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The Janus Stone: A Ruth Galloway Mystery    by Elly Griffiths order for
Janus Stone
by Elly Griffiths
Order:  USA  Can
McClelland & Stewart, 2010 (2010)
Hardcover, e-Book
* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Elly Griffith's The Janus Stone (sequel to The Crossing Places) brings readers another gripping story in which archaeologists, digging in ancient sites, inadvertently uncover relatively recent murders and incite modern mayhem. Colorful characters - like Cathbad, a combination of lab assistant and fey Druid, enrich the mysteries.

Fans around the world have fallen for Griffith's thoroughly engaging - and indomitable - heroine, Ruth Galloway, a university lecturer in forensic archaeology. The despair of her Born Again Christian parents, Ruth is overweight, single, and lives in a tiny cottage looking out onto marshland. In the first episode, Ruth worked with happily married DCI Harry Nelson. Dire circumstances - and a flaring attraction - led to a brief fling which has left Ruth pregnant. How she deals with her situation, and reveals it to others, held my interest as much as the mystery in The Janus Stone.

This second in a series that immediately jumped to my top ten list begins with an eerie introduction to a disturbed mind, one that muses 'Only blood will save us now!' Then we join Ruth as she visits a colleague's dig and meets handsome Dr. Max Grey, an expert in Roman Britain. An attraction quickly grows between them, fueled by their common interests and the fact that Max 'has presence.' DCI Harry Nelson also shows up at the dig, where a body has been found under the wall of a villa, possibly a 'foundation sacrifice' to gods Janus and Terminus.

At a party, Harry meets wealthy Edward Spens, whose company is developing luxury apartments on the site of what used to be the Sacred Heart Children's Home. When a small child's body is found under the main doorway there, Ruth is consulted and immediately calls Nelson. He learns that the children's home was run by a priest, Father Patrick Hennessey, who reveals that two children went missing from it, one of them a small girl. They were never found. Guessing that Nelson is a Catholic, Father Hennessey urges him not to give up on God, saying 'There's always a twitch upon the thread.'

As before, Elly Griffiths cleverly lays false trails, and tosses in surprising twists and turns of plot. Someone stalks and threatens Ruth, putting her - and her baby - at risk. Once again, she must deal with a killer, up close and much too personal, in the grand finale. The Janus Stone is an exciting mystery, enriched by its archaeological foundations and also by touches of farce as when Nelson's wife Michelle learns of Ruth's pregnancy and plans to help with 'shopping for baby stuff'. I've thoroughly enjoyed both books in this series and can't wait for more.

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