Monday, January 11, 2010

Great new mystery title from UK

I recently read a wonderful new mystery by Elly Griffiths called The Crossing Places. (see Staff Picks). I really enjoyed the characters, the setting and the plot and hope very much that it will become a successful series in the future. It is also an Indie Next Top 20 pick for January 2010. I managed to chat with the author recently and asked her a few questions about the book.


Q. The Crossing Places is set in a fictional place in the county of Norfolk on the east coast of England. It is a beautiful, wild but eerie character in the story. Why did you decide to create this setting for your first mystery and how did the setting shape the story?


A. Well, although the Saltmarsh itself is fictional, it's based on a very real place on the Norfolk coast, a bird sanctuary called Titchwell Marsh. My aunt lives in Norfolk and we go there on holiday every year. She has a boat and I have many happy memories of cruising along the Norfolk Broads (rivers) whilst my Aunt Marge (to whom the book is dedicated) told us wonderful ghost stories.


Q. Ruth Gallagher is a very likeable protagonist. What inspired you to make her an academic forensic archaeologist? How much have you had to learn about archaeology in order to make Ruth's knowledge credible?


A. I'm so glad you like her! I don't know where she came from, she really just appeared in my head fully formed, but I do feel that I know her well and I feel very protective towards her. My husband is an archaeologist so I have drawn on his knowledge for the book. He also introduced me to a wonderful female forensic archaeologist who was a great inspiration.


Q. You have taken the relationship between Ruth and the detective, Inspector Nelson, into new territory in the genre as far as I am aware. I can't help but think that this in itself is going to be interesting as events unfold. Without having to issue a "spoiler alert", what can you tell us about where this relationship is heading?


A. Well, it's complicated, as they say on Facebook. Nelson and Ruth will always be bound together but Nelson loves his wife and Ruth loves her life as a single woman. In The Janus Stone (the sequel to The Crossing Places) feelings run high as they investigate the discovery of a child's bones found buried under a Victorian manor house.


Q. Can we expect a whole series of Ruth Gallagher mysteries? If so, when can we expect the next one?


A. The Janus Stone will be out in the US next year. I'm already halfway through the third book, tentatively entitled The House At Sea's End. I don't think I will run out of plots - I've got so many archaeological periods to choose from: prehistoric, Roman, medieval, Victorian...The third book is about the Second World War.


Q. Elly Griffiths is a nom de plume. Why have you chosen to write these books under a different name and what made you turn your hand to writing a mystery?


A. My real name is Domenica de Rosa which, ironically, sounds exactly like a pseudonym. I had already written books under this name and my agent felt that, as this was a new genre, I needed a new name. Eleanor Griffiths is actually my grandmother's name. I'm half Welsh and half Italian - a heady mixture! I've always loved mysteries. My first book, written when I was 11, was a whodunit. I think it was called The Hair of the Dog and I think the vicar did it! Then, one day, when we were walking across Titchwell Marsh, my husband mentioned that prehistoric people thought that marshland was sacred because it is neither land nor sea. They saw it as a kind of bridge to the afterlife - neither land nor sea, neither life nor death. The idea for The Crossing Places came to me in that instant...


Q. Who are your favourite mystery writers/books?


A. I love Victorian novels and my favourite writer of all time is Wilkie Collins. For me, the best, and first, detective story is The Moonstone. However, like Ruth, I'm also a fan of Ian Rankin and I love CJ Sansom's books. He lives near me in Brighton but I've never met him...


I wish you and Ruth a long and successful career.


Thank you for your interest. Elly.

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