Friday, January 31, 2014

Elly Griffiths Continues Ruth Galloway Mysteries with The Outcast Dead and...Mother Hook???!!!

'And we ask your abundant blessing, Lord, on these, the outcast dead...'
There is a murmured response from the group gathered on the bank below the castle walls. But Ruth Galloway, standing at the back, says nothing. She is wearing the expression of polite neutrality she assumed whenever God is mentioned. This mask has stood her in good stead over the years and she sees no reason to drop it now. But she approves of the Prayers for the Outcast Dead. This brief ecumenical service is held every year for the unknown dead of Norwich: the bodies thrown into unmarked graves, the paupers, the plague victims, forgotten, unmourned, except by this motley collection of archaeologists, historians and sundry hangers-on.
"Lord, you told us that not a sparrow falls without our Father in Heaven knowing. We know that these people were known to you and loved by you...'
The vicar has a reedy hesitant voice which gets lost before it reaches Ruth. Now she can only hear Ted, one of the field archaeologists, giving the responses in a booming baritone.
'We will remember them.'

The Outcast Dead:
A Ruth Galloway Mystery
By Elly Griffiths

This is the sixth novel in this series; my second. It begins in somewhat of a pedantic pace that raised my concern, but soon I realized that with the complexity of the story--two different time periods are involved--the author did need to establish the basics prior to moving on... By that time I was well hooked and read to midnight last night to finish! I can tell you that I again enjoyed meeting Ruth Galloway and wish I could have started at the beginning (see my review) and continued each book. As always too many books; too little time! This book does stand on its own with a few hiccups that refers back to earlier cases--get through that minor frustration because there is followup that gives you enough to understand these flashbacks...

First, let me mention that the scene above opens the book and it is in the present time period. The historical time showing the castle was my choice to show that the other time period is approximately 100 years ago...when a body, its skeleton was found. They soon believed it was Mother Hook, who was hanged for the murder of five children.

Saxlingham Thorpe Church
"This is the franchise," she says briskly. Her
voice is an odd mixture of transatlantic drawl and
upper-class English. Women who Kill is a series
about notorious woman murderers. It tends to be a
bit sensationalist. Corinna Lewis presents it and
she's not exactly one for subtlety, but I've been called
in to do this one and I want it to be a bit different,
more accurate historically. That's why I want to
involve Frank here.
"So not too many closeups of the famous hook,"
laughs Phil. "No screams in the night."
"No," says the woman, deadpan. "None of that.
The thing is, we've got a different angle."
"What Dani is saying," Frank leans forward.

"is that we've got some pretty compelling
evidence that Jemima Green may have been
"Mother Hook innocent?'
Ruth had already been digging at the Castle and just stopped to attend the service and then left to pick up Kate her daughter... Sometime (LOL) in an earlier book, Ruth had an affair with DCI Harry Nelson, who is the father of Kate... and who is personally quite happy to be the man in the lives of two women and his children.

My impression of Ruth is that she puts her career first normally, so is willing to be in such a situation, but it does get awkward at times. In fact, there are quite a number of other types of sexual connections between and among the characters. Several of which include what are called childminders (or nannies, depending upon their duties I guess)...

Pay attention to all of the characters because even while a former convicted childminder murder is being taken from her grave, there are children being murdered in the present!

And while that investigation begins, Ruth and others involved with the dig have been chosen to appear on a television program, Women Who Kill!

Interestingly, as the research and excavation continues, there begins to be a question whether Mother Hook was guilty! But when the third child of the Donaldson family died, this time the ME indicated that he felt the child had been suffocated. 

Immediately the mother was considered, and then the father was taken in. It was during that time that affairs of Donaldson with former childminders was discovered.

But then the whole situation took a twist--a child was taken from its bed and a note was left signed by The Childminder...Who was this person and was there possibly a relationship to the death of the Donaldson child?

One of the contributions made by the historian who had been brought in for the television show was
to share two books that had been found--a diary and The Book of 
Dead Babies...somehow, the story got spookier for me as Ruth began to read about the children that Mother Hook had cared for... and if one died, they were added to the Dead Babies Book along
with a poem: 

For A
You never spoke yet we miss your silence
You never walked but we miss your step.
Dearest Child, sweet Babe
Now you are singing and dancing with the angels.
Your cheek was cool and soft as snow
Precious Girl, we loved you so.

When The Childminder took another child, it was the son of one of DCI Nelson's team... The Hunt included the whole police force!

...doesn't even notice at first, she's so intent on Michael.
'Swing low sweet chariot,' she's singing. A very scary song,
Ruth has always thought, isn't it all about dying?

I enjoyed this encounter with Ruth Galloway! She and Frank seem to be getting friendly, while DCI Nelson is not happy seeing it! LOL That should prove interesting, don't you think, in future books? Lots of drama in this story and it alllll comes out! A touch of history, a visit to what is now called Norfolk in the UK...and a mystery that I didn't solve! In fact, hadn't a clue! Highly Recommended...

Castle Now a Famous Norfolk Museum!


Elly Griffiths' Ruth Galloway novels have been praised as "gripping", "highly atmospheric" and "must-reads for fans of crime fiction." Griffiths is the winner of the Mary Higgins Clark Award. She lives in Brighton, England.

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