42-year-old Dr. Ruth Galloway is acutely aware of the history, the blood, that has been spilled over the centuries. While resurrection is not possible, she believes in treating the dead with respect. As The Outcast Dead begins, it is early June and she is on the grounds of Norwich Castle. The vicar is leading the prayers for the outcast dead so that those who died forgotten, penniless, in unmarked graves, etc. are remembered. It is an annual event and one that Ruth feels is very important.
It seems more important than ever to honor those who have passed as recently some bodies were discovered at the castle. The deceased were most likely prisoners considering how the bodies appeared when uncovered. Included among the bodies may be the legendary Jemima Green, aka Mother Hook. A child caregiver during Victorian times known for her hook instead of a hand and her lower arm, she was executed after being convicted for murdering one of the children in her care. At the time of her execution, it was thought she might have killed at least 20 more.
The find has drawn the interest of producers of a television show well known for sensualizing such cases. The head of department, Phil Trent, is thrilled with the interest, but Ruth wants no part of that. If she had her way, she would get off the dig as well, but Phil is never going to let her do that. Knowing Phil, it is likely she is going to have to play a role in the television show as well as the dig.
Thoughts about the Mother Hook case make Ruth more protective of Kate than ever before. After everything that has happened in recent years before and after Kate’s birth, she has good reason to wonder if it is time to move from the Saltmarsh she loves to be closer to civilization in some form. Isolation is wonderful, but with a small child in the home, it can also be a dangerous risk.
DCI Harry Nelson is also pondering risk though in a different form. He is the lead investigator on the case of 37-year-old Liv Donaldson. Her child has just passed. What might have been treated as a tragic natural death in the home gets a lot more scrutiny when it is the third child in the family to die. Nelson’s team thinks the whole deal is a horrible tragedy. Nelson isn’t so sure. He has a feeling she did something to cause the death, but other than his intuition, there isn’t any evidence to indicate foul play. Like Phil Trent, Nelson’s boss, Gerry Whitcliffe, loves the publicity and is thrilled to have the media coverage. Like Ruth, Nelson hates the media interest and wants no part of the coverage.
The two story times gradually come together while someone might be copying history thanks to the media attention. Child abduction and the death of children are certainly not easy topics to write about, but Elly Griffiths, makes them part of a far larger tale of mystery, greed, and obsession. The sixth book of the series that began with The Crossing Places is another top-notch mystery.
What really makes this series work, as noted before, are the relationships. Complicated and well-drawn characters that interact and evolve over time as they go about their daily lives drive the reads. Unlike many series where the characters never learn from the past or change in any way despite the experiences they have had, both and a lot more are present in the Ruth Galloway Mystery Series. These characters are about as real as it gets on the printed page.
History, archeology, mystery, and more make this book and series well worth reading. The Outcast Dead, like the others before it, is very good and highly recommended.
The books, in order, and my reviews:
The Crossing Places (Reviewed 12/26/15)
The Janus Stone (Reviewed 11/18/2016)
The House at Sea’s End (Reviewed 12/2/2016)
A Room Full of Bones (Reviewed 12/30/2016)
A Dying Fall: A Ruth Galloway Mystery (Reviewed 2/10/2017)
The Outcast Dead: A Ruth Galloway Mystery
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Hardback (also available in paperback, audio, and eBook formats)
Material obtained via the Plano Public Library System to read and review.
Kevin R. Tipple ©2017