Forensic archaeologist Ruth Galloway has excavated a body from the grounds of Norwich Castle, once a prison. The body may be that of Victorian murderess Jemima Green. Called Mother Hook for her claw-like hand, Jemima was hanged for the murder of five children.
DCI Harry Nelson has no time for long-ago killers. Investigating the case of three infants found dead, one after the other, in their King’s Lynn home, he’s convinced that their mother is responsible.
Then a child goes missing. Could the abduction be linked to the long-dead Mother Hook? Ruth is pulled into the case, and back towards Nelson.
The Outcast Dead by Elly Griffiths is the first Ruth Galloway novel I’ve read, in fact the first of any Elly Griffiths books. I didn’t really know what to expect but it was lent to me by a colleague who said she really enjoyed it, especially as it’s set in Norfolk.
I found this was something I really enjoyed when reading it; a fair amount of the story takes place in and around the grounds of Norwich Castle and it was really interesting to read a novel set in Norwich where I live!
The novel was written well and the story moved along at a good pace. It wasn’t a mile-a-minute, hair-raising roller-coaster ride but the story didn’t drag at all in my opinion- it just swept me along with it!
I also didn’t find it over sensationalised like some other crime/ detective novels can be. There’s excitement and tension but it’s all quite believable. I also feel that it is refreshing to have a main character (Ruth Galloway) who’s not a police officer but rather an archaeologist, and one that proves she is just as intuitive as the police force around her. Her occupation introduces a strong element of history and, unsurprisingly, archaeology, which I loved reading about. Ruth is shown as an independent, likeable mother who isn’t perfect but also isn’t defined by being a mother alone- a likeable character and one I would like to read more of!
In The Outcast Dead Griffiths touches upon issues of relationships, both romantic and familial, and the missing child harshly highlights the difference in people’s opinions of what to takes to be a ‘good’ parent. Because of this serious subject matter I enjoyed the storyline surrounding the filming of the TV programme; as Elly Griffiths says in the section titled ‘The Outcast Dead- beginnings’, it is nice to have a little light relief from the sadder aspects of the story. The story did also press on the reader a lot the value of appreciating those around you which is very true but at some points I felt this was overplayed a little- just my opinion though.
Overall I really enjoyed this novel. It certainly makes me want to read more of the Ruth Galloway series but I didn’t feel that I lacked anything by not having read the previous novels; it’s more than fine on its own, though there was references to previous relationships between characters and other history that I guess I would pick up on more if I’d read the others. That didn’t bother me though!
If you’re looking for an well written, enjoyable novel that isn’t too far-fetched or crazy, The Outcast Dead is recommended!