The Crossing Places (Ruth Galloway #1) by Elly Griffiths
Challenge: 150 + Books in a Year
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.
Cover Talk: I love how the cover is exactly how I picture Ruth’s homeland. Homesea? Homeplace. The cover is what caught my eye while browsing through a list of British mysteries on Goodreads because it didn’t try to obnoxious.
First Line: “They wait for the tide and set out at first light.”
Why I Read It: I have been in the mood for a good British mystery lately and when I read that the main character is an archaeologist I knew it was something I desperately needed to read.
Characters: Ruth is not the typical female heroine that I have grown accustomed to. She’e definitely better. I lovingly call her an “academic spinster.” She has two cats, not much of a social life outside of her digging and her lectures, and is fascinated by dead and buried things. When she is asked to used her archaeological skills to help shed some insight into a murder investigation, she accepts and becomes a wee bit obsessed. Obsessed and intelligent are how I like my amateur detectives.
Nelson, or Detective Chief Inspector Harry Nelson, is a serious, broody, workaholic. Ten years have gone by since Lucy has gone missing, and another child has just been kidnapped. Not a chapter or scene goes by when he’s not working hard at trying to solve these kidnappings. He is incredibly dedicated and is a lot smarter than he would have anyone believe.
As for the secondary characters, I was really surprised by how well they all fit into this mystery and into Ruth’s life. Shona, her friend and colleague, is that friend you want to hate because she’s so beautiful, but is hard to resist because she’s just so nice. Erik, Ruth’s friend and mentor, is incredibly charming, alluring, and is a wonderful story teller. I loved his character. Cathbad is a druid/New Ager and I absolutely want to see more of him in the next book. And as for her neighbor, David, his character is definitely an interesting one. He is so quiet and is a bit of a loner. Oh, and has a thing for birds.
Plot/World-building: I am such a sucker for British mysteries. I have never stepped foot outside of North America, but in my mind, I live in England, also Ireland, Scotland, and Wales. So reading this book and being submerged in British culture and landscape was simply amazing. The descriptions that Griffiths provides are beautiful, eerie, and evocative.
Ruth and Nelson make such a brilliant team. They are both obsessive, smart, and love their jobs more than anything else. I loved seeing Ruth think things through while Nelson is already speeding away to follow leads. Their relationship also takes a turn that I didn’t really see coming and am interested to see what happens with them in the next books.
My biggest enjoyment in The Crossing Places is the archaeological bits. I loved reading the discovering of bones, artifacts, and henges. And on top of that there is great attention to myths, history, and some New Age ways of thinking that made me want to be there to experience it all first hand.
The ending I absolutely did not see coming. I’m still amazed at how everything came together and who was involved. I am definitely looking forward to reading the rest of this series and seeing more of Ruth.
Final Thoughts: I devoured this book in two days. It was so difficult to put down. I didn’t want to leave the characters or the marshes, and I certainly wanted to solve this damn case. Elly Griffiths is a great weaver of mysteries and I cannot wait to see what else she has in store for Ruth.