RogerBW's Blog

The Crossing Places, Elly Griffiths 06 August 2022

2009 mystery. Ruth Galloway is an archaeologist specialising in bones, living on the edge of a salt marsh in Norfolk. Ten years ago a child went missing; now another one has vanished…

All right, 2018's The Stranger Diaries is a more accomplished book, but I enjoyed this. Ruth is in her thirties, unmarried, overweight, not unhappy exactly but perhaps having some doubts about having focussed on career over all else; she's determined not to conform to standard expectations just for the sake of a quiet life.

When she bought the cats her mother asked her straight out if they were 'baby substitutes'. 'No,' Ruth had answered, straight-faced. 'They're kittens. If I had a baby it would be a cat substitute.'

But then DCI Harry Nelson shows up, first to ask her about a body that might be that of the second missing child, later to consult her when letters purportedly from the kidnapper/killer seem to be going more into the culture of the local Iron Age settlements than he understands. We get both viewpoints, in a way that (for me at least) doesn't distract from either of them: they each see themselves and each other, and the contrasts between observations of the same person provide a fair bit of meat while one's waiting for more criminality to happen. (The whole book takes on a grey and sometimes foggy air that's a good match for the setting.) I often complain about multiple viewpoints causing frustrating; this book gets it right.

The mystery writer's necessary economy of characters shows up rather plainly at times: I realise it's an isolated setting, but it's a short drive from King's Lynn, and I felt at times that too many of the same people were showing up in different roles. It works, though, and even if I was comfortably able to pin down most people's narrative jobs well before the truth was revealed, the journey to that revelation was still an enjoyable one.

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See also:
The Stranger Diaries, Elly Griffiths

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