THE JANUS STONE
By: Elly Griffiths
Quercus Books: London
The Janus Stone picks up three months following
the first Ruth Galloway forensic archaeology novel, The Crossing Places
and continues the same high quality story telling and tension-filled drama
found in that initial mystery. Ruth is a middle-aged archaeologist who
teaches at the University of North Norfolk in the bleak but beautifully
barren northern reaches of England and is occasionally called upon by the
police as a consultant when her forensic skills are required.
The story opens with Ruth visiting the excavations at
Swaffham conducted by the appealing University of Sussex archaeologist, Max
Gray. It is a complex dig featuring a Roman villa built over Bronze Age and
Iron Age settlements—and a headless body buried beneath the villa wall.
This macabre yet fascinating find may be evidence of a cult sacrifice to
Janus, the god of doors and openings, or Terminus, the god of boundaries.
Ruth hopes to return to the site—not only because of the archaeological
mystery but also because of undeniable charm of Max Gray.
She is abruptly called upon to consult on a police
inquiry at a site in Norwich. University archaeologists have been called in
to do a contract dig on Woolmarket Street, where a Victorian mansion is to
be developed into apartment flats. The mansion was built over a churchyard,
which may have overlain a Roman site. The developer, Edward Spens, is a
wealthy and influential man within the Norwich community and he does not
appreciate the delays in construction that the archaeologists
require—especially when the skeleton of a decapitated child is found buried
beneath an ornate doorway within the Victorian mansion. DCI Harry Nelson
heads up the investigation for the police and Ruth is asked to glean as much
information about the victim as possible to further the official inquiry.
The arrangement is a difficult one for Ruth as she is carrying the child of
Harry Nelson, a married father of two daughters!
The investigation quickly establishes that the mansion
was used as a children’s home run by the Sisters of the Sacred Heart from
1960 and the police learn that a young brother and sister disappeared from
the home in the early 1970s, never to be heard of again. Could the headless
body beneath the door be that of the little girl missing since 1973? Could
the saintly retired priest, Father Hennessey, be responsible for such a
heinous crime? Or could it be the demented work of the bitter and dying
nun, Sister Immaculata, who seems to know more than she is willing to tell
But the investigation seems to hit a dead-end as Ruth
determines, by employing the tools of forensic dentistry, that the little
victim was born before 1955 whereas Elizabeth Black, the missing girl, was
born in 1968. Further research into the building on Woolmarket Street shows
that the home was owned and lived in by several generations of the Spens
family, including Sir Roderick Spens, the father of Edward, the real estate
developer anxious to get on with the work of building new housing units on
The plot continues to take unexpected twists and turns
as Ruth struggles with the emotional burden of carrying Harry Nelson’s child
at the same time that a very real and present-day danger is stalking her.
The death of the unfortunate little girl in the house on Woolmarket Street
may have taken place more than fifty years in the past, but someone in the
present seems to not want that mystery solved. Was the little girl meant to
be a sacrifice to an ancient god? And is another sacrifice, after all these
years, now again being demanded?
Four trowels for the second Ruth Galloway mystery!
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