The Crossing Places - Elly Griffiths
I thought I'd like this novel much more than I did. It's not terrible. Indeed, it has some good features. However, I found it disappointing and predictable overall.

First the good points. The central protagonist, Ruth Galloway, is an academic forensic archeologist. Her occupation has plenty of potential for an absorbing crime fiction series and the narrative contains some interesting discussion about matters archeological. In addition, the location - the salt marshes of Norfolk in the east of England - is suitably atmospheric and a welcome change of pace from the more usual urban or village settings of English crime fiction.

However, the not-so-good aspects of the novel overwhelm the more positive ones. Griffiths is by no means a terrible writer but her prose is on the clunky side. This is partly because she chose to tell the story in the third person and in the present tense, which is tricky to get right. Hilary Mantel pulls it off in [b:Wolf Hall|6101138|Wolf Hall (Thomas Cromwell, #1)|Hilary Mantel||6278354], but then Mantel is a rather exceptional writer. The device is much less successful here. The characterisation is also not particularly successful. Ruth Galloway, while a likeable protagonist, is a walking cliché: a late thirties, overweight, single woman whose cats are her substitute children. And before readers of this review comment that I'm the one creating a cliché about cats being a substitute for children, Griffiths has her character specifically state that this is the role the cats play in her life. The supporting characters have little depth and are also very much on the cliché spectrum. Another real weakness with the novel is the predictability of the plot. Even though I'm generally not good at solving fictional crime before the big reveal, I easily identified the villain from virtually his first appearance.* The villain is so obvious that I didn't even feel clever about having done so.

This is the first novel in a series. I'm not going to completely dismiss the possibility of reading the second in the series, as I liked Ruth, the details of her occupation and the setting, but I won't be making it a priority and I doubt I'll go any further than number 2 unless the quality of the writing improves markedly. This one is possibly better than just okay, but it doesn't quite hit the heights of good, so the rating comes in at 2-1/2 stars.

*I appreciate that revealing the gender of the villain is a spoiler, but given the details of the plot, the villain was inevitably going to be male. Here's another spoiler provided as a warning to sensitive readers. The victims are children and a cat. While the narrative is not especially gruesome or graphic, that may be a deal-breaker for some.