There’s a wonderful new series out there from author Elly Griffiths, who lives in Brighton on the English coast with her husband and two children. The fact that her protagonist is so far from herself let’s us see this author’s talent immediately.  The Crossing Places introduces forensic archeologist Dr. Ruth Galloway. In her late thirties, Ruth and her two cats live in a remote area of the Norfolk coast on a marshy beach. with few neighbors. Griffiths has given us a Ruth who is overweight and considers herself a spinster. Combined with her wry humor and rare insight into people, readers are inspired to like her right from the start.

Ruth’s quiet life is about to change. Detective Chief Inspector Nelson enlists Ruth’s aid when a child’s bones are found on the beach. Nelson believes they are the remains of Lucy Downey, a child missing for over ten years. The unsolved case that has haunted him begins to haunt Ruth, and an unlikely alliance is formed. Along the way we meet Ruth’s colleagues at the college where she lectures, learn about her family and her mentors from the past, and meet her previous lover. The story is strong and suspenseful, with Nelson receiving taunting letters from Lucy’s abductor, containing bizarre allusions to the Bible and ritual sacrifice. Then a second child goes missing, and search intensifies.

The Crossing Places is atmospheric, with a distinct sense of place and layers of plot that have me already ordering the second in the series, The Janus Stone. A third is due out shortly. With first-rate characters and a chilling climax, the richness of this novel portends a distinctive addition to crime fiction.