Book Reviews

Review Rating

With the October 2004 review, we began rating the books on the basis of one to four trowels; 
one trowel= don’t bother, to four trowels= run right out to your local book store and buy the hard cover!

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The Stone Circle by Elly Griffiths

Reviewed on: January 1, 2020


Houghton Mifflin Harcourt:  Boston
2019 (HC)

In this, the eleventh entry in the outstanding Ruth Galloway mysteries, the reader encounters echoes of the very first entry in this series, The Crossing Places.  Detective Chief Inspector Harry Nelson and forensic archaeologist Ruth Galloway receive arcane letters that harken back to children missing decades earlier—letters that allude to the poetry of T.S. Eliot, the Bible and Shakespeare, originally penned by a man dead for more than ten years.  Similarly, a second wooden henge is discovered by archaeologists on the same Saltmarsh where a younger Ruth had excavated the first such Bronze Age site.  But archaeologists refer to this second henge as a “stone circle,” because a stone cist or grave is found in the center of the site, and Ruth is called in to excavate the ancient burial of a young woman.  It is weirdly uncanny that DCI Nelson’s mysterious letter urges him to go to the stone circle.  To add to the synchronicity of events, Ruth discovers that Leif Anderssen, the son of Erik Anderssen, who was her mentor and principle excavator on the first henge project, and who met his tragic death on the Saltmarsh, is now the lithic expert on the latter day stone circle dig.

A second set of remains, this time the modern disarticulated bones of a young girl, are unearthed near the Bronze age burial and once again Ruth must apply her forensic skills to help Nelson and his staff solve a cold case dating back to 1981 when Margaret Lacey, then age 12, disappeared at a neighborhood street party celebrating the royal wedding of Prince Charles and Princess Diana.  Just as archaeological technique plays a major role in Ruth Galloway mysteries, so do the intricacies of police investigation, and it makes for fascinating reading to follow Nelson’s staff as they puzzle through the cold clues dating back some thirty five years to solve the mystery of Margaret Lacey’s murder.  This is a complex and satisfying mystery with a wide array of plausible villains, but as with any first-rate mystery writer—and Elly Griffiths is certainly first rate—the real villain turns out to be the least expected.  Four trowels for The Stone Circle.

Twenty Years in the Trenches: Archaeology in Fiction

William Gresens, longtime MVAC supporter and volunteer, has been writing reviews of archaeological fiction as MVAC’s book reviewer for twenty years.  In this interview Bill shares how he got started writing reviews for MVAC, how the genre has changed, highlights, and his thoughts looking forward. 

Bill Gresen’s Book Review 20th Anniversary

While Bill's reviews go back 20 years now, his relationship with MVAC goes back more than twice that long! The reviews capture some of the things we enjoy most about Bill-- he's perceptive, methodical, a clear thinker, and a whole lot of fun! We look forward to this relationship--and Bill's reviews!--continuing for many years to come.

The March 2021 review marks the 20th anniversary of reviews of archaeological fiction.  It has been my pleasure and great fun to while away the hours reading these books—for the most part, at least—and writing the reviews!  My thanks to MVAC allowing me to prattle on and I look forward to the years ahead.

Bill Gresens