Wednesday 4 May 2016

The Woman in Blue - A Review

THE WOMAN IN BLUE by Elly Griffiths

This book made me want to continue on with the series.

Reading a series (this is the 8th entry) means having an investment in the characters and I like Ruth.  I like the fact that she has flaws, that she questions herself and her choices despite the fact that she is smart. I enjoy that she is middle aged and carries the baggage that comes with experience and that she is loyal to her group of very diverse friends.  One of those friends, Cathbad (and shouldn’t everyone have at least one Druid friend?), is cat sitting for a friend on the grounds of St. Simeon’s in Walsingham, a popular destination for religious gatherings and pilgrimages.  Cathbad and the cat have a love/hate relationship and late one evening while he is out looking for the once again errant feline Cathbad sees a woman in blue standing near a grave marker in the cemetery.  Believing it to be a vision of the Virgin Mary Cathbad retreats in awe.  The next morning a young woman clad in a blue cape is found in a nearby ditch, murdered.  Obviously it had not been the vision Cathbad had assumed.

DCI Harry Nelson is called in on the case.  There is no archeological mystery to be solved here, just a straight up murder, so Harry breaths a sigh of relief that there would be no reason to call Ruth in on this case.  Meanwhile, Ruth has received an email from a University friend – a fellow archeologist now turned Anglican priest – asking if they can meet when she comes to St. Simeon’s on a female church leader’s retreat.  She has been receiving threatening messages denouncing the right of women to become church leaders and was hoping Ruth could help her try and figure out the sender’s identity.  Another murder takes place and Ruth feels she needs to enlist Harry’s help as the notes and the murders could be related …

… And the circle closes!

Are the murders related to the mysterious notes?

Having been slightly disappointed with “The Ghost Fields”, the last entry in this series, “The Woman in Blue” was a welcome surprise.  This book broke out of the pattern of having a major archeological mystery to solve (although there was still a little flavor of one and I do enjoy those. They were, after all, my reason for initially beginning with this series).  Without the history to explain around an archeological find it allowed Ms. Griffith’s to tackle a more contemporary issue facing religious institutions today.  Some readers may find this entry a little heavy on the religion issue, but I felt it was integrated well into the story.  On the plus side for me, we become a little more acquainted with Cathbad and his new family.

Ms. Griffiths gives us wonderful descriptions of the countryside, as usual, and takes the reader along the twists and turns that make for a good mystery.  She also (seemingly) ties up a tension filled situation, which has been prevalent in the last two books.

I am not certain this book would work as a stand-alone for first time Ruth Galloway readers but it is definitely a strong entry into this series for fans.

I would like to thank Quercus Books and Netgalley for providing a review copy of this book at no charge in exchange for my honest opinion.

HOW I BECAME ELLY GRIFFITHS (from her website)

My name is Elly Griffiths, except it’s not really.  My real name is Domenica de Rosa and I’ve written four books under that name.  I was born in London in 1963 and my family moved to Brighton when I was five. I loved Brighton and still do – the town, the surrounding countryside and, most of all, the sea. I went to local state schools and wrote my first book when I was 11, a murder mystery set in Rottingdean, near the village where I still live. At secondary school I used to write episodes of Starsky and Hutch (early fan fiction) and very much enjoyed making my readers cry.

I did all the right things to become a writer: I read English at King’s College London and, after graduating, worked in a library, for a magazine and then as a publicity assistant at HarperCollins. I loved working in publishing and eventually became Editorial Director for children’s books at HarperCollins. All this completely put me off writing and it wasn’t until I was on maternity leave in 1998 that I wrote what would become my first published novel, The Italian Quarter.

Three other books followed, all about Italy, families and identity. By now we had two children and my husband Andy had just given up his city job to become an archaeologist. We were on holiday in Norfolk, walking across Titchwell Marsh, when Andy mentioned that prehistoric man had thought that marshland was sacred. Because it’s neither land nor sea, but something in-between, they saw it as a kind of bridge to the afterlife.  Neither land nor sea, neither life nor death. As he said these words the entire plot of The Crossing Places appeared, full formed, in my head and, walking towards me out of the mist, I saw Dr Ruth Galloway. I didn’t think that this new book was significantly different from my “Italy” books but, when she read it, my agent said, “This is crime. You need a crime name.”

And that’s how I became Elly Griffiths.

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