The Janus Stone (Ruth Galloway 2) by Elly Griffiths

Revisiting the past…

😀 😀 😀 😀

When the bones of a child are discovered under a doorway in a building about to be demolished, Ruth Galloway is called in in her capacity as a forensic archaeologist to determine how old the bones are. She suspects they’re not ancient and Nelson, as detective in charge, starts working on the hypothesis that they must have been placed under the doorway during the period the building was being used as a children’s home, run by the Catholic church, just a few decades ago. This assumption is strengthened when he learns that two young children went missing from the home – a brother and sister – and have never been heard of again. Ruth’s part in the story isn’t over once she’s finished analysing the bones however. It appears that someone is trying to frighten her, but who? And why?

This is the second book in the Ruth Galloway series, which now runs to twelve books and is still going strong. I started in the middle, as usual, read several as they came out and eventually gave up on the grounds that I felt the series had run out of steam, but before then I had acquired a couple of the earlier books, including this one. Since it’s quite a while since I last read one, I wondered if the old magic could be rekindled, and to a certain extent, it was.

The same things irritated me as had always done – the clunky use of present tense, Ruth’s obsession with her weight, the romantic tension (or lack thereof) of Ruth’s and Nelson’s never-ending non-relationship, the plot-stretching that is always required to make it seem in any way normal for an archaeologist to be so involved in a police investigation. Add in that in this one Ruth is pregnant, so we’re treated to all the usual stuff that goes with that, including much vomiting – always a favourite feature 🙄 – and I must admit I seriously considered giving up after the first few chapters.

However I decided to power on through the pain barrier and eventually found that the things I used to enjoy about the series were still enjoyable too. The plot is interesting and well done, and the element of Ruth being deliberately frightened has some nicely spine-tingling moments. There’s the usual humour amid the darkness, and the old regulars are all there – Ruth’s friends and colleagues, Nelson’s team, and, of course, Cathbad the druid. There’s also a new man on the scene who looks as though he might provide a new romantic interest for Ruth – Max Grey, a fellow archaeologist, unmarried and handsome to boot!

The plot involves elements of Roman mythology. It did rather niggle me that Ruth was apparently ignorant of this subject and unable to read even straightforward Latin inscriptions, since I find it hard to believe that anyone teaching archaeology at university level in the UK could possibly have avoided learning something about these, given that so much British archaeology is of Roman remains. But it allows Griffiths to tell the reader about the mythology via the device of Max, a Roman expert, explaining it all to Ruth.

Elly Griffiths

The setting adds a lot to this series – Ruth’s isolated cottage looking out over the salt marshes of Norfolk provides plenty of room for spooky occurrences, and Griffiths gives a real feel for the brooding beauty of the place, and for some of the myths and superstitions attached to it.

So overall I enjoyed this return visit to a past favourite, although not quite enough to make me want to read the other ones that I’ve missed.

* * * * *

(This was the winner of the 3rd People’s Choice poll and hurrah! I actually enjoyed and finished it! Well done, People – you’re clearly getting better at this… 😉 )

Book 15 of 20

(This wasn’t on my original 20 Books list but I’m falling behind, so it is now! Just….
DON’T TELL CATHY!!)

Amazon UK Link
Amazon US Link

57 thoughts on “The Janus Stone (Ruth Galloway 2) by Elly Griffiths

  1. At least you were able to finish a People’s Choice this time around, though it sounds as though it was a bit touch and go for a while. I think the irritating things would outweigh the aspects that worked for me, so I’m not especially drawn to this one, but I’m glad you enjoyed it.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Haha, I’m coming rapidly to the conclusion that the older books in my TBR got left behind because my subconscious was telling me I’d gone off the idea! But I did enjoy this after a shaky start. I much prefer Griffiths’ other series though, and her standalones.

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  2. I’m now on my third switch for the 20 Books of Summer list, so I won’t be telling Cathy anything!

    An archaeologist not knowing anything about Roman Britain would irritate me too. I read a book earlier this year in which a WWII historian had never even heard of Bletchley Park, which I found similarly difficult to believe.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Haha, that’s what I love about the 20 Books – the final lists never match the original ones!

      Good grief, yes, that’s probably even more ridiculous! I can see the temptation to let characters tell each other things as a way of letting the reader know, but it really has to be done more believably…

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  3. I have to admit I like this series a lot, FictionFan. I admit, though, that I do get annoyed with Ruth and Harry’s relationship. But I really like the mysteries themselves – very well-crafted, in my opinion. And the sense of place is so well done in these books. I’m glad you found some things to like.

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    • I’m sure it’s really the present tense that kills these ones for me – it irritates me so much that I then find myself getting picky about everything else. But I do enjoy her other series and her standalones, so I’m better sticking to them than moaning about poor Ruth!

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  4. Ooo. Glad you enjoyed it, despite the present tense, the will they-won’t they, and the pregnancy . . . uh … stuff. I also would be irritated at the lack of information about Roman mythology–a subject we had to learn starting in fifth grade!!!! And Latin was practically a requirement at my high school (though I skipped out on it).

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    • Yeah, I was the same and although kids don’t get taught Latin now, except in posh high schools, I suspect they still would have in Ruth’s time, and any school would have encouraged someone planning to do archaeology at Uni to learn at least basic Latin. But despite my pickiness, I did enjoy this one overall.

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  5. I’ve read several in this series, but somehow I missed this one. I think the things that irked you would irk me as well (especially having to re-live pregnancy, ha!). And the bit about Ruth not knowing mythology and Latin puzzles me, though perhaps this Max character could be worth such a forced plot?!

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    • I always groan when a character gets pregnant – my unmaternal soul can’t be doing with all that swollen ankles and morning sickness stuff! The Latin thing was annoying since it felt all wrong, and could easily have been handled in a different way that would have worked better. Max… hmm, well, let’s just say Ruth’s seems to have pretty bad taste in men… 😉

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  6. My long term involvement in practical archaeology at an amateur level (though not for twenty years) makes me slightly incredulous because of the caveats you raise, but though not everyone can be au fait with all periods of British history, the Roman period tends to be a staple of many undergraduate courses as far as I know. Still, I’d be curious to read this for the pluses you mention!

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    • Yes, I just can’t imagine anyone going through a degree in archaeology without having to do at least a few classes on the Romans. It could have been easily done differently by having Ruth explain to a non-archaeologist rather than making her look like a fraud! But I get very picky about this series because it’s done in my pet hate present tense – people who don’t mind that tend to enjoy these a lot. for me, her other series and standalones work better.

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      • Yes, present tense rarely works for me either — short passages maybe, to heighten tension, or for a stream of consciousness — but there are good reasons why past tense is used for over 99% of narratives, such as a sense of control in terms of plot direction and a feeling that there may be a conclusion. Present tense is just too open ended for me.

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        • It’s been such a fad in crime fiction over the last few years too – the main reason I’ve been retreating back to reading Golden Age stuff instead. It’s so clunky and unnatural, and very few writers are actually good at it.

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  7. I’m glad you (sort of) enjoyed reading this one. I’ve found that if I give it some time, I’ll often go back to a series if I really enjoyed the early books. Though my last outing with this series left me fed up, I’m sure I’ll read another. I really need to read her stand-alone that I have tagged in my library app. (one you highly recommended) Hmmmm… do those tagged in my library app count for the TBR? No, I don’t think so. And sadly, when I read from there, it’s not doing my real TBR any good! *sigh* First world problems.

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    • If my audiobooks count then your library app books definitely do!!! 😉 Yes, I recently went back to Stuart MacBride’s Logan McRae series after a long break and enjoyed it, but it doesn’t always work. I did enjoy this one overall, but I think really I’m done with Ruth. I’ll stick to her other series and her standalones in future. Is that The Stranger Diaries? If so, it would be perfect for spooky season… 😀

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    • I can’t remember the ending properly, but I remember enjoying the book a lot, especially the Edwardian ghost story inside it, which I felt was a great pastiche of the style. I also enjoy her other series – the Stephens and Mephisto books, set in 1950s Brighton and happily not written in the present tense!

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  8. You’re right, I wouldn’t think too many archaeologists would be involved in murder investigations. It’s hard to imagine stretching that premise out to a whole series. Around here, archaeologists need to be present for construction in certain areas but I’ve never heard of it turning into anything that involved the police!

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    • It’s always a problem with amateur detectives in contemporary fiction – modern police forces don’t normally let amateurs meddle in their cases! Yes, they always check building sites here too, but the number of fresh corpses they find is small… 😉

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    • I much prefer her other series – the Stephens and Mephisto books set in 1950s Brighton. She does that setting excellently too, but her main character is a policeman which makes much more sense.

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    • It’s odd that it hasn’t been made into a TV series – the setting alone would make it worth watching. Time passes quite quickly between books though – the child of the pregnancy is probably about ten by now, so maybe that makes it harder to do…

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  9. It sounds like the book improved the further you read which is always a plus! I didn’t realise that there were so many books in this series but I’ve liked a few past books by this author so might look into the series.

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    • She’s an incredibly prolific author – she must publish at least two books a year, maybe three sometimes. Loads of people love this series, and the fact that she held my attention for as long as she did even though they’re written in my pet hate present tense says something about the overall quality!

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