21) The Outcast Dead by Elly Griffiths
I really enjoyed The House at Sea’s End by Elly Griffiths when I read it last year, and so I turned to another of her novels when I was looking for some undemanding, page-turning fare. And this one delivered in the same way, with the incredibly likeable main character of Ruth Galloway – a single mother archaeologist who always seems to get pulled into ongoing police investigations (not least because of her ties to Nelson, the main police character).
This story combines mysterious child deaths and kidnappings being investigated in the present day with an archaeological find of a legendary (alleged) child-killer of a few hundred years ago. The intermingling of both is a little far-fetched, but it’s compelling reading and the pace ratchets up nicely in the last 50 pages or so: and, as it’s a whodunnit, it’s worth saying that I had not a bloody clue who the perpetrator was.
As in the last one I read, though, the beauty of Griffiths’ books is not so much in the plot (which tend to have the very neatest of denouements), but in the characterisation. While Ruth is something of a miracle-woman, she feels like a real person from the world we live in now; Nelson grows in complexity from what appears to be a standard grumpy policeman archetype; and the other consistent characters (the Druidic Cathbad, the police colleagues Clough and Julie, the irritating Shona) all have more depth and interest to them than one tends to find elsewhere.
Buy one of the series for the Agatha Christie fan wishing for something set in modern day, for the Silent Witness fan who wants it a bit less dark, and the Time Team fan who always hopes they find a load of bones….