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The Crossing Places: A Ruth Galloway Mystery    by Elly Griffiths order for
Crossing Places
by Elly Griffiths
Order:  USA  Can
McClelland & Stewart, 2009 (2009)
* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

In The Crossing Places, Elly Griffiths gives us an eerie archaeological mystery in a spooky setting and starring an unusual and delightful new heroine on the mystery scene. Ruth Galloway lectures in forensic archaeology at the University of North Norfolk. She's the despair of her Born Again Christian parents, not only for her unwillingness to share their religious beliefs but because she's overweight, single and lives the life of a loner with her cats in a tiny cottage looking out onto the desolation of marshland - 'Ruth has absolutely no idea why she loves it so much.' Her only neighbor is the warden of the nearby bird sanctuary.

The story opens when tall, dark - and with 'something contained and slightly dangerous' about him - DCI Harry Nelson brusquely demands Ruth's assistance in identifying the age of bones found in a Saltmarsh henge circle that Ruth and her colleagues had excavated one magical summer ten years before. Harry Nelson only reluctantly moved to the area, which he dislikes, to please his wife Michelle. Then his rising career floundered on the now cold case of a five-year-old child, Lucy Downey, who was kidnapped from her bed. No trace of Lucy has been found but Harry has received annual letters, offering mystical hints - such as that she is somewhere 'where the earth meets the sky.' Harry is disappointed when Ruth identifies the find as Iron Age bones.

The tension heats up when another little girl disappears, and police attention focuses on a druid leader (and archeology student) who called himself Cathbad and led protests at Ruth's henge circle excavation. Gradually, others from that past summer converge on her life again - her good friend and mentor, Erik, and her ex-lover, Peter. Ruth gets more and more entangled in the case - finding a body, being threatened, and forming a relationship with the apparently happily married Harry Nelson - and discovers that elements from her own past can be just as treacherous as the marshland bogs, which almost engulf her.

I highly recommend The Crossing Places to anyone who enjoys an effective and compelling archeological mystery in a unique setting, with engaging and unusual leads, and plenty of surprises. I will be looking out for more Ruth Galloway mysteries.

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