Have you ever read a book that is absolutely adored by many, only to find yourself bored out of your mind? This happened to me while listening to Crocodile on the Sandbank by Elizabeth Peters. This series is wildly popular and the blurb was so promising. Unfortunately, this series just isn’t for me. Maybe I’m too lowbrow.
Positives: The strong, feminist aspects of Amelia Peabody. The Egyptian setting. Light humor. Amelia Peabody is a fantastic name.
Negatives: So little mystery. Fluffy romance.
Amelia Peabody, that indomitable product of the Victorian age, embarks on her debut Egyptian adventure armed with unshakable self-confidence, a journal to record her thoughts, and, of course, a sturdy umbrella. On her way to Cairo, Amelia rescues young Evelyn Barton-Forbes, who has been abandoned by her scoundrel lover. Together the two women sail up the Nile to an archeological site run by the Emerson brothers – the irascible but dashing Radcliffe and the amiable Walter. Soon their little party is increased by one – one mummy, that is, and a singularly lively example of the species. Strange visitations, suspicious accidents, and a botched kidnapping convince Amelia that there is a plot afoot to harm Evelyn. Now Amelia finds herself up against an unknown enemy – and perilous forces that threaten to make her first Egyptian trip also her last.
Book: Crocodile on the Sandbank | Author: Elizabeth Peters | Published: Blackstone Audiobooks; December 28th, 2000 | Format: CDs
Source: Library | Rating: 3 out of 5
The Janus Stone by Elly Griffiths picks up just a few months after The Crossing Places. ** Spoiler ** Ruth Galloway is pregnant with Detective Harry Nelson’s child. She is committed to raising the child on her own since Detective Nelson is happily married with two daughters.
In this installment, Ruth finds herself involved with two archaeological digs. One of the digs takes place on the site of a former children’s home. A developer is in the process of tearing down the house and turning the site into apartments, but the requisite archaeological dig unearths the skeleton of a young girl. The bones are first thought to be those of a 1970s runaway from the children’s home, but a filling in the girl’s tooth proves the skeleton more likely died in the 1950s. After she examines the bones, someone begins to frighten Ruth by leaving items, such as a dead bird and Ruth’s name in blood, on the site of the second dig that Ruth is involved in. These items cause Ruth great distress.
The big mystery surrounds the identity of the skeleton. Interspersed with the main story are chapters written from the point of view of the murderer. The murderer is well educated in history and mythology. In fact, both Ruth Galloway novels have integrated mythology and history into present day stories. In The Janus Stone, Janus is referenced as the god of beginnings and transitions. Janus acts as a gatekeeper, which includes doorways. The girl’s skeleton is found under the doorway to the home. Thus, the archaeologists think that the child may have been a sacrifice to Janus.
The Janus Stone is a good read, but I recommend starting with The Crossing Places. Many of the characters and events from The Crossing Places are referenced in the second novel. At the end of The Janus Stone, there is a teaser for the third novel, The House at Sea’s End. The first few chapters are promising. Minor characters are revisited and a sea setting is prominent. The saltmarsh environment is a large part of what drew me to this series so I will definitely return to this series when it is released in the United States.
Thanks to Houghton Mifflin Harcourt for providing me with an e-galley, via NetGalley.
Book: The Janus Stone | Author: Elly Griffiths | Published: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt; January 21, 2011 | Format: e-Galley | Source: NetGalley
Rating: 4 out of 5
The Crossing Places by Elly Griffiths is the first book in the Ruth Galloway series. I had been planning to read this one for a while, but I was reminded to read it with the recent acquisition of an e-galley for The Janus Stone, which is the second book in the series. I must commend myself for actually beginning with the first book in a series for once!
The Crossing Places takes place in a wet and marshy area of Norway, England. Archaeologist Ruth Galloway is asked to identify some bones that a detective believes may belong to a young girl who has been missing for ten years. Ruth judges the bones to be approximately 2000 years old – not those of the missing girl. Despite the bones being unrelated to the detective’s case, Ruth finds herself intrigued by both Detective Harry Nelson and the missing girl. Another child has gone missing in recent months and Detective Nelson believes that the cases could be connected. He confides to Ruth that he has been receiving letters that reference ancient rituals and sacrifices, taunting him for not finding the missing girls.
I usually like forensic and archaeology-centric mysteries and this series is no exception. I wish there had not been so many references to Ruth being overweight. I realize that it helps develop her character, but does her weight really matter that much? Alternatively, I really enjoyed the setting of a rainy saltmarsh. I am in Texas and it has been incredibly hot and dry. The Crossing Places felt like a nice, rainy escape. And the book ended with a great cliffhanger. I am excited that I have the next Ruth Galloway novel ready to go. I just have to finish one other book first!
A few additional writers with forensic anthropology/archaeology-based mysteries spring to mind: Erin Hart, Beverly Connor, Simon Beckett, Kathy Reichs, Aaron Elkins and Jefferson Bass. Are there any other authors that I absolutely must read in this genre?
Book: The Crossing Places | Author: Elly Griffiths | Published: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt; January 5, 2010 | Format: Hardcover
Source: Library | Rating: 4 out of 5