Ancient Circles, Ancient and Modern Bones

When I was in undergraduate school, I gave considerable thought to majoring in sociology with an idea that I would like to go into archeology. The idea of studying the ancient past, learning about cultures that preceded ours, exploring how people on the earth advanced held great appeal for me. Of course, what I didn’t consider at the time was the requirement that you spent most of your time outdoors, often in uncomfortable conditions, frequently getting covered in dirt and dust.

Now, anyone who knows me well knows that doesn’t sound like me. The running joke at our house is how much of a marshmallow I am. Camping for me is a budget hotel/motel and roughing it is when they don’t have a pool. I do make the exception once a year when we travel to a state park and stay in a cabin, but even then it has central heat and air, a fully equipped kitchen and indoor plumbing.

As I’m sure you’ve figured out by now, becoming an archeologist or forensic scientist or anything along those lines was not a career for which I was destined. Fortunately I figured out a better career path long before I got my degrees. Still, there is part of me that is fascinated with archeology as long as I can intersect with it from the comfort of my own home. That was recently the case in reading THE STONE CIRCLE by Elly Griffiths. The book takes place in and around an archeological dig on the coast at the site of a henge. While the book was fiction it still provided me with a taste of ancient cultures and the mystery of the henges throughout England and that was all my imagination needed.

As I read the book my mind took me on trips through some of these ancient sites i England, exploring and being fascinated with their mysteries. How did they come to be? What was their purpose? Are they supernatural places or just places that some ancient culture created using a method that has long since passed out of our active understanding. Archeology, my style and all without getting dirty or being uncomfortable in the least.

It’s a book I would recommend even if you don’t have an interest in archeology. For my complete review, read on:

THE STONE CIRCLE by Elly Griffiths is one of the most atmospheric novels I’ve read in a while. In this, the eleventh in the series featuring archeologist Ruth Galloway and DCI Nelson, sometimes lovers who have gone their separate ways. This novel brings back memories and some characters or their relatives from earlier novels in the series. DCI Nelson has received anonymous letters in the past and is receiving similar letters now. When he follows the letters to a local archeological site he encounters two bodies, one modern, one ancient along with a son of former archeologist he and Ruth encountered in an earlier book.

As DCI Nelson and Ruth go about trying to identify the bones of the modern victim (Nelson) and the ancient ones (Ruth), the are constantly reminded of earlier cases and times when they were thrown together. Ruth and Nelson have a child together although he is married to Michelle who is in the last few weeks of her pregnancy as the novel begins. This pregnancy also goes back to an earlier case with the identity of the father being a question that will be settled once the baby is born.

The mystery of who killed the modern day victim as well as who buried her in the henge are the chief questions law enforcement are trying to answer. While Ruth and Nelson are wrapped up in those questions they are also being pulled into the past as they deal with Lief, the son and physical copy of Erik, a prominent character from an earlier novel. Are previous difficulties being reincarnated? Is he as innocent and well-meaning as he appears to be?

In addition to solving the murders, Nelson is called in on the kidnapping of a child who has ties to modern day victim. As he rushes to solve this case along with the child’s murder Ruth is drawn back into the past by Lief. To what end? Are his intentions for the good or not? The questions continue to mount as Ruth and Nelson are constantly banging up against each other then bouncing off to their separate lives.

All these questions, along with possibly as many as a dozen more await the reader as they make their way through the book. While the mystery for this book is self-contained, with so much of the information being tied to previous cases, the reader’s enjoyment might be enhanced by reading the earlier books first. My thanks to NetGalley and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt for providing me with an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.

So, have I awakened the archeologist or the mystery lover in you? Then go grab a cup of coffee, or tea if you prefer, and indulge yourself all from the comfort of your own easy chair. As always, happy reading.