Title: The Outcast Dead
Author: Elly Griffiths
Release Date: March 11, 2014
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Genre: Crime Fiction
Rating: 4.5 out of 5
Forensic archaeologst Ruth Galloway is on a dig at Norwich Castle when she discovers the Victorian-era remains of a woman with a hook for a hand. Ruth is certain that the body belongs to the famed Mother Hook, a woman who took in unwanted children and murdered them. But as a TV program takes interest in the skeleton, Ruth begins to dig into Mother Hook’s past, uncertain of whether she is actually guilty of the crimes she’s purported to have committed.
A series that keeps things fresh with every installment, Elly Griffith’s latest Ruth Galloway mystery The Outcast Dead continues with impeccable character development and multiple mysteries that will keep readers intrigued.
Every time I review one of Elly Griffiths’ Ruth Galloway novels, I feel like I say the same thing: Every book in this series is remarkable because it is so different than the ones that come before and after. The Outcast Dead is no exception; Griffiths manages to set this novel apart from all the installments that come before it. This means that each book in this series is fresh and new; too often, series books start to feel formulaic, but Griffiths is one that never disappoints.
Ruth’s life has been shaken up in the past few novels, so it’s nice to see things settling down in The Outcast Dead. She’s adjusted to life as a single, working mom, and has found a way to be comfortable working alongside DCI Nelson, the father of her child, and has made peace with his wife. Ruth’s in a comfortable place when this novel begins. Of course, it doesn’t stay that way, with shakeups here and there (including the first appearance of Ruth’s semi-estranged brother and a potential new love interest), but it’s nice to see that Ruth’s in a good place, mentally. Being a mother has changed her, softened her, so it’s interesting to see how she takes the Mother Hook case a bit personally.
Though The Outcast Dead starts as a centuries-old mystery about Mother Hook’s guilt or innocence, the story becomes much more urgent with the kidnapping of a young child. Though Ruth isn’t directly involved with this case, she plays her own part in it. In many ways, this novel is about the secondary characters of the series, those surrounding Ruth, dealing with their respective issues. By this point, these characters feel like old friends; readers will love the care that Griffiths takes with each of them. It’s clear that she lovingly pens these characters, and that she wants them to find happiness and peace as much as the reader wants them to.
If you haven’t read any Elly Griffiths, you can start with The Outcast Dead if you so desire; though you’d be missing out on a lot of character development, you’ll enjoy the fast-paced story. Additionally Griffiths doesn’t rehash previous plotlines, so you’d be able to go back and enjoy previous novels. I really can’t recommend this series highly enough; Griffiths does such a great job with her stories and characters that any fan of crime fiction, history, or character-driven novels should absolutely be reading the Ruth Galloway series.
Other books by Elly Griffiths: