Click here to read reviewer Michael Leonard's take on The Crossing Places or here for Mike O'Lenick's review.
In an out-of-the-ordinary mystery, Griffith marries a ten-year-old disappearance and a recent child murder to an archeological find in a remote area of England. The Saltmarsh is a meeting place between two worlds, the site of ancient rituals and human sacrifices to appease the gods: “Something deep within us fears what is buried, what we cannot see.”
Living on the edge of this desolate, eerily beautiful place, a bird sanctuary and subject of much interest to anthropologists, Dr. Ruth Galloway, a forensic archeologist at a nearby college, has been seduced by the land, living in a small cottage, only one of three in an unpopulated area. Griffith’s protagonist is a most approachable woman: overweight, unmarried, with two cats and nearly forty years old.
Ruth is deeply disturbed when contacted by Detective Chief Inspector Harry Nelson, who thinks he has found the remains of Lucy Downing, missing ten years in the Saltmarsh. Accompanying Nelson to the site, Ruth discovers that the body is not that of Lucy Downing but rather a two-thousand-year-old find, stirring a great deal of excitement in the scientific community, near a renovated henge of ten years prior. In spite of their discovery, Ruth remains haunted by the specter of little Lucy somewhere out there on the Saltmarsh, her parents never able to bury their child or put her life to rest.
Then, when another child goes missing, Ruth’s scientific curiosity is put aside in an anxious search for the new little girl, Nelson’s investigation aided by Galloway’s insights and professional instincts. The result is shocking, terrifying, and indicative of the complexities of the human psyche as suspects emerge and Ruth comes face to face with true evil.
From the first page, there is an eerie sense of place, the warmth of Ruth’s cottage at the edge of nature’s wildness; the two missing girls and the one found after her two-thousand-year slumber; the nature of myth and religion as it relates to an ancient site of ritual sacrifice; and modern man’s curiosity about the past and the outrages of the present. Ruth’s friendships define her and the quality of a life lived far from big-city chaos, from years-long friends and coworkers to vacationing neighbors and a solitary man who watches over the natural bird sanctuary.
Safely ensconced in an academic life, Ruth is drawn into Nelson’s investigation and a questioning of all she has taken for granted, her heart aching for the families of the two little girls. In a wonderful mix of police work and academia, personalities dominate The Crossing Places, the past melding with the present in a unique and satisfying novel.