Friday, April 23, 2010

The Janus Stone by Elly Griffiths

In The Janus Stone, the bones of a child are discovered under a doorway during the demolition of a Victorian mansion while evidence of the two-faced god, Janus, is unearthed at a Roman site near Norwich. Ruth Galloway, head of the forensic archaeology department at the University of North Norfolk and an expert on bones, decomposition and death, has been called in to give her advice. She wonders if the findings at one site help her get to the bottom of things at the other. She has her hands full with work and Detective Chief Inspector (DCI) Harry Nelson when she discovers that her queasiness has nothing to do with the bones.

I loved this book. It's a perfect blend of mystery and archaeology that will kept me on the edge of my seat until the end. It definitely belongs in the cozy genre, but I'd place it towards the edgier side of things. It's modern and smartly written, rather than cute or quaint (in an old-fashioned sense). Usually it takes me a 10 or 20 pages (sometimes a lot more) to settle in and get comfortable with the writing and characters in a book. Not so with this one. After just a couple of pages, I let out a huge sigh of contentment. I knew it was going to be an enjoyable read.

Even though this book is the second in a series, I believe it can be read as a standalone book. A couple of times, though, I wished I had read the first book in the series, The Crossing Places because the characters spend some time referencing what happened in that case.

I loved all of the information regarding archaeology and the Roman gods and goddesses. It was utterly fascinating. In my early adult years, I briefly considered entering the field of archaeology, but that didn't happen. However, I still love reading about it. Even though I was engrossed in the story, I still managed to mix up the two dig sites a couple of times. Frustrating! I think it would have helped to have a map or other pictorial aid to go along with the story.

Ruth was a great character and my favourite. She was 40-something and overweight to which I can relate. Her staunch opposition to any organization religion was mildly irritating, though. It felt pushy.

This book sort of reminded me of a few books I read by Aaron Elkins, many of which deal with archaeology and anthropology. If you enjoy his books, I'm sure you'll like this one, too.

Highly recommended. I'll definitely be keeping my eyes open for The Crossing Places and any other books Elly Griffiths writes. I love her work.

For more information about this book, please visit the McClelland & Stewart website.

For more information about the author and her first book, please visit Elly Griffith's website.

I'd like to thank those nice people at Random House Canada for this review copy.

The Janus Stone: A Ruth Galloway Mystery by Elly Griffiths, McClelland & Stewart, ©2009. ISBN 9780771035876(Hardcover), 335p.

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