Review: Elly Griffiths – The Outcast Dead

outcastdead200Elly Griffith’s books, featuring forensic archaeologist Dr Ruth Galloway, remain one of my ‘must read’ series. The books have been of a consistently good quality and, even when Griffiths changes the Norfolk setting, have retained a strong sense of place. There’s also a feeling of movement in the novels and characters lives are constantly changing. After a foray into Lancashire, in The Outcast Dead the characters are back in Norfolk and Ruth Galloway is sucked into a case of a missing child.

During an excavation, a body is found in the grounds of Norwich Castle which may be that of the infamous Victorian child killer Jemima Green, known as Mother Hook. The discovery prompts the arrival of a crew from a salacious TV series. Meanwhile, DCI Harry Nelson is investigating the death of three children whose mother is suspected of having smothered them. When another child goes missing, the sense of urgency increases as the team look for a man or woman whose motives defy even the most experienced profiler.

The emphasis on the death of children in this book is a difficult subject for a crime novel but Griffiths does well to write about the abductions and murders with a light touch. The historical context for one set of murders helps, and the whole book is set in an atmosphere of doubt and suspicion.

The central characters, familiar to Grififths readers, are moving on with their lives: Ruth still fantasises of a future with Harry even though she knows its impossible and Judy, a detective on Harry’s team, is attempting to continue with her family life while knowing that the father of her baby is the druid, Cathbad. There is a sense of overlap with some of the stories. Judy’s concealment of her baby’s paternity has echoes of Ruth’s in earlier books. Similarly, the theft of a baby also references back to an earlier child abduction which ended disastrously. But the series retains a consistency that is remarkable considering we are now on book number six.

In spite of references in the book to earlier novels, I still think a reader new to this series could start with The Outcast Dead. For existing fans, this series will continue to delight.

Thanks to Quercus for my review copy.

18 thoughts on “Review: Elly Griffiths – The Outcast Dead

  1. Margot Kinberg

    Sarah – Oh, this is one of my must-read series! I so much like the character of Ruth Galloway, and I do like the interplay of events and relationships. The Norfolk setting is very well-done too I think. I’ve honestly yet to be disappointed in any one of these novels.


  2. One of my must-reads too, and this one was well up to standard. I very much agree that the child-abduction strand was handled very very well, when that theme can be crass in crime fiction.


  3. Haven’t read any of this series, although my husband has read (and recommends) a couple of the books. I probably say this every time you review one of her books. So many people love them.

    When I read them, it will be in order, so I have a long ways before I get to this one. I hope to start the series this year, but I have said that about so many books, and I don’t have time to read them all.


  4. I didn’t think this one was up to scratch but I know I’m in the minority…I also think I have a limit when it comes to series and that limit is around 5 or 6 books – there are very few series that I have followed beyond that point


  5. Kathy D.

    I love this series and Ruth Galloway’s character. There is a lot of reflection by her and Harry Nelson in this book. While the story line is harrowing, Elly Griffiths handles the historical and contemporary investigations well.
    My only gripe is that evidence gathering and deduction based on science seem to be wavering a bit in this book, and I hope that the author reasserts the scientific method for finding perpetrators, and doesn’t go off in a mystical cloud. For those of us who like Ruth’s knowledge of forensics and archaelogy — and how it’s utilized to crack the cases of murder — it would be a shame to move away from that aspect of the series.


    1. I hadn’t noticed that, Kathy but you’re right although the plot was much more emotion/family focused. It will be interesting to see what happens in the next book.


  6. Kathy D.

    Elly Griffiths assures me that while the supernatural is always an interesting and humorous plot element, Ruth Galloway will never lose her scientific edge. Hurrah!


  7. Pingback: The Best of April’s Reading | crimepieces

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