Quercus, £12.99. Order for £11.69 (free p&p) from the Independent Bookshop: 08430 600 030
The Janus Stone, By Elly Griffiths
Thursday 18 February 2010
Funny it's so difficult to find a doctor on call when pathologists seem to be queuing up to sort you out once you're dead. Here comes another one, but Ruth Galloway, expert in Roman remains, is a special creation. She isn't a sexless zombie in a starched white coat; she is really, messily, female. And she doesn't always get things right: her pregnancy is a big surprise. It's even more of a surprise to her puritanical parents.
Ruth and her lover, DCI Nelson, are believable beings at the centre of Elly Griffiths's archaeological mystery. Her pregnancy adds to the intensity of her feelings when the skeleton of a child is discovered under the doorway of an old house: a burial that might have been common in antiquity, when entrances were under the guardianship of the two-headed god, Janus, and the even more fearsome Hecate, to whom such sacrifices were made.
But this infanticide could have occurred nearer modern times, when the building was occupied by a children's home. Two small inhabitants were reported to have run away, leading to suspicions about the charismatic local priest in charge. Ruth lends her expertise to the search for the missing children, and finds a potential murderer amid a heady brew of classical lore and psychopathic revelations. The Iron Age excavation on which she is working is run by an archaeological prima donna (authentically depicted). Also hanging around the trenches are the former lord of the manor and a New Age spiritual adviser who turns out to be remarkably practical beneath his encumbrances of cloak and necklaces.
The setting is enticingly atmospheric: very flat, Norfolk may be, but it also has mysterious fogs and waterways that lead to a gripping chase, excellently interwoven with the Latin quotations and carbon-dating. Meantime, Ruth and her DCI face the big decisions: will she continue with her pregnancy, will he tell his wife? I closed the book wanting to know more about them as well as feeling the satisfaction that a really intelligent murder story can give.
game of thrones reviewWarning: spoilers
North London meets The Exorcist in eerie suburban drama
Filming to begin on two new series due to be aired on Dave from next year
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Lucy Hawking: Stephen Hawking's daughter writes impassioned open letter to Katie Hopkins about rights of disabled people
- 2 How the language you speak changes your view of the world
- 3 Russell Brand backs Ed Miliband: 'You gotta vote Labour'
- 4 General Election 2015: 14-year-old boy asks Nick Clegg – 'can you kill Katie Hopkins?'
- 5 Uploading pictures to find out how old you are gives Microsoft the right to post them wherever they want
Over 50,000 families shipped out of London boroughs in the past three years due to welfare cuts and soaring rents
EU asylum policy is 'a direct threat to our civilisation', says Nigel Farage
The Rothschild Libel: Why has it taken 200 years for an anti-Semitic slur that emerged from the Battle of Waterloo to be dismissed?
In defence of liberal democracy
General Election 2015: UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power, Labour warns
Schools forced to act as 'miniature welfare states' with teachers buying underwear and even haircuts for poor pupils