When the skeleton of a young child is found on the site of a former children’s home in Norwich, forensic archaeologist, Dr Ruth Galloway is called in to assist. What makes it even more macabre, is that the remains are headless – is this a case of murder or is it a ritual sacrifice? When he discovers that two children went missing from the home, DCI Harry Nelson begins an investigation into a crime that threatens the safety of someone very close to him.

‘The Janus Stone’ is the second of Elly Griffiths’ novels to feature Ruth Galloway and is just as good as the first. In ‘The Crossing Places’, we were introduced to a fiercely independent woman who enjoyed her solitary life in the Saltmarsh. With the discovery of her pregnancy, however, we are seeing a woman coming to terms with something she never thought would happen and a more maternal side of Ruth is emerging. The relationship between Ruth and Nelson is fascinating, as is the character of Michelle, Nelson’s wife. Although she only plays a minor role, her interest in Ruth’s pregnancy is sure to cause problems in later books.

The theme of childhood death runs through ‘The Janus Stone’, and the controversial issue of child abuse in Catholic-run orphanages is also dealt with. Thankfully, the author manages to write about these topics in a sensitive yet informative way. She also shows great subject knowledge when writing about archaeology, explaining it in a way that makes it easy to understand.

I was pleased that the culprit turned out to be someone who was not an obvious choice and that, happily, the character of Cathbad has evolved into someone much more likeable!

The next book in the series awaits!