The murder of women priests in Norfolk’s spooky shrine town of Walsingham draws forensic archaeologist Dr Ruth Galloway into a thrilling new adventure.
When Ruth’s friend Cathbad sees a vision of the Virgin Mary, in a white gown and blue cloak, in Walsingham’s graveyard, 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 that a horrible crime has been committed, and DCI Nelson and his team are called in for what is now a murder investigation.
Ruth, a devout atheist, has managed to avoid Walsingham during her seventeen years in Norfolk. But then an old university friend asks to meet her in the village, and Ruth is amazed to discover that she is now a priest. She 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…
The 8th book in the Ruth Galloway series is unusual in that she is not involved in an archaeological dig, but the reward is that we see more of her everyday life, as a mother, researcher and a woman with feelings. Meanwhile there is a crisis in Nelson’s personal life which might change everything for both of them. But these events don’t detract from another thrilling murder story with many likely culprits.
Walsingham is one place in north Norfolk which I have never visited but its religious history is shown to us during the story and adds to the suspense and frightening atmosphere. It is a very visual account and would make a wonderful episode in a TV series.
What makes Elly Griffiths’ books such a pleasure to read are her amusing observations and delightful characterisation
“Cathbad has always enjoyed a psychic rapport with Ruth’s cat Flint. This cat, whose name is Chesterton, is a different proposition altogether. Whereas Flint is a large and lazy ginger Tom whose main ambition is to convince Ruth that he is starving at all times, Chesterton is a lithe and sinuous black creature, given to perching on top of cupboards and staring at Cathbad out of disconcertingly round, yellow eyes. He has ignored the food that Cathbad carefully weighed out according to instructions. He might be living on mice, but Chesterton does not look like an animal who is governed by his appetites. He’s an ascetic if Cathbad ever saw one.”
The Woman in Blue deals with attitudes to women, especially in a religious context, contrasting worship of the Virgin Mary with disgust at the idea of women priests. Ruth’s independence and Nelson’s complex family situation demonstrate many different aspects of life today. This is definitely a book to be read after book 7, The Ghost Fields, and is a most rewarding read.
The Woman in Blue on Amazon UK
My review of The Ghost Fields