I have read the 82nd book for the book challenge. It was The Crossing Places: A Ruth Galloway Mystery by Elly Griffiths.
Ruth Galloway is a forensic archaeologist. She lives in the Saltmarsh near Norfolk and teaches at the University of North Norfolk. Her specialty is bones. DCI Harry Nelson calls her in to have a look at a body that has been uncovered in the Saltmarsh. Ruth estimates that it is from the Iron Age. It may have been a ritual sacrifice. She marks the site of the burial for future excavation. Nelson is hoping that the body would have been that of a young girl who had gone missing ten years earlier. But then Nelson gets word that another young girl has gone missing.
Ruth goes back to her life at the University. Her mentor Erik is coming from Norway on sabbatical. She is excited about that. Then she gets a call from Nelson. He would like her help on the missing girl case. He has letters he would like her to read. There are letters from the first case and one letter from the recent case. Ruth reviews them. There are many Biblical references, archaeological references, literary references, mythological references. She categorizes all these references. She suggested they talk to a man that she knew from ten years ago when she worked on a hedge excavation on the Saltmarsh with Eric. He goes by the name Cathbad, but Eric knows his name. Nelson gets his real name from Eric. It is Michael Malone and he is a lab assistant in the Chemistry Department at the University. Ruth and Nelson go to visit him. He is a druid. He could certainly have written the letters. He knows the references to mythology. His fingerprints are on the letters. They take a sample of his writing. It is a poem to a young man who Nelson arrested for killing a police officer in Manchester. Cathbad is arrested. Another letter about the second missing girl is received. Ruth’s old boyfriend Peter also arrives to complicate matters.
Ruth is mulling over the clues in the letters. She takes a map of the Saltmarsh and burial site of the body they found and hedge site and the girl’s home and plots the lines and thinks she knows where the girl’s body is buried. She and Nelson go to the hedge and dig and find Scarlet’s body in the center of the hedge. They are both devastated. Nelson and DC Judy Johnson go to tell the family.
That night, Nelson comes to Ruth’s home. He has a drink but doesn’t want to go home. They find solace in one another that night. No one can understand what they have both been through. The experience has brought them together.
Ruth goes to her door one night to find her cat with its throat slit. She is hysterical. She calls Nelson. He thinks someone is sending her a message. There have been police cars at her house. Someone knows she has been working with the police. Ruth is very upset. Nelson takes the cat’s body to see if he can get DNA or fingerprints.
At a New Year’s party, Ruth meets her neighbor David, the bird warden. Since she is going to be away for a few days, she asks him to feed her other cat. He agrees, reluctantly. He doesn’t like cats because they kill birds. He tells her to stay away from one blind on the marsh. He also saves her when she is out on the marsh and it is dark and she loses her way.
Cathbad is released from police custody. From Cathbad, Ruth discovers that Shona and Erik had an affair during that summer ten years ago. She also deduces that her friend Shona helped Erik write the letters. Erik admits to writing the letter to throw the police off the track of the real killer because he hated Nelson because he arrested Agar, Erik’s student, who later killed himself in prison. Cathbad delivered the letters.
Ruth agrees to leave and go to her parents’ home after receiving threatening texts. But before she can leave, Erik shows up at her cottage and chases her out onto the marsh. While she is running away from Erik, she stumbles onto the blind. She hears a voice calling “help me.” She finds a trap door and finds a teenage girl in too small clothes. She knows this is the missing girl from ten years ago. She helps the girl out and hears footsteps and sees a yellow coat. It is David, her neighbor, the bird warden. The girl screams and tries to run. Ruth realizes that David is the real kidnapper/murderer. She tries to run with the girl but she knows that David knows the marshes too well. But then she hears the sound of an owl. David turns and runs toward the sound of the owl and is lost in the marsh. The girl has made the owl sound. Erik too has been lost in the marsh.
Ruth returns to her work at the University. But there is a complication. She is now pregnant.