I have to admit to occasionally getting weary of reading crime fiction. It does’t happen very often as it’s a genre that I’ve loved since I was a child. However, there is so much of it out there to read that I can feel overwhelmed. So, occasionally, I have a break and read something else. My recent binge has been ghost stories and it’s been hugely enjoyable. However, one book has got me back into the crime fiction reading groove and it’s this one by one of my favourite crime writers. Elly Griffiths’s series featuring forensic archaeologist, Dr Ruth Galloway, had me hooked from the start. The books successfully combine both police procedural and a mystery calling for Ruth’s expertise. Set on the Norfolk coast, the books also have a strong sense of place and an unusual cast of characters.
The Woman in Blue is set in Walsingham, a famous Marian shrine and a destination for pilgrimages going back centuries. Ruth’s friend, the druid Cathbad, is house-sitting for a friend when he sees a woman in a graveyard wearing a blue cloak. When, the next morning, a woman is found murdered, DCI Nelson and his team discover she was a patient at a nearby rehab facility. Ruth, meanwhile, has been contacted by a university friend who is now a priest. She claims that someone opposed to ordained women is sending her threatening letters and asks Ruth to help.
For me, this was a perfect combination of one of my favourite crime fiction series and a religious subject matter. I’ve visited Walsingham a few times and it’s an unusual place. The religious elements, however, are never allowed to overshadow the main story, that of women who are being killed, possibly as a result of religious zealotry.
One of the reasons for the series’ continued popularity is the relationship between Ruth and Nelson. Married to the glamorous Michelle, Nelson is the father to Ruth’s daughter and both are ambivalent about whether they could envisage a future with each other. However, the mutual attraction is overwhelming and Griffiths tantalises us once more about the possibility of the two coming together. I find the relationship to be one of the most realistic portrayals of a couple in crime fiction and the ‘will-they-won’t-they’ is never wearying.
If you haven’t read any of Griffiths’s books you could easily begin with The Woman in Blue and I’m sure it will make you want to read more of this excellent series.