The Outcast Dead - Elly Griffiths

Elly Griffiths has a lot of gall. Imagine having the nerve to create a series based on a smart, slightly overweight (read: normal) woman who is a professor & single mom. But does she stop there? Noooo.

Then she adds an interesting well rounded cast that runs the gamut from conservative middle aged cop to flighty intuitive druid & plunks them all into stories containing murder, mayhem, archaeology, humour & evolving personal lives. I mean, who reads this stuff?

Um...I do. And as quickly as she can churn them out. I'll read just about anything if the story is good & the characters believable. Sadly, some days it's like searching for Waldo. The literary world seems over run with a kabillion knockoffs of FSOG, Twilight or the Hunger Games. While the originals may have some merit (except FSOG...sorry, just can't include it with a straight face), many of the clones feel rushed to market without proper vetting as the publishers cash in on the craze. 

And maybe they have to. No doubt bottom lines have been affected by increasing sales of ebooks & decreasing numbers of independent book stores. 

I get alot of books sent to me that fall into the "meh" category (my humble opinion) so it's a pleasure to to tuck into one that is smart & well plotted with characters & dialogue that ring true. *end of rant*

This is book #6 & if you've enjoyed the others, grab it. There are two main plot lines. Ruth is at a dig that may change public perception of a maligned historical figure long used to frighten little kids into good behaviour. Speaking of kids, they're going missing & for Harry, it becomes a personal & professional nightmare. When one is found dead, it stirs up painful memories of the search for two llittle girls earlier in his career. In fact, that's how he met Ruth which led to the creation of Kate, now a precocious "almost 3" year old. 

Inevitably, the story lines collide as common ties are gradually uncovered. The historical aspect of the book is interesting & poignant. Harry's case concerning a child snatcher is chilling & all too realistic. But I think faithful fans will most enjoy the personal developments in the lives of some of the regular cast. Don't want to spill the beans but Ruth encounters a little romance, Judy makes some decisions after a scare & Cathbad returns from exile. To keep things fresh, there's newcomer Tim as the latest recruit to Harry's team. He's an outsider on several levels & I look forward to seeing where his story goes.

We get to see more of Harry's cantankerous side in this instalment & his sardonic sense of humour is triggered when the chief brings in a profiler (or as he calls her "Queen of the Bleedin' Obvious"). The crankier he becomes, the funnier he gets.

The writing flows with an even pace that keeps you turning the pages before picking up for the final few chapters when all is revealed. As with any series, you'll get more from it if you've read the others & know the characters' background histories. Fans of Jim Kelly (Philip Dryden series), Peter May (Lewis series) & Anne Cleeves (Shetland series) should give this a try.