The Janus Stone by Elly Griffiths

The Janus Stone by Elly Griffiths
Publisher: Quercus (Hatchette UK company)
Genre: Contemporary, Historical, Mystery/Suspense/Thriller
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Fern

It’s been only a few months since archaeologist Ruth Galloway found herself entangled in a missing persons case, barely escaping with her life. But when construction workers demolishing a large old house in Norwich uncover the bones of a child beneath a doorway—minus its skull—Ruth is once again called upon to investigate. Is it a Roman-era ritual sacrifice, or is the killer closer at hand?

Ruth and Detective Harry Nelson would like to find out—and fast. When they realize the house was once a children’s home, they track down the Catholic priest who served as its operator. Father Hennessey reports that two children did go missing from the home forty years before—a boy and a girl. They were never found. When carbon dating proves that the child’s bones predate the home and relate to a time when the house was privately owned, Ruth is drawn ever more deeply into the case. But as spring turns into summer it becomes clear that someone is trying very hard to put her off the trail by frightening her, and her unborn child, half to death.

It’s been three months since Dr Ruth Galloway and DCI Harry Nelson worked together to solve a gripping crime. Ruth has returned to her normal life as head of the forensic archaeology department and DCI Nelson always has a desk full of other murders to solve. Only this time it’s Ruth who calls in Harry when the skeletal remains of a small child appear to have been buried under the doorway of what used to be a children’s home. Things quickly get out of hand and all too soon events are not a matter of what happened in the past, but what is occurring right now in the present.

I really enjoyed this second book in the Dr Ruth Galloway series – but admit I am glad it’s been a number of months since I read the first book. Overall, I feel it’s a very atmospheric, slightly gothic, murder mystery with a bunch of well-drawn and interesting characters and a gripping plot that moves along at a fast pace. I felt a little odd that the tense the book was written in sometimes jumped from first person to third – I felt this was a little jarring and disjointed but have to admit broadly speaking it actually added to the atmosphere of the book which in itself was a little gothic and tension riddled and jarring. I can’t tell if this was something the author did on purpose or if it just happened to work well, but it’s quite different from books I usually read so became quite noteworthy to me.

I was particularly pleased that most of the book should be perfectly logical to a reader who happens to pick this one up without having read the previous book. While Ruth and Harry do share something of a past it is fairly recent and – more importantly – only superficially linked to this new case and the plotline of this story itself. I feel readers should be able to enjoy and understand everything that occurs in this book without having read the previous one, but I expect in the third or fourth book that will start to become more difficult as Ruth and Harry will (I expect) continue to have more to do with each other and this separation or “stand alone” aspect to each book will become increasingly difficult.

The plot itself was something I found interesting and at times gripping. While I could see some similarities between this book and the previous one, I feel it’s more to do with the archaeology/police sort of cross over than anything lacking in the storyline itself. Speaking personally, I really enjoyed this mixture of science with police work and expect I’ll enjoy it for many books to come. Readers looking for something unique and startlingly different might not find that here. I also feel that should a reader binge the entire series and read a number of these books back-to-back the plot (and perhaps writing style itself) might become repetitive – but I also feel that is true of any author and series, no matter how exceptional.

I feel readers looking for a different style of police procedural book – and in particular one with an interesting archaeology cross over – with vibrant and a good range of characters and a well-paced plot should find this book really fits the bill for them. I greatly enjoyed this book.