It's quite funny really. I was so concerned about reading this book in time to get it back to the library by next Saturday that I thought I'd better get reading. I ought to have realised that The Janus Stone by Elly Griffiths - book two in her Ruth Galloway series - would be unputdownable and that I would whip through it in a couple of days!
There are two archaeological digs going on in Ruth Galloway's part of Norfolk and she has an interest in both. One is a Roman dig near the village of Swaffham where Ruth meets up with a passing acquaintance, archaeologist Max Gray, from Sussex, who is heading the dig. The second is in Norwich where a children's home is being demolished to make way for luxury appartments. The dig there has discovered the skeleton of a child under a doorway and Ruth, being a forensic archaeologist, is called in to investigate.
Foul play is suspected in the case of the skeleton and DCI Harry Nelson is called in to head the case. He and Ruth have a recent history, despite the fact that he is married with teenage daughters. It's awkward because Ruth has a secret that she is reluctant to divulge for a while.
The children's home is investigated and the elderly catholic priest who used to run the place found and interviewed. But it seems the home was a happy one and the staff kindly and supportive. Then it's discovered that before the house was a children's home it was owned by the Spens family, one of the sons of which is doing the new build. Some digging into their family history is required and Ruth and the police take this on. Things become complicated as Ruth struggles to keep her secret while events turn nasty at her isolated home beside the saltmarsh. Someone is prowling around at night and it seems as though, once again, her life might very well be in danger...
If anything I think this second book was even better than the first. Ruth is the same independent woman, who doesn't conform to female stereotypes at all. But her life has moved on and it's quite rivetting following events and the way in which she deals with things. Her relationship with Harry is still very complicated and tentative and I like the way the author doesn't try to sugar-coat their problems or create a 'happy-ever-after' scenario.
Apart from Ruth and Harry, Griffiths has created some excellent characters; the new-age Cathbad, permanently clad in his purple cloak and nutty as a fruit-cake, but a genuine friend to Ruth; Shona, Ruth's promiscuous best friend whose relationship with Ruth took a bit of a battering in the previous book; and Ruth's born-again Christian parents whose reaction to Ruth's secret is tragically funny. I love them all, to be honest. I'm even warming to Harry's wife, Michelle. In fact, that's one excellent thing about this series... the author has gone in for shades of grey rather than black and white. Her characters have faults and foibles just as in real life and Griffiths uses humour to describe them rather than being overly judgemental and superior. Perhaps *that* is what is so appealing about the books? I honestly don't know, I just know that I adore the two books I've read so far and can't wait for more!