Title: The Janus Stone
Author: Elly Griffiths
Publisher: Quercus Publishing, 2010
Paperback, 320 pages
Genre: equal parts Amateur Sleuth and Police Procedural, #2 Ruth Galloway mystery
Source: Purchased from The Book Depository.
First Line: A light breeze runs through the long grass at the top of the hill.
An old house is being torn down in Norwich to make way for a housing development. When the bones of a child are uncovered beneath a doorway, Detective Chief Inspector Harry Nelson knows whom to call: Dr. Ruth Galloway, head of Forensic Archaeology at the University of North Norfolk.
Nelson wants answers, and he wants them fast-- the house used to be a children's home. In contacting the priest who ran the home at the time, he learns that two children did go missing forty years ago, but carbon dating proves the child's bones predate the home and relate to a time when the house was privately owned. For reasons of her own, Ruth is drawn deeper and deeper into the case, but someone is attempting to put her off by trying to scare her to death.
Nothing makes a serial reader like me happier than when the second book in a series fulfills the promise made by the first. The gruff DCI Harry Nelson and the slightly awkward Ruth Galloway are very appealing main characters, but it's Ruth who really worms her way into my heart:
Ruth is dreadful at shopping. It is a female ritual that she has never mastered. Other women can disappear into a shop for half an hour and come out with piles of tasteful clothes in the right size, artfully matching accessories, and the perfect pair of shoes. Ruth can shop all day and still only have a T-shirt two sizes too small to show for it.
Plot, pacing and the Norfolk setting match Griffiths' skill in characterization, as well as her dryly humorous writing style. I also enjoy the archaeology angle, learning about pagan and Roman Britain as I turn the pages.
For any of you coming late to the Ruth Galloway party, you'll be happy to note that you don't have to start reading the series from the beginning (although it's much better if you do). The author provides enough backstory to keep you from being confused.
I've barely finished reading The Janus Stone, and I already can't wait to read the next, The House at Sea's End!