Title: The Crossing Places
Author: Elly Griffiths
Publication date: 6 August 2009
Length: 288 pages
Age group: Adult
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Dr Ruth Galloway is in her late 30s. When she’s not digging up bones or other ancient objects, she lectures at a university in Norfolk. She lives, alone but happily so, in a bleak, marshy area called Saltmarsh overlooking the sea and Norfolk’s vast skies with her cats and Radio 4 for company. She’s a salty character – quirky.
When a child’s bones are found in the marshes, near a dig that Ruth and her former boyfriend Peter worked on ten years before, Ruth is called upon to date them. They turn out to be bronze-age bones and DCI Harry Nelson, who called on Ruth for help, is disappointed. He had hoped they would be the bones of a child called Lucy who’s been missing, presumed dead, for ten years. He has been getting letters about her ever since – odd letters with references to ritual and sacrifice, and including quotes from the Bible and Shakespeare.
Then a second girl goes missing and Nelson gets another letter – like the ones about Lucy. Is it the same killer? Is it a ritual murder, linked in some way to the site near Ruth’s remote home? Then one of Ruth’s cats is killed and clearly she’s in danger from a killer who knows that her expert knowledge is being used to help the police with their enquiries…
Elly Griffith’s books have been on my wishlist for a while but, as much as it pains me to say this, after reading The Crossing Places I’m not sure if I will read them after all. The book sounded great but, even though there were some elements in the story which I really liked, I was quite disappointed with it by the end.
Firstly, it is written in third person singular and the present tense which really bothered me. There are books where this combination works but here it didn’t – or at least it didn’t work for me. It probably wouldn’t have vexed me as much as it did if the writing itself was better, but it’s not. Which brings me to the second thing on my list, which is that Griffiths’ writing is nothing special. In fact, it’s mediocre at best. Which, again, wouldn’t have bothered me as much as it did if at least the plot was great and something that made me want to keep on reading, but it wasn’t.
I kept waiting for something to happen but nothing really did. I initially expected the story to be a lot creepier but in reality, there was never any danger involved until Ruth, our main character, herself is targeted by the killer. And even then, nothing really happens. Or at least nothing that would fall into the adrenaline-fuelled, ‘keep you on the edge of your seat’ category. Even the mystery itself wasn’t too difficult to solve.
What made me read on was Ruth and Nelson’s character. Ruth might be a bit cliché – an introverted bookworm who lives alone with her two cats, and probably the most unlikely person to find herself in the middle of a police investigation – but I think she and Nelson were a great pair and I was really rooting for the two of them (the ending was a major cliffhanger in this respect). I’m not sure if I’ll read the next book in the series because I don’t know if it would be any better writing and plot-wise but if I do, it will be to find out what happens to Nelson and Ruth.
Rating:*Many thanks to Quercus Books for sending me a copy for review*