Chances are, you’ve never encountered a forensic archaeologist. Before I came across Elly Griffiths’ Ruth Galloway series, I hadn’t. The closest I’d come was the character Temperance Brennan in Kathy Reichs’ long-running television series, Bones, and the novels on which it was based. But Brennan is a forensic anthropologist, which is very different. (If you’re wondering how, check out Kathy Reichs’ books.)
Galloway is an archaeologist on the faculty of a provincial English university who is called onto murder scenes to determine whether bones uncovered at archaeological digs are ancient or modern. Inevitably, since the books in this series are murder mysteries, this leads her to become deeply involved in identifying the killer in at least one if not several murders. Somehow, she always ends up working in collaboration with Detective Chief Inspector Harry Nelson. At least, this is what happens again in The Janus Stone, the second of the Ruth Galloway novels, as it did in the first, The Crossing Places.
The Janus Stone (Ruth Galloway #2) by Elly Griffiths @@@ (3 out of 5)
Druids, ancient Romans, and a real estate developer
In The Janus Stone, there are not one but two digs involved, so Galloway is kept busy rushing from one to the other. At one, an ancient Roman town is taking shape as the earth is brushed away. At the other, the demolition of an old children’s home to make way for an apartment development has led to the discovery of a child’s bones buried under a doorstep. It turns out that, in ways it takes us a long time to understand, the two sites are linked. (Of course, we knew they would be!) Both are somehow involved in the murder of the child whose bones have been uncovered. Surprised?
From my perspective, the coincidences that enable this novel to hold together are a little difficult to take. The characters are interesting enough: a former archaeologist turned Druid shaman, a saintly old Catholic priest, a real estate developer and his aging father, not one but two experts on ancient Rome, Detective Chief Inspector Nelson, and Galloway herself. It’s just a little difficult to believe the circumstances that bring all these characters together.
About the author
Elly Griffiths has written eight novels in the Ruth Galloway series and two in another. They’re all detective fiction.
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