This book seems like it has everything: Iron Age sacrificial burials! Dangerous saltwater marshes! Academics drawn into police investigations! Bird enthusiasts! New Age mysticism! Scary Biblical passages! Gruff but sensitive detectives! Murder! Cats! Bones! All of the things that would normally draw me into the depths of a novel- there was a promise of being sucked out to sea in the dangerous salt marshes, but I was left on shore squinting into the distance with an annoyed “is that it?” stuck in my craw.
The Crossing Place reads like all of the above-mentioned points of interest were fed into one of those bots that devours text and spits out new creations. Elly Griffiths took the ingredients of a proper spooky story and, instead of bothering to write anything coherent, used predictive text. This book was illogical, confounding, dreadfully obvious, and often anger-inducing. I engaged in a great deal of roaring, teeth gnashing, and eye rolling- but I had to get through. I had to see how this mess was going to further implode, as after about 30 pages I had no hope of any sort of satisfying conclusion. Forget satisfying conclusions, there were no satisfying characterizations!
Our heroine, Forensic Anthropologist Dr. Ruth Galloway, could have been fantastic. She’s an expert in her field, and she lives in cabin against the inhospitable edges of coastal Norfolk. She lives nearby a former archeological dig site, where she and her team dug up an ancient tidal hendge a decade back. She is contacted by the police after they find bones near the dig site while searching for a missing girl. Are these more relics, or are they modern remains? Sounds cool, right? Sounds like maybe a mix of In the Woods and Ghost Wall? WRONG!
At first I was drawn to Ruth; she’s independent, successful at work, happy in single life, dedicated to her cats, separated from her antagonistic family, and open about being fat. But wait… something seems off. There is a lot of discussion around Ruth’s weight; she can only dress in certain ways, she and others frequently comment on how “out of shape” she is, she and others comment on how she is “too big” for her small spaces…all relatable things…but then.
We find out how much she weighs…
I do not want to equate worth with weight, nor do I want to lean into standards of ableism, nor do I want to discount any individuals feelings around their own bodies…
BUT SHE WEIGHS 168 POUNDS!
This is some Bridget Jones level bullshit! This woman is destined to a life of judgement, bulky clothing, and ridicule because she weighs LESS THAN THE AVERAGE WEIGHT OF A PERSON OF HER HEIGHT AND AGE?! SHE CAN WEAR STRAIGHT-SIZED CLOTHING?!
Reader, I was FURIOUS. All of my sympathies evaporated, so I had absolutely no fucks left to give as she fell deeper into the “mystery” at hand after making inexcusably dumb choice after choice. I don’t know how Ruth Galloway ties her shoes in the morning without accidentally starting a fire with her laces and burning the whole continent to the ground. It would be a different topic all together if the voice of the author was judging Ruth from afar, but the statements are made in-character by the character. Ruth has poor judgment and makes bad decisions. If one of your beloved cats was left with a slit-throat on your doorstep would you LEAVE THE CATDOOR OPEN AND ALLOW YOUR REMAINING CAT TO COME AND GO INTO THE NIGHT? No! You would not! Would you leave your own windows and doors open? NO, YOU WOULD NOT. If you were asked to provide expert input around a possible murder would you TELL THE DETAILS OF SAID CASE TO EVERY PERSON THAT YOU MEET? Ruth cannot wait to blab details- many of which are alleged – to friends, coworkers, people she hasn’t seen in a decade, and people at a party that she meets for the VERY FIRST TIME. Would you, a person who is happy being single and does not want to be in a relationship, SLEEP WITH A MAN THAT YOU KNOW IS MARRIED, BEFRIEND HIS WIFE, AND SECRETLY KEEP HIS BABY AFTER ONE ROMP? Ruth is an absolute idiot, and it is astounding that she does not get murdered several times throughout the events of the book. Not a spoiler, this is somehow the first in a SERIES. YIKES!
Speaking of time, it is all over the place. I have no idea how much time lapsed between events; sometimes a page is a few seconds, sometimes a second covers a week. MORE THAN ONCE a sentence ends with characters running out of things to say to each other, then standing perfectly silent for minutes. MINUTES! TWO MINUTES of standing stock still, in an office, just two people staring at each other, is an eternity. I am not surprised by the lack of attention to time, as the lack of attention to language was bonkers as well. I am clearly not a writer, but even I could come up with something better than “what he means to do she doesn’t know, but one look at his eyes decides her”. Excuse me while I try to catch my brain as it drips out of my ears.
The final act was so particularly dreadful that I will not even continue with this series out of morbid curiosity. Avoid this book at all costs. Don’t be tempted by what seems like a potentially good time!
Do not read this book. If you refuse to heed my warning, then stop reading now, as here there be spoilers:
Don’t worry, Ruth is far from the only idiot on the case. Every single person that she interacts with, from best friends to people she has not seen in a decade, are all involved in the crime(s) at hand. We find this out almost as we meet them. Villiany is broadcast from afar. Ruth is straight-up told the secrets that they carry, which she reports to her police pal Harry, who then…DOES NOTHING WITH THESE FACTS. Ruth is allowed to blab, accessories to murder roam free, there is now follow up or follow through. You have proof that someone is fabricating evidence, and they don’t even get a knock on the door. A girl who has been missing for ten years is found behind held captive in a marshy dudgeon, and the LEAD DETECTIVE who has been working her case for a decade says, after she is understandably skittish around people in general, “that bastard ill-treated her, I’m sure of it” to a group of astonished professionals. REALLY? THE GIRL THAT WAS KIDNAPPED AND HELD CAPTIVE IN A WET CAVE BY A MANIAC WAS ILL TREATED?! If this is how simple crime-solving is, then I am become Sherlock Holmes, destroyer of worlds.