Sentence: Every year a ceremony is held at Norwich Castle
for the bodies in the paupers’ graves: the Service for
the Outcast Dead.
Archeologist Ruth Galloway is on a dig at Norwich Castle when
she uncovers the remains of a woman who may be Jemima Green,
aka Mother Hook. She was a woman in the 1800s, thought to
have taken in orphaned and abandoned children, only to murder
and sell them to a resurrectionist. Her boss interests a television
station in including the dig in their program, “Women
who Kill,” but the show’s historian Professor
Frank Barker, believes Mother Hook was innocent. DCI Harry
Nelson, father to Ruth’s daughter, suspects a mother
of recently killing her son. Did she also kill her two other
children? And who is the “Childminder” who claims
responsibility for newly abducted children?
It is from the opening of Ruth attending the Prayers for the
Outcast Dead, a service to remember the buried unknown souls
buried, that we learn the reasons why Ruth became an archeologist…”To
find out about how ordinary people lived their lives. We are
Griffiths has created a wonderful assortment of characters.
However, one criticism is that there are so many, they are
hard to keep straight. Also, if one is new to the series,
I suspect they might find it a bit challenging keeping straight
those new to this story and those carried forward from the
past, especially those only referenced but not actual participants.
That said, one of the things most appreciated is that Griffiths
not only presents the events happening to the characters,
but lets us see inside them to their fears and insecurities.
She also captures perfectly the one-upmanship that can occur
amongst strangers in a social setting.
Although Ruth is a wonderful character—not young, not
svelte, not gorgeous, somewhat insecure about her skills as
a mother, but an excellent archeologist, and we learn about
more about her immediate family, it is her friend Cathbad,
a druid who believes in things unseen but also suffers from
heartache, who quickly becomes a favorite. “…He
could burn some herbs and try to meditate. …He sighs
and goes to look up Judy’s house on Google Earth.”
The Outcast Dead was an enjoyable read but, sadly, not
Ms. Griffiths best book. There were just too many characters
and families with crossed lines to one another that made it
difficult to follow. I like the series very much, but this
needed to be pared back, perhaps to only one, or two story
lines. Still, that doesn’t put me off looking forward
to Ms. Griffiths next book.
of other titles in this series
House at Sea's End
Dying Fall #5