The Crossing Places

by Elly Griffiths

The exciting beginning to a captivating crime series featuring quirky, tart-tongued archaeologist Ruth Galloway as she investigates a child's bones found on a nearby beach, thought to be the remains of a little girl who went missing ten years before.

  • Format: eBook
  • ISBN-13/EAN: 9780547443171
  • ISBN-10: 054744317X
  • Pages: 320
  • Publication Date: 01/05/2010
  • Carton Quantity: 1

About the book

The first entry in the acclaimed Ruth Galloway series follows the "captivating"* archaeologist as she investigates a child's bones found on a nearby beach, thought to be the remains of a little girl who went missing ten years before. 


Forensic archeologist Dr. Ruth Galloway is in her late thirties. She lives happily alone with her two cats in a bleak, remote area near Norfolk, land that was sacred to its Iron Age inhabitants—not quite earth, not quite sea. But her routine days of digging up bones and other ancient objects are harshly upended when a child’s bones are found on a desolate beach. Detective Chief Inspector Nelson calls Galloway for help, believing they are the remains of Lucy Downey, a little girl who went missing a decade ago and whose abductor continues to taunt him with bizarre letters containing references to ritual sacrifice, Shakespeare, and the Bible. Then a second girl goes missing and Nelson receives a new letter—exactly like the ones about Lucy. 


Is it the same killer? Or a copycat murderer, linked in some way to the site near Ruth’s remote home? 


*Louise Penny

About the author
Elly Griffiths

ELLY GRIFFITHS is the author of the Ruth Galloway and Brighton mystery series, as well as the standalone novels The Stranger Diaries, winner of the Edgar Award for Best Novel, and The Postscript Murders. She is the recipient of the CWA Dagger in the Library Award and the Mary Higgins Clark Award. She lives in Brighton, England.

Waking is like rising from the dead. The slow climb out of

sleep, shapes appearing out of blackness, the alarm clock

ringing like the last trump. Ruth flings out an arm and

sends the alarm crashing to the floor, where it carries on

ringing reproachfully. Groaning, she levers herself upright

and pulls up the blind. Still dark. It's just not right, she tells

herself, wincing as her feet touch the cold floorboards.

Neolithic man would have gone to sleep when the sun set

and woken when it rose. What makes us think this is the

right way round? Falling asleep on the sofa during

Newsnight, then dragging herself upstairs to lie sleepless

over a Rebus book, listen to the World Service on the

radio, count Iron Age burial sites to make herself sleep and

now this; waking in the darkness feeling like death. It just

wasn't right somehow.

 In the shower, the water unglues her eyes and sends her

hair streaming down her back. This is baptism, if you like.

Ruth's parents are Born Again Christians and are fans of

Full Immersion For Adults (capitals obligatory). Ruth can

quite see the attraction, apart from the slight problem of not

believing in God. Still, her parents are Praying For Her (capitals

again), which should be a comfort but somehow isn't.

 Ruth rubs herself vigorously with a towel and stares

unseeingly into the steamy mirror. She knows what she

will see and the knowledge is no more comforting than

her parents' prayers. Shoulder-length brown hair, blue

eyes, pale skin - and however she stands on the scales,

which are at present banished to the broom cupboard -

she weighs twelve and a half stone. She sighs (I am not

defined by my weight, fat is a state of mind) and squeezes

toothpaste onto her brush. She has a very beautiful smile,

but she isn't smiling now and so this too is low on the list

of comforts.

 Clean, damp-footed, she pads back into the bedroom.

She has lectures today so will have to dress slightly more

formally than usual. Black trousers, black shapeless top.

She hardly looks as she selects the clothes. She likes

colour and fabric; in fact she has quite a weakness for

sequins, bugle beads and diamanté. You wouldn't know

this from her wardrobe though. A dour row of dark

trousers and loose, dark jackets. The drawers in her pine

dressing table are full of black jumpers, long cardigans

and opaque tights. She used to wear jeans until she hit

size sixteen and now favours cords, black, of course.

Jeans are too young for her anyhow. She will be forty

next year.

 Dressed, she negotiates the stairs. The tiny cottage has

very steep stairs, more like a ladder than anything else. 'I'll

never be able to manage those' her mother had said on her

one and only visit. Who's asking you to, Ruth had replied

silently. Her parents had stayed at the local B and B as

Ruth has only one bedroom; going upstairs was strictly

unnecessary (there is a downstairs loo but it is by the

kitchen, which her mother considers unsanitary). The

stairs lead directly into the sitting room: sanded wooden

floor, comfortable faded sofa, large flat-screen TV, books

covering every available surface. Archaeology books

mostly but also murder mysteries, cookery books, travel

guides, doctor-nurse romances. Ruth is nothing if not

eclectic in her tastes. She has a particular fondness for children's

books about ballet or horse-riding, neither of which

she has ever tried.

 The kitchen barely has room for a fridge and a cooker

but Ruth, despite the books, rarely cooks. Now she

switches on the kettle and puts bread into the toaster,

clicking on Radio 4 with a practised hand. Then she

collects her lecture notes and sits at the table by the front

window. Her favourite place. Beyond her front garden

with its windblown grass and broken blue fence there is

nothingness. Just miles and miles of marshland, spotted

with stunted gorse bushes and criss-crossed with small,

treacherous streams. Sometimes, at this time of year, you

see great flocks of wild geese wheeling across the sky,

their feathers turning pink in the rays of the rising sun.

But today, on this grey winter morning, there is not a

living creature as far as the eye can see. Everything is

pale and washed out, grey-green merging to grey-white

as the marsh meets the sky. Far off is the sea, a line of

darker grey, seagulls riding in on the waves. It is utterly

desolate and Ruth has absolutely no idea why she loves

it so much.

 She eats her toast and drinks her tea (she prefers coffee

but is saving herself for a proper espresso at the university).

As she does so, she leafs through her lecture notes, originally

typewritten but now scribbled over with a palimpsest

of additional notes in different coloured pens. 'Gender and

Prehistoric Technology', 'Excavating Artefacts', 'Life and

Death in the Mesolithic', 'The Role of Animal Bone in

Excavations'. Although it is only early November, the

Christmas term will soon be over and this will be her last

week of lectures. Briefly, she conjures up the faces of her

students: earnest, hard-working, slightly dull. She only

teaches postgraduates these days and rather misses the

casual, hungover good humour of the undergraduates. Her

students are so keen, waylaying her after lectures to talk

about Lindow Man and Boxgrove Man and whether

women really would have played a significant role in

prehistoric society. Look around you, she wants to shout,

we don't always play a significant role in this society. Why

do you think a gang of grunting hunter-gatherers would

have been any more enlightened than we?

 Thought for the Day seeps into her unconscious,

reminding her that it is time to leave. 'In some ways, God

is like an iPod …' She puts her plate and cup in the sink

and leaves down food for her cats, Sparky and Flint. As

she does so, she answers the ever-present sardonic interviewer

in her head. 'OK, I'm a single, overweight woman

on my own and I have cats. What's the big deal? And,

OK, sometimes I do speak to them but I don't imagine

that they answer back and I don't pretend that I'm any

more to them than a convenient food dispenser.' Right

on cue, Flint, a large ginger Tom, squeezes himself

through the cat flap and fixes her with an unblinking,

golden stare.

 'Does God feature on our Recently Played list or do we

sometimes have to press Shuffle?'

 Ruth strokes Flint and goes back into the sitting room to

put her papers into her rucksack. She winds a red scarf (her

only concession to colour: even fat people can buy scarves)

round her neck and puts on her anorak. Then she turns out

the lights and leaves the cottage.

 Ruth's cottage is one in a line of three on the edge of

the Saltmarsh. One is occupied by the warden of the bird

sanctuary, the other by weekenders who come down in

summer, have lots of toxic barbecues and park their 4 °-

4 in front of Ruth's view. The road is frequently flooded

in spring and autumn and often impassable by midwinter.

'Why don't you live somewhere more convenient?' her

colleagues ask. 'There are some lovely properties in

King's Lynn, or even Blakeney if you want to be near to

nature.' Ruth can't explain, even to herself, how a girl

born and brought up in South London can feel such a pull

to these inhospitable marshlands, these desolate

mudflats, this lonely, unrelenting view. It was research

that first brought her to the Saltmarsh but she doesn't

know herself what it is that makes her stay, in the face of

so much opposition. 'I'm used to it,' is all she says.

'Anyway the cats would hate to move.' And they laugh.

Good ol...


The Saltmarsh, a mystical place, provides the stunning backdrop for a new mystery series.Ruth Galloway is an overweight 40-ish forensic archaeologist living happily and quietly with her two cats in a Saltmarsh cottage when DCI Harry Nelson calls on her to establish the age of some bones found on a lonely beach. Nelson has never given up the search for Lucy Downey, taken from her parents’ home 10 years ago and presumed dead. But these bones, to Ruth’s delight, are those of an Iron Age child ritually buried. Despite their disparate backgrounds, the tough cop is sufficiently impressed by Ruth’s calm professionalism to show her a series of taunting letters he’s received over the years, presumably from the killer. She’s struck by the use of biblical and literary quotations and some arcane archaeological knowledge. The Iron Age find brings interest from both the university where Ruth teaches and her former mentor Erik Anderssen. The dig they worked together at the Saltmarsh now provides a shoal of suspects for Nelson. Reputed magician Cathbad, Ruth’s former lover Peter, her friend Shona and Erik were all around at the time. When one of Ruth’s cats is killed and left on her doorstep and another child goes missing, she’s sucked even deeper into the challenging and terrifying hunt for the truth.A winning debut. Aficionados may guess the killer early on, but the first-rate characters and chilling story are entrancing from start to finish. - Kirkus Reviews


Issue: November 15, 2009

The Crossing Places.

Griffiths, Elly (Author)

Jan 2010. 304 p. Houghton, hardcover, $25.00. (9780547229898).

Nearing 40 and overweight, forensic anthropologist Ruth Galloway is content with her life, teaching at the

University of North Norfolk and living in a cottage on remote Saltmarsh with her two cats. When DCI

Harry Nelson enlists her help in identifying the bones of a child unearthed in the marsh, he anticipates

closing the case of five-year-old Lucy Downey, snatched from her bed 10 years earlier. But Ruth confirms

that the bones date from the Iron Age, an exciting find that recalls memories of a dig led by her mentor,

Erik, at which she met her former lover, Peter. Impressed with Ruth, Nelson shares his file on the missing

child and calls on her when another little girl goes missing, putting Ruth herself at risk. Griffiths combines

elements of archaeology, mythology, and even ornithology with the foreboding mood of the marsh. The

result is an atmospheric mystery with a pulse-pounding climax and starring an oh-so-human protagonist

who deals with life realistically. A knockout start for a series that should have broad appeal across the

crime genre, from thriller fans to lovers of slightly edgy cozies.

— Michele Leber (Booklist)


Dr. Ruth Galloway lives on the remote English beach of Saltmarsh and teaches archeology at a small local university. When a child's bones are found on a beach nearby, DCI Harry Nelson calls Galloway for help. He thinks they may be those of a missing child from a ten-year-old cold case that involved bizarre letters mentioning rituals and sacrifices. But the bones turn out to be nearly 2000 years old. Then another child vanishes, and Galloway stays on the case. More letters turn up, and these pull Galloway deeper into the hunt and into real danger. VERDICT Crime solving and anthropology have gone hand in hand through other successful mystery series such as those by Erin Hart and Aaron Elkins; Griffiths's debut stands well with them. Both Nelson and Galloway are captivating characters, and Griffiths's story is strong, well plotted, and suspenseful, leaving the reader eager for more adventures on the windswept Norfolk coast. Highly recommended.—Susan Clifford Braun, Aerospace Corp., El Segundo, CA  - Library Journal