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Is it just me, or is this book criminally under the radar? I’m not even sure where I heard about it or how it ended up on my list, but it’s certainly not one I’ve seen bandied about much. I didn’t even have any immediate plans to read it—I used an Audible credit on it out of desperation one night when the two other books I planned to read next in audio turned out not to be available in the format (#firstworldproblems).

My sweet spot when it comes to mysteries and thrillers is somewhere between cozy and brutal, which in my experience can be a pretty narrow target to hit. I am weirded out by books that are too cutesy or jokey about death, but I also can’t stomach outright gore. So my ideal mysteries are the kind that take crime seriously, but don’t wallow around in the bloody details. As I flipped through my TBR, desperately searching for anything that might fit the bill, I reread the synopsis of The Crossing Places and thought, yeah, that sounds about right. And it totally was!

Ruth Galloway is my jam. I don’t know when I’ve more closely identified with a character. She’s an antisocial nerd, a bit overweight, much more confident in her field of expertise than interactions with people. Her work as an archaeologist leads the police to seek her help on a case dealing with bones found in a salt marsh near her home. The bones turn out to be thousands of years old, and not those of a missing girl, but Ruth gets sucked into the case anyway, partly out of her own interest and partly by forces out of her control. While I’m a little miffed that I hadn’t heard of this series before now, I’m tickled that there are eight other books for me to enjoy, no waiting required.

Find it at your library!

Frankly, I’m surprised I had the patience for this book, because I am not lately a reader who appreciates slow-moving, thoughtful, atmospheric writing. Yet I was propelled toward the ending somehow, almost against my will. And when the quiet, reflective resolution came, I was strangely satisfied, even though part of me was hoping for a thunderclap of a finish. What sorcery is this?

The Wildling Sisters is a story of a summer heat wave that brought with it something weird and sinister, and how the twisted and tragic events of that summer reverberate into the future. It’s about two families living in the same estate in the English countryside half a century apart. It’s not, as I initially thought, a ghost story. There’s a creepy house, but it’s not haunted except by sad memories. And it’s only barely-kinda-maybe a murder mystery. Mostly, it’s about sisters and the bonds between them, which proves to be something that hasn’t changed much through the years.

So I guess you could say I grudgingly recommend this one. It won me over despite my typical preferences and expectations. Maybe the arrival of fall is making me contemplative. Maybe the book is just that good. The more I ponder it, the more I’m leaning towards the latter.

I should note that a sizeable portion of my enjoyment came from the quality of the audio version, fantastically read by two very distinct but equally talented narrators. It’s no trouble to keep track of alternating timelines when the narrators trade off; the voices signal to you which year you’re in. And of course, it goes without saying that British accents are dreamy AF.