Spade work

The Janus Stone starts with leisurely pace. Bones are found. Forensic archaeologist Ruth Galloway is called. And then ... we spend several chapters pondering the back story of Galloway, her relationship with Harry Nelson, her relationship with her spiritually-certain parents, and revisiting the events of the first entry in this series. Once the focus returns to the mystery, and that is why readers like me picked up this book in the first place, the pace picks up slightly.
With archaeology-based mysteries the first questions are often who died and when. Once that's sorted out the story moves on to a more traditional whodunit. This one isn't going to break new ground in the genre. Ruth Galloway is reasonably interesting but not fascinating. The cast of supporting characters are nicely drawn but none is outstanding. The old "someone is trying to keep the murder a secret by killing the investigator" cliche is trotted out, which left me wondering as it always does why the murderer thinks that will work. The culprit is unmasked and situations are set up for the next installment.

The Janus Stone does show the full effects of being the second in series. Where the first entry can suffer from the author trying to introduce too many characters and back story in too much detail, a second entry can suffer from too much linking to the previous book. In the hands of a master, like Louise Penny, it can inspire the reader to seek out the earlier books but still enjoy the present book on its own merits. Griffiths is a good writer but her links to Crossing Places were less intriguing hints and more, hey, you're reading this out of order. I haven't read the first book but my advice is to start there and avoid the residual guilt.

This is a slightly frustrating book. The writing and characterizations are good but it is too conscious of being an entry in a series. The narrative trudges along like, well, an archaeologist in well-worn wellingtons but it is written in present tense which struck me as at odds with the slow pace. I'm not a fan of present tense narratives - it is rarely warranted and even less rarely works. It's not a showstopper here but it doesn't add anything.

Overall, if you like mysteries of the Bones variety you'll probably enjoy this book. Recommended for mystery fans.

Blonde, Brunette or Beheaded

How did a woman rise from relative obscurity to influence the course of history and become queen of England? That is the question nearly every biography and fictional account of Anne Boleyn seeks to answer. In The Creation of Anne Boleyn Susan Bordo seeks to answer that and a less explored question: how did Anne go from historical figure to cultural touchstone?

Bordo is a cultural studies specialist rather than a historian. She is primarily interested in what Anne Boleyn means to contemporary culture but she grounds that meaning in an understanding of who Anne was. Or, perhaps better put, might have been. Given the paucity of contemporaneous first-hand accounts it is impossible to know what Anne thought or what drove her actions or what was actually said or even whether she was blonde or brunette. This incomplete picture has left room for writers and artists of all types to create Anne as they see her or need her to be to suit their narrative or world view. Bordo explores these shifting images of Anne - the shadows of the real woman, alternately larger and smaller than the long dead queen - to understand what informed and drove these depictions.

For anyone immersed in Tudoriana, this book may feel quirky in its focus: an entire chapter the 1969 movie Anne of a Thousand Days yet nothing on Evelyn Anthony's or Lozania Prole's vastly different conceptions of Anne. The same is true of Boleyn biographies where Joanna Denny's unique take is unexplored. Bordo does not pretend that this is a definitive study of every depiction of Anne Boleyn. You may find your favorites left out but you will find detailed consideration given to The Other Boleyn Girl (book, miniseries and movie) and The Tudors, among others.

I enjoyed this book overall. I found Bordo's historical analysis less compelling (but still interesting) than her cultural analysis. When Bordo brings the two together, such when she reminds readers that we must read Henry's letters to Anne's through the lens of Courtly Love instead of Showtime, this book becomes essential reading. If you know Anne Boleyn only from recent movies and miniseries, this book is a good place to start to learn more about this fascinating woman.