman who lives with her two cats on the edge of the Saltmarsh. DCI Harry Nelson asks for her help when human bones are found on a nearby beach. Nelson is haunted by the case of Lucy Downey, a young girl who disappeared ten years ago. A second child now disappears. Nelson believes the two cases are linked.

It is always a treat to start a book by an author I’d not previously read and discover it is a very enjoyable book.

The opening is particularly effective and creates a strong sense of place. In fact, it is the evocative quality of Ms. Griffiths' descriptions that entranced me and held me fast into the story. Add to that fascinating historical, geological, archeological and forensic information that enhances the story, but never overwhelms or slows it down.

The characters are only slightly less effective. I loved Ruth. She is definitely a character with whom I can identify. It is so refreshing not to have a young, slim, gorgeous protagonist. She is smart, strong and independent. A slight criticism would be that the author focused more than needed on Ruth’s weight and being single. There’s a point where you say, “Okay, I’ve got it.”

Detective Nelson, on the other hand, seemed rather anachronistic in his view toward women and I was rather amazed at some of the things he didn’t know, particularly with a British education. The other characters felt contrived.

I did guess the villain fairly early on, but there were enough twists and red herrings that I wasn’t completely certain. There is an incident with one of Ruth’s cats I felt was predictable and not really necessary to the plot.

The story does have a bit of a Gothic feel, which I enjoyed, and some very good suspense. It kept me reading from page one straight through in one sitting. I was surprised by the very ending, but not particularly in a good way.

Still, taken all together, the positives far outweighed the negatives and I look forward to more books by Ms. Griffiths.

THE CROSSING PLACES (Trad Mys-Ruth Galloway-England-Cont) – G+
Griffiths, Elly – 1st in series
Houghton, Mufflin, Harcourt, 2009, ARC – ISBN: 978-547339898

Profile Image for Paul.
1,218 reviews1,962 followers
January 29, 2023
“The human desire is to live, to cheat death, to live forever. It is the same over all the ages. It is why we build monuments to death so that they live on after we die.”
The first in a detective series, I’m ever hopeful! This one had a few advantages. It’s set in the fens/marshes of Norfolk/Lincolnshire and more specifically a tidal saltmarsh. There are two main protagonists. Dr Ruth Galloway is a forensic archaeologist who lectures at North Norfolk University (fictional) and is in her late 30s, single with two cats and lives in a remote location on the edge of the saltmarsh. The other is a policeman, Harry Nelson. Lots of tropes, some quite predictable. The case involves the disappearance of two children, ten years apart. There is plenty of archaeology, mainly Iron Age with henges and causeways. As you expect there are twists, turns and red herrings, but the murderer is pretty obvious. As this is the first in a series Griffiths sets up her characters:
“books covering every available surface. Archaeology books mostly but also murder mysteries, cookery books, travel guides, doctor-nurse romances. Ruth is nothing but eclectic in her tastes. She has a particular fondness for children’s books about ballet or horse-riding, neither of which she has ever tried.”
I have certainly read worse in this genre.
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