Tuesday, April 22, 2014
The Outcast Dead - Elly Griffiths
DCI Harry Nelson is investigating a case that brings back memories of some of his most disturbing cases. A baby, David Donaldson, has been found dead in his cot. His two older siblings, Samuel & Isaac, also died young & what looked like a tragic coincidence, may be more sinister. David's mother, Liz, is now a suspect, & Nelson has to tread a fine line between investigating a possible murder & being seen as persecuting a grieving mother. Then, a child is abducted from her home & a note signed The Childminder, is found at the scene. The long ago case of Jemima Green seems to be reaching out to the present in some very disturbing ways.
I'm a fan of this series & The Outcast Dead is one of the most involving cases so far. Ruth Galloway is such a sympathetic character. She had a brief affair with Nelson, resulting in the birth of her daughter, Kate. Nelson stayed with his wife but finds himself drawn back to Ruth & wanting to be involved in Kate's life. Ruth knows that Nelson will never leave his family but can't help thinking about him. Other relationships don't stand much of a chance. She meets American historian, Frank Barker, & although they have a lot in common, there's no real spark there for Ruth.
Nelson's team also plays an important part in the series. Judy Johnson had an affair with Ruth's friend, Cathbad, & although she became pregnant, she went ahead with her wedding to Darren. Now she feels torn between her life with Darren & Michael & her love for Cathbad. Cathbad is one of my favourite characters. A Druid with a keen awareness of atmosphere & emotions that's almost psychic at times, he moved away to give Judy a chance to sort herself out but he's just as miserable as she is. Cathbad is convinced that Liz Donaldson is innocent & Ruth becomes involved in the present day case even as she learns more about Jemima Green & what really happened to the babies she cared for.
The Outcast Dead is a great example of an intelligent police procedural with the added interest of the historical & archaeological investigation. As the series progresses, the interwoven relationships of the main characters become more integral to the plots & never more so than in this story which has some moments of real anguish. I'm not very good at working out whodunit & I was misled by at least one of the red herrings but the clues are there & even the psychic consulted by the police at Cathbad's insistence contributes to the very satisfying solution to the mystery.