Click here to read reviewer Luan Gaines' take on The Crossing Places or here for Michael Leonard's review.
In some mystery novels, specifically those in the police procedural genre, authors rely on clichés to take the place of real character development. After all, many fans are more interested in the plot, right?
In her debut novel The Crossing Places, author Elly Griffiths comes close to formulaic main characters but doesn’t cross the line. The police detective is a gruff man who doesn’t put much credence in things that are supernatural, or even theoretical. He is not, however, a (former or current) drunk who is a shadow of his former self like the typical protagonist in these types of novels. The main female character, an archeologist/professor (and not at all like Indiana Jones) is also somewhat uncharacteristic; she is not a hottie with a complicated love life (at least at first). She is instead an overweight loner who lives in a sparse and bleak setting on the edge of a salt marsh in the UK.
It is in her backyard (nearly literally) where bones are found. The local police ask her help in identifying the remains, as they wonder if they are that of a girl gone missing a decade earlier. They are not. The bones are actually that of a prehistoric female.
For the police, this is a bummer. They would not have been able to solve the case of the missing girl, but at least they could have given her family some closure. Part of the case involves cryptic letters, presumably written by the killer (or abductor) that have many archeological references. That’s something else the police and the archeologist can discuss.
While delving into the letters, the archeologist gets the sickening feeling that the author may be someone she knows quite well. In the meantime, another girl is taken – a girl very similar to the one taken 10 years ago.
Both the geographical setting of The Crossing Places and the cast of characters are small. This means there are no real ‘red herrings’ to throw the reader (or the main characters) off the trail. But, because of this, the final reveal will be easy for astute readers to figure out well in advance.
Despite the predictability, the plot has enough spine-tingling moments and surprises to hold one’s attention. The characters are not so two-dimensional that they are not likable; in fact, a couple of developments in the novel’s last few pages will likely be a source for the sequel, already expected later this year.
Pros: Quick-moving plot with a few ‘a-ha’ moments and unexpected turns; main characters are believable and likable, if a bit flat; setting and archeological background info adds a unique element to the tale.
Cons: The ‘who’ in ‘whodunit’ is pretty obvious, though the ‘how’ and ‘why’ is left hanging on the line.
Bottom Line: The Crossing Places is a good first novel with a mystery-solving duo that has a lot of potential and a developing relationship that will make you anxiously await the sequel. You will also hope their next mystery is a bit more challenging. Recommended? YES!