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Griffiths, Elly - 'The Outcast Dead'
Hardback: 400 pages (Feb. 2014) Publisher: Quercus ISBN: 0857388908

At the start of the sixth outing for Dr Ruth Galloway, lecturer in archaeology, she is taking part in 'Prayers for the Outcast Dead' at Norwich castle. She's recently uncovered the skeleton of a woman, thought to be guilty of a terrible crime, buried nearby. The woman was Jemima Green, known as Mother Hook as she has an iron hook instead of a hand, and she was a notorious Norfolk murderess, convicted of murdering a child she had been fostering, and hanged in punishment in the mid 1880s. A famous murderess, the finding of her skeleton brings in TV reporters.

Detective Nelson is meanwhile pursuing a modern-day murder investigation in which a Liz Donaldson has been accused of murdering her eight-month son David, leading the police to suspect that she may have also murdered her first two children, Sam and Isaac, who died some time earlier, and also when young. Is Liz a modern day Mother Hook perhaps? But Cathbad, a friend of Ruth's also happens to be a friend of Liz, and doesn't believe that she is a murderer, and wants her to persuade Nelson to look more carefully into David's death. Nelson is the father of Ruth's child Kate, and they have worked together on murder investigations in the past.

Is Liz innocent, and for that matter was Jemima also wrongly convicted and hanged? Ruth inexorably becomes involved in both investigations, and there is a nice parallel between the investigations into the old and the new child deaths. Meanwhile, Ruth is dragged into an involvement in a TV programme called 'Women who kill', as a result of her finding of Jemima, and as a result meets the charismatic Frank Barker, an academic turned presenter, who has researched Jemima, read her diary, and is well informed on the local history.

There is the usual cast of characters on hand to provide back-stories, which add to Ruth's own meanderings and thoughts on being a TV star (not that enthused, unlike her boss Phil), her job, entertaining descriptions of her toddler Kate, and her desire to find out the truth about Jemima. Reflections on mother's (and father's) relationships with their children, and how very little changes over 150 years underlie the main plot. The story gently moves on until all is revealed.

Michelle Peckham, England
June 2014

Details of the author's other books with links to reviews can be found on the Books page.
More European crime fiction reviews can be found on the Reviews page.

last updated 8/06/2014 09:42