Sunday, 11 April 2010

The Janus Stone

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!

12 comments:

DesLily said...

gads you really are reading fast! These sound good but I am not adding anything to my wish list if I can help it!... it's bad enough the next mary russell comes out this month! *big sigh*... lol

Cath said...

Hey Pat! Yeah, I'm on a reading roll at the moment. Even have 3 books I haven't reviewed and probably won't now unless I do a 3 in 1 post. But as our grandaughter is here next week I can't see that happening.

Another new Mary Russell out next month? I need to check to see where I am in the series and get going again. I think The Moor was the last one I read. I also don't think I have the next book so will have to order that or check the library.

Kay said...

Cath, wasn't this book great? I totally agree with you that it was even better than THE CROSSING PLACES. I also agree with your analysis of the shades of gray for the characters, their morals, their decisions. Very strong characterizations in Elly Griffiths' writing. I can't wait for book 3, can you?

Cath said...

Kay: oh wow, such a good book. She really knows people but doesn't write them unkindly - just honestly. I must check to see how long before book 3 is out. Mustn't expect miracles but would love it *now*!

DesLily said...

wow you are behind w/ mary russell if you are reading them in succession! Get crackin' woman! hahahaha

Cath said...

Pat: I am reading them in succession and had no idea just how behind I am! There are 10 books and I've only read 4. So I got the next one out - O Jerusalem - ready to read. Tell the truth it'll do for my next historical challenge book. Thanks for the reminder!

Danielle said...

I can't wait to read the next book! I really liked Crossing Places and the author really does suck you into the lives of her characters--how interesting that Cathbad has turned up again. You did a great job of writing about the book without giving any 'details' away....

Cath said...

Danielle: well I expect you know the 'detail' I mean and we hear a lot more about it in this instalment. You won't disappointed when you get around to it.

Val said...

Cath I've never heard of either title or autor but from your description I'd like to read it right now... fortunately for chores I don't have it within reach (drat and double drat) but I'm going to chase it down :0)

Val said...

or even author (can't spell or type)

Diane said...

I have not heard of this book but it sounds really good to me; thanks Cath.

Cath said...

Val: Good luck in finding the books, I think they're pretty much freely available in US libraries.

Diane: Both books are excellent and well worth grabbing if you spot them anywhere.