- Non Fiction
The Woman In Blue: The Dr Ruth Galloway Mysteries 8 by Elly Griffiths
List Price: £16.99
Hardcover: 368 Pages.
Published: 04 February 2016 by Quercus
The murder of women priests in the shrine town of Walsingham sucks Dr Ruth Galloway into an unholy investigation.
When Ruth's friend Cathbad sees a vision of the Virgin Mary, in a white gown and blue cloak, in the graveyard next to the cottage he is house-sitting, he takes it in his stride. Walsingham has strong connections to Mary, and Cathbad is a druid after all; visions come with the job. But when the body of a woman in a blue dressing-gown is found dead the next day in a nearby ditch, it is clear Cathbad's vision was all too human, and that a horrible crime has been committed. DCI Nelson and his team are called in for the murder investigation, and soon establish that the dead woman was a recovering addict being treated at a nearby private hospital.
Ruth, a devout atheist, has managed to avoid Walsingham during her seventeen years in Norfolk. But then an old university friend, Hilary Smithson, asks to meet her in the village, and Ruth is amazed to discover that her friend is now a priest. Hilary has been receiving vitriolic anonymous letters targeting women priests - letters containing references to local archaeology and a striking phrase about a woman 'clad in blue, weeping for the world'.
Then another woman is murdered - a priest.
As Walsingham prepares for its annual Easter re-enactment of the Crucifixion, the race is on to unmask the killer before they strike again...
by Debra Found
This is the eighth book in the Ruth Galloway series. Ruth is an archaeologist who has helped the police in Norfolk with some cases in the past. In this book she has very little technical involvement but gets caught up when a friend asks for help. A woman is murdered in Walsingham - is she the woman in blue that Cathbad sees one night or is that a vision of the Virgin Mary.........with Cathbad you can never be too sure!
I have very much enjoyed this series of books. Ruth is a wonderful main character as she is just so real with everyday concerns - will her 5 year old daughter Kate notice that she has a green apple rather than the more preferred red? Nelson is coming round so we'll tidy the room by stuffing the magazines underneath the sofa. She worries about her weight, getting her daughter to school on time and whether or not she still loves Nelson. The back up cast are also excellent and we have seen them develop as the series has progressed. The rather eccentric Cathbad and his down to earth policwoman partner Judy. The neanderthal Dave Clough who is permanently eating, the chief's posterboy Tim and poor Tanya Fuller who is trying her best but is not Nelson's preferred liason officer, Judy who is so much better with people. Then there is Nelson, the rather difficult senior police officer who has very real mixed feelings about his wife, Michelle, and Ruth.
To be fair this is not the best plotted of the Ruth Galloway series of books. I very much enjoyed the background to the Walsingham Shrine and the description of the Passion Play. The motive for the killing is a bit weak as is the general detective work all round. So why give it 5 stars? I just loved the book! It is the characters and the historical background. Ruth and company have become friends as I have read the series and I was very disappointed when I reached the end. This may have been a murder novel but there are plenty of light hearted comments which made me chuckle as I read.
I am now eagerly awaiting the next book in the series so I can enjoy another evening's entertainment with Ruth, Nelson, the ever eccentric Cathbad and everyone else!
What makes this author's Ruth Galloway books so special for me is the personality of the main character. She feels very real. She makes mistakes, she worries about how she looks and she tries to live up to her principles and mostly fails. Her love for Nelson and the fact that she has to bring up a young daughter add depth and texture to the plot. There are lots of well drawn minor repeating characters most of whom are drawn in shades of grey and, along with Ruth, develop from one book to the next. I also have a bit of a weak spot for books about archeology. I am glad to say that this novel lives up to my expectations very well and makes for a highly entertaining read.
The story is based around the shrine at Walsingham and the author gives lots of different examples of the church's and society's different views of women. The woman in blue is, of course, traditionally the Virgin Mary but in this book it is also a figure whom Cathbad glimpses in a graveyard and who is then found dead. The author gives us promiscuous and adulterous characters as well as those who adore the Virgin, those who commit violent acts upon women and those who are celibate. I think that she shows sympathy for all points of view, religious and non-religious with the exception of those who oppose women in the priesthood who get short shrift here.
The story unwinds among the raft of characters and points of view as well as the ongoing saga of Nelson, Ruth, their daughter, his wife and her lover. I have to say that the solution to the mystery is weak but by the time it comes you don't really care having been well involved in the lives and activities of these people.
This is one to clear the decks for as I doubt that you'll be able to put it down. It is easily accessible to readers who are new to the series but I really recommend starting at the beginning and learning about these people slowly. Not a disappointing book in this series.