The Woman in Blue (Ruth Galloway Series #8)

The Woman in Blue (Ruth Galloway Series #8)

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by Elly Griffiths
     
 

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In the next Ruth Galloway mystery, a vision of the Virgin Mary foreshadows a string of cold-blooded murders, revealing a dark current of religious fanaticism in an old medieval town.

Overview


In the next Ruth Galloway mystery, a vision of the Virgin Mary foreshadows a string of cold-blooded murders, revealing a dark current of religious fanaticism in an old medieval town.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
02/29/2016
The discovery of a woman’s body dumped in a ditch near the village of Walsingham kick-starts Griffiths’s satisfying eighth Ruth Galloway mystery set in Norfolk, England (after 2015’s The Ghost Fields). Det. Chief Insp. Harry Nelson, who heads the Serious Crimes Unit, learns that the victim, Chloe Jenkins, was receiving treatment at a local drug and alcohol rehabilitation center. Meanwhile, Ruth, a forensic archeologist, receives a plea for help from an acquaintance, Hilary Smithson. Hilary, an Anglican vicar, tells Ruth that she has received threatening letters from someone who’s against women joining the priesthood. As the hunt for Chloe’s murderer begins, a second body turns up, and Nelson—with Ruth’s aid—searches for a link between the two crimes. They share a personal story, too, and their uneasy relationship adds a domestic element to the unfolding drama. Griffiths expertly conveys the mysteries of a particular brand of Christianity that’s drawn to physical manifestations of spirituality, ancient relics, and the stubbornly corporeal. Agent: Rebecca Carter, Janklow & Nesbit. (May)
From the Publisher
"I absolutely devoured Elly Griffiths’ THE WOMAN IN BLUE, the eighth book in a series featuring archaeologist Ruth Galloway, reading it cover to cover in a feverish weekend...Griffiths’ fluidity of style and pacing has grown organically since the first book in the series, THE CROSSING PLACES...this book and the entire series is a joy to read. Fast-paced, strong dialogue, believable and likable characters, and intriguing historical set pieces all combine to make the Ruth Galloway books a great series to collect for your mystery library."—Mark Rose, Bookgasm

"The discovery of a woman’s body dumped in a ditch near the village of Walsingham kick-starts Griffiths’s satisfying eighth Ruth Galloway mystery set in Norfolk, England (after 2015’s The Ghost Fields). Det. Chief Insp. Harry Nelson, who heads the Serious Crimes Unit, learns that the victim, Chloe Jenkins, was receiving treatment at a local drug and alcohol rehabilitation center. Meanwhile, Ruth, a forensic archeologist, receives a plea for help from an acquaintance, Hilary Smithson. Hilary, an Anglican vicar, tells Ruth that she has received threatening letters from someone who’s against women joining the priesthood. As the hunt for Chloe’s murderer begins, a second body turns up, and Nelson—with Ruth’s aid—searches for a link between the two crimes. They share a personal story, too, and their uneasy relationship adds a domestic element to the unfolding drama. Griffiths expertly conveys the mysteries of a particular brand of Christianity that’s drawn to physical manifestations of spirituality, ancient relics, and the stubbornly corporeal."—Publishers Weekly

"A murderer stalks the streets of a medieval town known for its religious fervor. A woman's body has been found strangled outside the village of Walsingham. DCI Harry Nelson's friend Cathbad, a druid and mystic catsitting at a nearby cottage, saw the woman, dressed in blue and white and reminiscent of the Virgin Mary, standing in the cemetery earlier that night. It turns out that Chloe Jenkins, a resident of The Sanctuary, where she was being treated for drug addiction, had been scrubbing clean the grave of a woman who had once been her minder and foster mother to a large number of children. Nelson's fling with archaeologist Ruth Galloway, a police consultant, produced a child he spends time with despite remaining married to his stunning wife, Michelle. Ruth becomes involved in the current case when a university friend, Hilary Smithson, asks to meet her at Walsingham, where she'll be attending a conference. Hilary, a priest, has been getting letters railing against women in the clergy, the last with a distinctly sinister tone. As Nelson searches for clues to the murder, he learns that Michelle's been seeing one of his sergeants. He himself is still a little in love with Ruth, who tries not to admit to herself that she loves him. When Michelle barely escapes death at the hands of the strangler and one of the other female priests is strangled, it's hard not to notice that all the victims were attractive blue-eyed blondes. Since religion seems to play a role in the murders, Ruth wonders if a part of a missing, broken vial that supposedly contained breast milk from the Virgin Mary is the key to the case. Griffiths (The Ghost Fields, 2015, etc.) always provides a clever mystery and a wealth of historical detail. But it's her complex characterizations that put her in the forefront of the current mystery field."—Kirkus Reviews
Library Journal
05/01/2016
Famous for religious sightings, the medieval town of Walsingham is a holy site in both the Catholic and Anglican traditions. So when Cathbad, a druid and a friend of forensic archaeologist Ruth Galloway, spots a lovely figure dressed in blue in the cemetery next to the house where he is cat-sitting, he is reminded of the Virgin Mary. The next day, the woman is discovered strangled in a ditch; she is identified as Chloe Jenkins, resident of a nearby rehab facility. Ruth becomes involved in the murder investigation when her friend Hilary Smithson, archaeologist-turned-priest, receives threatening letters. She and DCI Harry Nelson, the father of her child, are hard pressed to uncover the truth. VERDICT The eighth book in the series (after The Ghost Fields) does not disappoint. Griffiths's well-crafted narrative and solid character development make for a gripping procedural. [See Prepub Alert, 11/16/15.]
Kirkus Reviews
2016-02-18
A murderer stalks the streets of a medieval town known for its religious fervor. A woman's body has been found strangled outside the village of Walsingham. DCI Harry Nelson's friend Cathbad, a druid and mystic catsitting at a nearby cottage, saw the woman, dressed in blue and white and reminiscent of the Virgin Mary, standing in the cemetery earlier that night. It turns out that Chloe Jenkins, a resident of The Sanctuary, where she was being treated for drug addiction, had been scrubbing clean the grave of a woman who had once been her minder and foster mother to a large number of children. Nelson's fling with archaeologist Ruth Galloway, a police consultant, produced a child he spends time with despite remaining married to his stunning wife, Michelle. Ruth becomes involved in the current case when a university friend, Hilary Smithson, asks to meet her at Walsingham, where she'll be attending a conference. Hilary, a priest, has been getting letters railing against women in the clergy, the last with a distinctly sinister tone. As Nelson searches for clues to the murder, he learns that Michelle's been seeing one of his sergeants. He himself is still a little in love with Ruth, who tries not to admit to herself that she loves him. When Michelle barely escapes death at the hands of the strangler and one of the other female priests is strangled, it's hard not to notice that all the victims were attractive blue-eyed blondes. Since religion seems to play a role in the murders, Ruth wonders if a part of a missing, broken vial that supposedly contained breast milk from the Virgin Mary is the key to the case. Griffiths (The Ghost Fields, 2015, etc.) always provides a clever mystery and a wealth of historical detail. But it's her complex characterizations that put her in the forefront of the current mystery field.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780544417854
Publisher:
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Publication date:
05/03/2016
Series:
Ruth Galloway Series , #8
Pages:
368
Sales rank:
31,196
Product dimensions:
5.60(w) x 8.40(h) x 1.60(d)

Read an Excerpt

PROLOGUE

19 February 2014

Cathbad and the cat look at each other. They have been drawing up the battle-lines all day and this is their Waterloo. The cat has the advantage: this is his home and he knows the terrain. But Cathbad has his druidical powers and what he believes is a modest gift with animals, a legacy from his Irish mother who used to talk to seagulls (and receive messages back). He has a companion animal himself, a bull-terrier called Thing, and 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. This is Cathbad’s third day of house- and cat- sitting, and so far Chesterton has ignored all blandishments. He has even ignored the food that Cathbad carefully weighed out according to Justin’s 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.

But Justin’s sternest admonition, written in capitals and underlined in red, was: DO NOT LET CHESTERTON OUT AT NIGHT. And now, here they are, at nine o’clock on a February evening with Chesterton staring at the door and Cathbad barring the way with his fiery sword. The biblical reference comes to hand because the house is part of an ancient pilgrimage site and is decorated by etchings from the Old Testament. Justin, the custodian of the site, is on a fact-finding trip to Knock, something Cathbad finds extremely funny. He has left the fifteenth-century cottage—and the accompanying cat—under Cathbad’s protection.

Chesterton meows once, commandingly. ‘I’m sorry,’ says Cathbad. ‘I can’t.’

Chesterton gives him a pitying look, jumps on to a cupboard and manages to slide out through a partially opened window. So that’s why he has been on hunger strike.

‘Chesterton!’ Cathbad lifts the heavy latch and opens the door. Cold air rushes in. ‘Chesterton! Come back!’

The cottage is attached to the church, with a passageway through it at ground-floor level forming a kind of lych-gate. Worshippers have to pass underneath the main bedroom in order to get to St Simeon’s. There’s even a handy recess in the wall of the passage so that pall-bearers can rest their coffins there. The back door of the cottage opens directly on to the churchyard. ‘But you won’t mind that,’ said Justin, ‘it’s right up your street.’ And it’s true that Cathbad does like burial grounds, and all places of communal worship but, even so, there’s something about St Simeon’s Cottage, Walsingham, that he doesn’t quite like. It’s not the presence of the cat, or the creaks and groans of the old house at night; it’s more a sort of sadness about the place, a feeling so oppressive that, during his first evening, Cathbad was compelled to call upon a circle of protection and to ring his partner Judy several times.

He’s not scared now, just worried about the cat. He walks along the church path, the frost crunching under his feet, calling the animal’s name.

And then he sees it. A tombstone near the far wall, glowing white in the moonlight, and a woman standing beside it. A woman in white robes and a flowing blue cloak. As Cathbad approaches, she looks at him, and her face, illuminated by something stronger than natural light, seems at once so beautiful and so sad that Cathbad crosses himself.

‘Can I help you?’ he calls. His voice echoes against stone and darkness. The woman smiles – such a sad, sweet smile – shakes her head and starts to walk away, moving very fast through the gravestones towards the far gate.

Cathbad goes to follow her, but is floored, neatly and completely, by Chesterton, who must have been lurking behind a yew tree for this very purpose.

1

DCI Harry Nelson hears the news as he is driving to work. ‘Woman’s body found in a ditch outside Walsingham. SCU request attend.’ As he does a handbrake turn in the road, he is conscious of a range of conflicting emotions. He’s sorry that someone’s dead, of course he is, but he can’t help feeling something else, a slight frisson of excitement, and a relief that he’s been spared that morning’s meeting with Superintendent Gerald Whitcliffe and their discussion of the previous month’s targets. Nelson is in charge of the SCU, the Serious Crimes Unit, but the truth is that serious crime is often thin on the ground in King’s Lynn and the surrounding areas. That’s a good thing – Nelson acknowledges this as he puts on his siren and speeds through the morning traffic – but it does make for rather dull work. Not that Nelson hasn’t had his share of serious crime in his career – only a few months ago he was shot at and might have died if his sergeant hadn’t shot back – but there’s also a fair amount of petty theft, minor drugs stuff and people complaining because their stolen bicycle wasn’t featured on Crimewatch.

He calls his sergeants, Dave Clough and Tim Heathfield, and tells them to meet him at the scene. Though they both just say ‘Yes, boss’, he can hear the excitement in their voices too. If Sergeant Judy Johnson were there, she would remind them that they were dealing with a human tragedy, but Judy is on maternity leave and so the atmosphere in the station is rather testosterone heavy.

He sees the flashing lights as he turns the corner. The body was found on the Fakenham Road, about a mile outside Walsingham. It’s a narrow road with high hedges on both sides, made narrower by the two squad cars and the coroner’s van. As soon as Nelson steps out of his car he feels claustrophobic, something that often happens when he’s in the countryside. The high green walls of foliage make him feel as if he’s in the bottom of a well and the grey sky seems to be pushing down on top of him. Give him pavements and street lighting any day.

The local policemen stand aside for him. Chris Stephenson, the police pathologist, is in the ditch with the body. He looks up and grins at Nelson as if it’s the most charming meeting place in the world.

‘Well, if it isn’t Admiral Nelson himself!’

‘Hallo, Chris. What’s the situation?’

‘Woman, probably in her early to mid-twenties, looks like she’s been strangled. Rigor mortis has set in, but then it was a cold night. I’d say she’s been here about eight to ten hours.’

‘What’s she wearing?’ From Nelson’s vantage point it looks like fancy dress, a long white robe and some sort of blue cloak. For a moment he thinks of Cathbad, whose favourite attire is a druid’s cloak. ‘It’s both spiritual and practical’, he’d once told Nelson.

‘Nightdress and dressing gown,’ says Stephenson. ‘Not exactly the thing for a February night, eh?’

‘Has she got slippers on?’ Nelson can see a glimpse of bare leg, ending in something white.

‘Yes, the kind you get free in spas and the like,’ says Stephenson, who probably knows a lot about such places. ‘Again, not exactly the thing for tramping over the fields.’

‘If her slippers are still on, she must have been placed in the ditch and not thrown.’

‘You’re right, chief. I’d say the body was placed here with some care.’ Stephenson holds out an object in a plastic bag. ‘This was on her chest.’

‘What is it? A necklace?’

Stephenson laughs. ‘I thought you were a left-footer, Admiral. It’s a rosary.’

A rosary. Nelson’s mother has a wooden rosary from Lourdes and she prays a decade every night. Nelson’s sisters, Grainne and Maeve, were given rosaries for their First Holy Communions. Nelson didn’t get one because he was a boy.

‘Bag it,’ he says, although the rosary is already sealed in a plastic evidence bag. ‘It’s important evidence.’

‘If you say so, chief.’

Meet the Author

ELLY GRIFFITHS is the author of the Ruth Galloway and Magic Men mystery series. She is the recipient of the Mary Higgins Clark Award and her work has been praised as “gripping” (Louise Penny), "captivating," (Wall Street Journal) and “must-reads for fans of crime fiction” (Associated Press).
 

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The Woman in Blue 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
Anonymous 8 months ago
This is such an enjoyable series! Elly is now on my preorder list of authors.
wendywhiner 11 months ago
Very very good I wish she would let Ruth and Nelson get together.....