Saturday, 8 February 2014

The Outcast Dead by Elly Griffiths

I know a lot of people are going to greet a new Ruth Galloway novel with delight, and I'm delighted to be able to say that, in The Outcast Dead, Elly Griffiths has done it again. Resoundingly so. I stayed up half the night to finish it.


Ruth is involved in a dig in Norwich Castle, and has just discovered a body that she thinks just might be that of a famous child-murderer, Mother Hook. Her instinct is to be cautious, as ever, but her loathsome head of department is courting television (and taking the credit). An appearance on a TV programme called "Woman Who Kill" is just the sort of thing he'd love, and exactly the sort of thing Ruth will treat with considerable suspicion. Though it does help that there's an attractive historian involved. Meanwhile, Nelson is investigating the case of a woman who may have killed her young children. He thinks she's guilty but the first two deaths were accepted as cot deaths and it's only with the latest that suspicions have been aroused. It's a tense situation, and so easy to be seen as crass and insensitive -- not that that really troubles Nelson, but it provokes a lot of hostility around him. Meanwhile, their Druid friend, Cathbad, is still in Lancashire, and both are missing him, though Nelson's not about to admit it, of course.

My difficulty in reviewing this book is that I don't want to give anything away! There is so much going on with all the regular characters, who have all become real people over the course of six books -- even the people you don't like make welcome returns. After all, that's what real life is like. There are some recent introductions, too -- a new police colleague causes tensions within Nelson's team, as you'd expect. And yet again, Griffiths builds up to an absolutely nail-biting ending.

There is some first-rate crime writing around these days, and this series is one of the best. For readers like me, who prefer the background detail of an investigation, and want believable and likeable characters who actually exhibit a degree of personal growth across both the individual book and the whole series, these are perfect. I don't want to spend most of a book inside the head of someone so unpleasant that reading makes me uncomfortable, nor do I want graphic depictions of extreme violence. I want to care about the people I'm reading about. And with Elly Griffiths, I know I will.

I read The Outcast Dead courtesy of NetGalley.


16 comments:

  1. Can't wait to read this, must see if the library has it on Monday.

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  2. I have never even heard of this author before. That I remember anyway!

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    1. I think you'd like the series, Kailana - Ruth's a great character.

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  3. I'm looking forward to this very much. Thanks for the review.

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  4. I like this series too. And I agree with your last paragraph - I've stopped reading several books recently because of the nasty images they throw up in my brain. I can do without that.

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    1. I'm glad you agree with me, Margaret, I sometimes feel a bit of a wimp about it. But I do feel there's enough real-life nastiness, without reading it "for fun".

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  5. So true what you say there about not wanting to spend most of a book inside the head of someone unpleasant, or graphic depictions of extreme violence, but instead you want to read about people whom you come to care about.
    So far, I have not read any of Elly Griffiths' books, but they are on my (mental) list.

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    1. I think if I felt that being inside a killer's head made me understand them in a way that would be useful, I might feel more inclined towards it. But it's only an author's interpretation, however well done it may be. And since I mainly read for pleasure, I'll continue to steer clear of such books.

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  6. I generally don't read modern crime fiction, but your tempting reiew makes me almost want to. There's something appealing in that cover too :)

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    1. I think her books will last, Ali, in a way that many modern crime novels won't. Good plots and even more important, good characters.

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  7. Thanks to your review I've now read this (also from NetGalley) and loved it. Thank you!

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  8. I love this series so much! I am so delighted that the next one is out and is that good. Please come out here soon - I just checked - March 11!!! hardcover, so it may either be library or I'll just break down and buy it. They are so original, and I love Ruth and her conflict over her daughter and Nelson.....all the characters are realistic, and even when I don't agree with them, I am fascinated by them. I love the Norfolk setting by the sea, too. I honestly wish I could live in the house next to Ruth, though I don't drive so don't know how I'd get around. Good review, and now I'm counting days....I expect the book will be coming home with me rather sooner! lol

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    1. I'd rather like the house next to Ruth's too, but would have the same problem as you, Susan. Mind you, there seems to be an uncomfortable number of murders focused there :-) But I think I'd like to meet Cathbad, too.

      Glad you won't have too long to wait for it. And it's a series you won't regret owning (I'm gradually adding the earlier ones to my Kindle).

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