Thursday, 4 December 2014
The Janus Stone by Elly Griffiths – the Kitchen Table Crime Review
Elly Griffiths’ books are always steeped in the past. Her husband is an archeologist…as is her wonderful protagonist, Ruth Galloway. Her landscape is the evocative and edgy coastline of Norfolk, where the early Bronze Age timber circle known as Seahenge – which I wrote about in an earlier blog; http://kitchentablewriters.blogspot.co.uk/2014/11/home-and-seahenge-by-francis-pryor.html – was discovered during a receding tide. Griffiths uses the wonderful flatness of this land – the almost sinister fen country, the looming mists and intricate waterways – to marvellous effect.
Ruth Galloway is a fascinating study of a professional woman trying to make sense of today’s world. The Independent describes her as…[not] a sexless zombie in a starched white coat; she is really, messily, female. And she doesn't always get things right…
I understand exactly what they mean. Ruth's life never quite goes to plan. She’s too quick to call a politically correct digging impliment a spade. She’d like to lose weight. She like a lot more regular love, please. She has parents who seem to think that she’s still their little girl, even though she’s head of a forensic archaeology department. And in this novel, she has a secret which creates a warm and touchingly humorous sub-plot throughout the novel.
Despite the persistent frustrations and exasperations of her busy life, Ruth is physical yet academic, open-minded, and sensitive to people’s feelings. I’m sure that’s why the crime-reading public love her.
In The Janus Stone, (Mariner Books), Ruth is investigating some Roman remains when she’s asked to visit a building site where a child’s headless skeleton has been unearthed. An old mansion is being demolished, and this was, in the past, an orphanage. These bones are much more recent that the Roman remains, and the two histories unravel slowly and dramatically as we reach the thrilling crescendo of the story.
Because I use portals and transitions so much in my Shaman Mystery Series, I particularly loved the links to Janus, the old Roman god of doorways, beginnings and endings.
This is my first Elly Griffiths book. I wish I’d discovered her before, but I wouldn’t know about her now if I hadn’t been compared to Griffiths, as a writer of edgy crime novels.
US review publication, LIbrary Journal, said of my first book, In the Moors…the visceral suspense Milton creates is commendable, not to mention terrifying. I like pairing her work with Elly Griffiths’s atmospheric English mysteries…
That was enough to send me scrabbling for one of her books and I have not been disappointed with The Janus Stone.