The Woman in Blue by Elly Griffiths
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
The eighth book in Elly Griffths' Ruth Galloway series finds much of the action taking place in Walsingham, an English town famous for its religion. Cathbad, Ruth's druid friend, is in town housesitting for a friend, when he sees a lovely woman in a dress and cloak in the nearby cemetery. Cathbad believes he's had a vision of the Virgin Mary, but something doesn't seem right about the whole episode. In the morning, a young woman is found dead in Walsingham - wrapped in blue cloth. At the same time, Ruth is receiving emails from an old friend, Hilary, now a priest. She's receiving threatening letters from someone who clearly isn't happy about women in the priesthood and wants Ruth's help. Are the letters and the death connected? When Hilary comes to Walsingham to attend a conference for women priests, Ruth finds herself in the middle of it all. As does DCI Harry Nelson, of course, who is tracking not only the woman's killer, but Hilary's letter writer. A religious zealot? An angry misogynist? What really is happening in Walsingham?
I've made it clear by now that I'm a huge fan of Griffths' Galloway series. I think of Ruth as an old friend. Curling up with one of these books is like going home, or talking to a familiar and beloved friend. The characters' quirks make you laugh simply because you know them so well. Crazy Cathbad, Nelson and his mannerisms (and uptight ways), and, of course, Ruth's wit and sarcastic observances. A simple mention of Ruth being unable to find anything in her pocketbook, or how shared food doesn't have calories - somehow Griffiths can make straightforward sentences like these only add to Ruth's lovable character. She's created a cast of characters who are so well-done, so simply "them," that you look forward to returning to their world. (That's not to say you couldn't pick up this book first, without reading the others in the series. They do stand alone. You'd just be missing out, in my opinion, on lots of wonderful earlier Ruth and Nelson.)
The eight installment differed a bit, to me, as it focused a bit more on the personal side of things, mainly the Ruth and Nelson story (or, truly, the Ruth, Nelson, and Michelle triangle). This was certainly good, albeit stressful, as it's difficult when you're favorite characters aren't getting along. Still, the developments in this novel are necessary in the trajectory to move all three characters forward. The religious plot was a little confusing for me, at times - between a lot of British references I don't always quite get (I wasn't reading this one in my Nook, so it was harder to look things up) and just my overall lack of religious knowledge - but the mystery was still enjoyable and plotted well. The supporting cast of characters introduced in this tale rounded out the story well, and I was truly left wondering until nearly the end about "whodunit."
All in all, another great Ruth tale, which made me laugh out loud several times (I still wish Ruth could just be my friend, and my twins could play with Kate). Combined with a strong mystery, it's hard to go wrong here.
I received an ARC of this book from Netgalley (thanks!). This novel is available for purchase on 2/4.
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