Can a book be dark and delightful at the same time? Author Elly Griffiths has just published her second Ruth Galloway mystery, The Janus Stone, set once again amid the grey seas and ever-changing tides of North Norfolk, England, where Ruth makes her home. With her perceptive, witty writing style, Griffiths has again brought her characters to the forefront, and readers will relish their return in a story that scores equally high on the scare and smile charts.

Ruth, who’s a forensic archaeologist, is investigating the remains of a child’s bones, discovered beneath the front doorstep of a turreted Victorian mansion, being demolished by developer Edward Spens to become an improbable “seventy-five luxury apartments” with “spacious landscaped gardens.” Among other tenants, the Gothic structure once housed the former Sacred Heart Children’s Home, but who and what else did it shelter? The original entrance arch, slated to remain standing, reads: Omnia Mutantur, Nihil Interit—“Everything changes, nothing perishes.”

In case you missed the first book (don’t!), Ruth is now three months pregnant, and the father, Detective Chief Inspector Harry Nelson of the Norwich police force, is very much present in this engrossing story that manages to be scary and romantic at the same time. Trouble is, Harry is happily married with two teenage daughters, so the identity of the baby’s father is a secret. But this is not a relationship that Harry, or indeed Ruth, is passing off as just a one-night stand. Instead, deeply drawn to one another, the twosome struggle with how to find a way through a seemingly impossible scenario.

Threading through the storyline are a series of inviting characters, both familiar and new: Ruth’s friend, chemistry lab assistant and sometime druid Cathbad, with his fine sixth sense and flowing purple cape, is front and center here; and there’s the enigmatic and attractive Dr. Max Grey; blue-eyed Father Hennessey; frail Sister Immaculata; friend Shona, with her love affair woes; and a host of ancillaries who add adrenaline, depth and mystery to this remarkable story.

The history surrounding this Victorian property makes for an engrossing archaeological dig, as we uncover layer after layer of intrigue surrounding the old estate’s former occupants. And little by little, too, we’re getting to know more about Ruth and Harry, who are beginning to seem like friends.

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