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.

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