From Elly Griffiths, a whodunit that’s not about a detective


You might call this book a whodunit, a species of fiction that I tend to shun because I find the circumstances that cast doubt on the innocence of several characters to be contrived and ultimately boring. However, author Elly Griffiths managed to keep me interested to the end despite the contrivances. Her protagonist, Ruth Galloway, is not a detective but a forensic anthropologist who teaches at a provincial university in Norfolk on England’s east coast. Galloway and the other characters in the novel are well developed, the author makes artful use of the myths and legends of the locale, and the story is suspenseful. She writes well, too.

An eccentric investigator

Ruth Galloway is an eccentric woman nearing the age of forty. She lives alone in a cottage on the edge of a coastal marsh with two cats for which she has an unnatural attachment. Her claim to fame in professional circles was the discovery a decade previously of an Iron Age “henge” (think Stonehenge) on the border of the marsh.

The Crossing Places (Ruth Galloway #1) by Elly Griffiths @@@@ (4 out of 5)

When the local police come across the bones of a young child buried near the marsh, Detective Chief Inspector Harry Nelson turns to Galloway in hopes she can determine whether the bones are old or those of the missing girl in a current high-profile case. She confirms that the bones are indeed of ancient origin, and the police continue to involve her in their ongoing investigation after more bones are found. It soon develops that Galloway’s own professional colleagues are among the suspects in the girl’s disappearance. Naturally, Galloway and Nelson team up to identify the culprit, but there are many twists and turns along the way.

About Elly Griffiths

The Crossing Places, published in 2009, was the first in Elly Griffiths‘ series of Ruth Galloway Mysteries. The character was inspired by the author’s husband, who left a job in the city to study archaeology. Griffiths is clearly prolific, as there are now eight books in the series. She has also written two detective novels in a second series — all in the past six years.

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