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Griffiths, Elly - 'The Janus Stone'
Paperback: 320 pages (July 2010) Publisher: Quercus Publishing Plc ISBN: 1849162298

Builders demolishing an old children's home in Norwich find the skeleton of a child, without a skull, buried under a doorway. Ruth Galloway, forensic archaeologist, and DCI Harry Nelson (who know each other from a previous book) are called in to find out if it's a Roman ritual sacrifice or a more recent murder. As these investigations progress Ruth finds herself subject to disturbing harassment, both at home and on the archaelogical site.

The basic concept of person B being annoyed at person A for finding a body person B thought was well hidden isn't startingly original, but this is a superior example of the sub-genre. The archaeology is neatly fixed into the story, without being forced, though it's not certain how sustainable that will prove if the series is long running.

The characters are interesting and believable, which is important as it looks as if the series is going to be character-led, or, at least, feature a lot of the characters' personal lives. The archaeologists are just a little bit more spiritual than the ones I've met.

The story works well, with a nice balance between menace and ordinary life, though I did feel that one character kept popping up exactly at the right time. The climax is particularly satisfactory. If there's a weakness it's the short diary entries - taken from something found at the end of the book and mentioned only in passing - that appear in italics every so often. They're obviously supposed to provide clues but the earlier entries are written in a way which just serves to give false anachronism alarms.

It looks like this is going to be a good series, especially if Ruth Galloway stays competent and independent.

Read another review of THE JANUS STONE.

Rik Shepherd, England
November 2010

Details of the author's other books with links to reviews can be found on the Books page.
More European crime fiction reviews can be found on the Reviews page.

last updated 17/04/2011 11:17