Click here to read reviewer Luan Gaines' take on The Crossing Places or here for Mike O'Lenick's review.
Life, death, and the ebb and flow of windswept Norfolk salt marches, a low sweeping bank of sand, gravel, mud, dunes and mudflats, is the setting for Elly Griffiths' exhilarating first novel.
Here archaeologist and forensic expert Ruth Galloway lives and works. Her life is turned upside-down when she is called upon by Detective Chief Inspector Harry Nelson to investigate some bones found on the salt marches near the local bird sanctuary.
At first glance, the bones appear to be a child’s, but they look old and are brown and discolored. When Ruth examines the site more closely, she finds a torque and Iron
Age necklace. She comes to the conclusion that the body is actually that of a young girl from the
Stone Age, between six and ten. She was certainly pre-pubescent and perhaps part of a ritual killing.
Nelson is positive that the discovery is somehow linked to the disappearance of Lucy Downey, a girl who vanished ten years ago. Nelson had always been
certain that Lucy was buried somewhere near the Saltmarsh. When Nelson tells her that another child, Scarlett Henderson, has gone missing, a series of letters sent during the Lucy Downey case suddenly become critical.
Soon more letters surface that look to be from the same person who may be the murderer.
These typewritten missives contain vital clues, composed of bits from the Bible and Norse legends, the home of the Gods and land of fire. The last letter, sent ten months after Scarlett vanished, contains a cryptic clue: “she lies where the earth meets the sky.”
Nelson and Ruth are increasingly perplexed at the case and frustrated by all the hours of investigation. Then, almost at once, they have a suspect: a man called Cathbad, rumored to have magical powers. With his long dark hair tied back in a ponytail and his purple cloak fluttering, his story is one of life on a commune where he
is free to exhort his followers to stand firm against the police and the archaeologists.
Other characters surround Ruth, and she attempts to find solace with her two cats, Flint and Sparky. Steadily, however, her life becomes under siege, especially as she begins to suspect her former teacher Erik Anderssen. When Peter, her ex-boyfriend, unexpectedly turns up, Ruth finds herself sucked evermore into a web of personal and professional worries.
Still, however much she swims in a miasma of contradictions, loyalties and memories, Ruth remains spunky and likeable to the last.
The ritual landscape is of the sea and land, of the haunted and uncanny places that lie between the two where the salt marches of Norfolk add a vivid sense of time and place. Meanwhile, Griffiths ties up the threads of her complicated tale of murder and mayhem.
Old animosities surface and missing persons are finally accounted for. Throughout, Griffiths' heroine remains spirited and tough-minded, always
a joy to experience as Ruth finally realizes that only she holds the key to the identity of the killer.