The Outcast Dead by Elly Griffiths

The Outcast Dead by Elly Griffiths
Publisher: Quercus Publishing
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery/Suspense/Thriller
Rating: 3 stars
Reviewed by Fern

Ruth Galloway uncovers the bones of what might be a notorious Victorian child murderess and a baby snatcher known as “The Childminder” threatens modern-day Norfolk in this irresistible mystery from Elly Griffiths.

The service of the Outcast Dead is held annually in Norwich, commemorating the bodies in the paupers’ graves. This year’s proceedings hold special interest for forensic archaeologist Ruth Galloway, who has just unearthed the notorious Mother Hook, hanged in 1867 at Norwich Castle for killing multiple children. Now Ruth is reluctantly starring in a TV special, working alongside the alluring historian Dr. Frank Barker. Nearby, DCI Harry Nelson is investigating the case of three children found dead in their home when another child is abducted. A kidnapper dubbed the Childminder claims responsibility, but is the Childminder behind the deaths too? The team races to find out—and after a child close to everyone involved disappears, the stakes couldn’t be higher.

During a dig, forensic archaeologist Dr Ruth Galloway unearths a Victorian body which she strongly suspects is that of Jemima Green, a woman hung for the murder of five children. DCI Harry Neilson is investigating the recent death of a woman who lost her infant son – the third of her children who has died. During the investigation Ruth is drawn in and once again back to Harry.

I really enjoy the way this author and series merges together the history and archaeology of the British setting but meshes it so skillfully with the modern time and present day. While the two main plotlines are very well kept and fully explored during this book, I can’t help but feel the characters’ lives and interactions will be much better appreciated and have a stronger emotional link if the reader has followed along with at least a few of the previous book. While I do think a reader can pick up this story alone and thoroughly enjoy it a number of the links and threads binding the various characters will have a much deeper connection with some of that history known to the reader.

I was pleased that while the two cases – the historical story of Mother Hook/Jemima Green and the modern case – had a number of similarities and clearly played off each other, the two cases didn’t “just happen” to link up or connect. Sometimes I feel an author might try too hard to have everything dovetail in even if it’s not particularly realistic – I was really pleased that this time while there were obvious similarities they weren’t forced or merged, they were just showing how even though times change – people and circumstances don’t necessarily change much at all. I really enjoyed this.

I was very pleased with the progress and growth of a few characters and while I can see there might be some adjustment and settling needed in the future, I was very pleased with how the longer-term arc of the story between the characters is moving in this book. I feel many readers will be pleased with the movements made here.

A delightful book that blends history, archaeology and modern times very well and with what I feel is exceptional skill, this is a great mystery book.

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