Recent Events

Friday, 14 February 2014

‘The Outcast Dead’ by Elly Griffiths

Published by Quercus, 
6 February 2014. 
ISBN: 978-0-85738-890-2

 Crimes against children add a tug at the heartstrings to any mystery novel; the real-life disappearance of a small boy, extensively covered on TV while I was reading, gave Elly Griffiths’s  new novel an extra layer of poignancy.

The Outcast Dead is the sixth in a series which has developed into one of the most unusual and engaging in the ‘forensics’ sub-genre. Historical and contemporary mysteries run in tandem, with protagonist Ruth Galloway, a forensic archaeologist, as the sometimes tenuous but always convincing link between them.

This time the suspicious death of a toddler runs alongside Ruth’s exploration of the mystery surrounding a sinister 19th century baby farmer, hanged for child murder, for a TV documentary – which allows Griffiths to bring in some colourful supporting players to populate a TV crew.
The suspicious death soon takes a back seat when living children start to disappear. Griffiths shows her cast of regular characters at their best and worst. Sensible DS Judy is both compassionate and distraught; down-to-earth, married  DCI Nelson is floored by a lack of evidence, and jealous of Ruth’s growing friendship with a historian. Graceless DS Clough shows not only uncharacteristic sensitivity but also unprecedented tolerance.

Ruth Galloway herself is a delight: a real, flawed, overweight 40-something woman, confident and uncertain in equal measure depending on the circumstances. It’s impossible not to warm to her, and admire her as she juggles single motherhood, career and a range of normal human dilemmas and emotions, occasionally dropping the ball as we all do.

Ruth’s backstory, linked to that of several other regular characters, is what draws you into the series and keeps you itching to read the next to see where the author will take them next. But each new volume has its own, well-crafted plot. In this case the hunt for one in particular of the missing children is edge-of-the-seat stuff.

Add to all this a layer of something not quite of this world (even the introduction of a psychic, which can so easily become an easy way out for a lazy author, is woven in so skilfully that it is in no way a cheat or cop-out) and descriptions to die for of the big-skied, bleakly beautiful Norfolk landscape, and the result is something above and beyond the usual run of crime novel. If you haven’t discovered this series yet, you’re missing a treat.
Reviewer: Lynne Patrick

Elly Griffiths is the author of a series of crime novels set in England’s Norfolk county and featuring forensic archaeologist Ruth Galloway. The first in the series, Crossing Places, earned a good deal of praise both in Griffiths’ native country, England, and in the U.S. The Literary Review termed it “a cleverly plotted and
extremely interesting first novel, highly recommended.  Since then Elly has written five further novels featuring forensic archaeologist Ruth Galloway, The Janus Stone, The House at Seas End, A Room Full of Bones, Dying Fall. The Outcast Dead is her latest book is

Lynne Patrick has been a writer ever since she could pick up a pen, and has enjoyed success with short stories, reviews and feature journalism, but never, alas, with a novel. She crossed to the dark side to become a publisher for a few years, and is proud to have launched several careers which are now burgeoning. She lives on the edge of rural Derbyshire in a house groaning with books, about half of them crime fiction.

1 comment:

  1. I absolutely love this series. I am up to book 5. Great recurring characters-real people with flaws and good parts. I highly recommend this series, but be sure to start with the first book and read the rest in order.