This is one of those series I read because I love the characters which is just as well because there is an awful lot going on for Ruth, Nelson, Tim, Clough and Cathbad in this, their eighth outing. Fortunately, there is a pretty good mystery too.
A young woman from a private hospital, one of those that is for recovery of addiction, is found murdered in Walsingham, she was wearing just her nightgown and her blue dressing gown, in fact Cathbad had seen her earlier that night mistaking her for Mary, the mother of Jesus. The theme of the Madonna runs through this book with Walsingham being a place of pilgrimage and soon after the story starts, the location of a conference for woman clergy, Hilary is attending the conference and being an old university friend of Ruth asks her to meet her in the village, she has something important that she needs Ruth’s advice on. Sadly it isn’t any old bones which are absent from this episode so Ruth’s part in the murder investigation is firmly on the periphery but that doesn’t stop her gathering some useful information!
With another murder, the team are kept busy investigating the pasts of the good and the great of the visitors to Walsingham, although with turmoil in their private lives they are forced to prioritise one over the other more than once.
As always in this series, there is a past and present connection and with Elly Griffiths choosing religion there was a lot of references to Catholicism and in particular the Virgin Mary and the present day struggle of women working in the clergy against the long held beliefs that this is sacrilege, and I found this far more interesting than I might have thought – the author does have a great way with words, which means that I was able to follow the references without it ever feeling like a Religious Education lesson. With the real action occurring at Easter, Ruth a devout atheist ends up attending some of the events being held in Walsingham complete with souvenir artefacts.
There are the obligatory red herrings so although I didn’t get the culprit, I did work out the link between the victims but if I’m honest I wasn’t entirely convinced by the motive but somehow because I feel such affection for the characters that in no way reduced my enjoyment of the novel as a whole. For that reason if you haven’t read the rest of the series, this is not the place to start, this is one series where it is definitely best to begin at the beginning.
I’d like to say a huge thank you to the publishers Quercus books for my review copy which I’ve read prior to publication on 4 February 2016.
Ruth Galloway Books