Saturday, November 13, 2010

The Janus Stone: A Ruth Galloway Mystery, by Elly Griffiths--Review

336 pp., Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, ISBN 9780547237442, Publication Date January 2011

Forensic archeologist Ruth Galloway is settling back into normal after the unsettling events of a few months ago when she gets a call from the head of the university archeology department. Construction workers on the site of an old house in Norwich that previously served as a children's home have found the bones of a young child. The bones need to be identified, and it needs to be determined as quickly as possible if this is an archeological find or a crime scene. Knowing the police need to be involved, Ruth calls Detective Chief Inspector Harry Nelson, whom she's worked with in the past.
     What she hasn't yet told Nelson, who is married and has two teenage daughters, is that she's pregnant as a result of their one night of  "We Didn't Get Killed" sex four months ago.
      As they piece together the evidence and determine that they have the body of a young girl, they also learn that two children disappeared from the children's home in the early 1970s--and that one of them was a girl about the age of the child whose bones they have. And in the mid-1950s, the young daughter of the family living there at the time, when it was still a private home, also died at the right age--supposedly of scarlet fever.
     Meanwhile, another archeologist, Max Gray, working on a site in Swaffham, is showing a friendly and possibly more than friendly interest in Ruth. Ruth is interested, but does she need the complications? Will he still be interested when he knows she's pregnant?
     While she's juggling all these problems and complications, alarming things start to happen around Ruth. Someone sacrifices a cockerel and writes her name in blood at the Swaffham site. She hears someone breathing nearby when she's out in the dark, and stumbles and passes out when she sees what appears to be a dead baby--and turns out to to be a model from a museum exhibit.
     The tension develops nicely, and the mystery is satisfyingly complex and interesting. This is the second of the series, and some things, such as Ruth's pregnancy and the relationships among some of the characters, are products of the events of the earlier book, The Crossing Places. However, since I have not read it, I can feel completely confident in saying that this book stands on its own sufficiently to be a satisfying, enjoyable read.
     Strongly recommended.

     Note:: I received a free electronic galley from the publisher via NetGalley