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by Elly Griffiths
Quercus, February 2009
304 pages
12.99 GBP
ISBN: 1847247261

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Ruth Galloway is a single, slightly overweight archaeologist who's knocking on 40. She loves her remote home at Saltmarsh which overlooks the North Sea. The last thing she imagines is that a call to date some bones will drag her into a search for two missing girls.

THE CROSSING PLACES is a first crime fiction outing for Elly Griffiths, who apparently has other novels under her belt. And it's a highly encouraging move into the genre sandpit, as I found myself engrossed in the book over the course of two evenings with all the lights blazing!

In many ways the archaeological angle is by far the strongest, although Griffiths has bolted a perfectly serviceable plot onto it. And she makes Ruth's interaction with the police particularly the imposing DCI Harry Nelson believable. The police need Ruth for her knowledge, and she's not the kind of character to keep information back from them (something that usually results in me heaving books at walls!)

Ruth's the kind of character you could imagine knowing in real life. It's a novelty for once to have a female lead who doesn't survive on lettuce leaves and go for 12-mile runs before breakfast. In fact, there's only one 'bleugh' moment regarding her single life towards the end of the book (to say any more would constitute a spoiler )

THE CROSSING PLACES is written in the present tense. Usually I feel vaguely impatient with writers doing that, as it often feels affected. But it works here, mainly because Griffiths is strong when it comes to stoking up the tension. And she has done an outstanding job of recreating the bleak eastern England landscape and of providing just enough archaeological information without constituting overload (apparently we have her husband's career change to thank for this!)

There's just one very minor thing, though, that made me twitch all through the book. According to my Oxford Writers and Editors, alright is never all right, whether it's in dialogue or narrative. All right?

Reviewed by Sharon Wheeler, March 2009

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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