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The Woman in Blue

The Woman in Blue

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The Woman in Blue

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May 3, 2016


“Ruth Galloway is a captivating amateur sleuth — an inspired creation.” — Louise Penny

“Readers will look forward to learning more about [Ruth Galloway].” — USA Today
“Ruth is a terrific character: unglamorous, smart, down-to-earth and completely believable.” — San Jose Mercury News

Known as England’s Nazareth, the medieval town of Little Walsingham is famous for religious apparitions. So when Ruth Galloway’s druid friend Cathbad sees a woman in a white dress and a dark blue cloak standing alone in the local cemetery one night, he takes her as a vision of the Virgin Mary. But then a woman wrapped in blue cloth is found dead the next day, and Ruth’s old friend Hilary, an Anglican priest, receives a series of hateful, threatening letters. Could these crimes be connected? When one of Hilary’s fellow female priests is murdered just before Little Walsingham’s annual Good Friday Passion Play, Ruth, Cathbad, and DCI Harry Nelson must team up to find the killer before he strikes again.
“An uncommon, down-to-earth heroine whose acute insight, wry humor, and depth of feeling make her a thoroughly engaging companion.” — Erin Hart 
May 3, 2016

Sobre el autor

Elly Griffiths nació en Londres y trabajó en el mundo editorial durante varios años. Decidió dedicarse a la escritura cuando su esposo comenzó a estudiar Arqueología. Para su exitosa serie, con la arqueóloga Ruth Galloway como protagonista,  también contó con la inspiración de su tía, que le contaba leyendas y mitos de Norfolk. Los ecos del pantano, la primera novela de la serie, se ha publicado con gran éxito en nuestro país.

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The Woman in Blue - Elly Griffiths


First Mariner Books edition 2017

First U.S. edition

Copyright © 2016 by Elly Griffiths

All rights reserved

For information about permission to reproduce selections from this book, write to trade.permissions@hmhco.com or to Permissions, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company, 3 Park Avenue, 19th Floor, New York, New York 10016.


First published in Great Britain in 2016 by Quercus

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

Names: Griffiths, Elly, author.

Title: The woman in blue : a Ruth Galloway mystery / Elly Griffiths.

Description: First U.S. edition. | Boston ; New York : Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2016. | "2016

Identifiers: LCCN 2016004629 (print) | LCCN 2016010136 (ebook) | ISBN 9780544417854 (hardback) | ISBN 9780544419322 (ebook) | ISBN 9780544947115 (pbk.)

Subjects: LCSH: Galloway, Ruth (Fictitious character)—Fiction. | Women forensic anthropologists—Fiction. | BISAC: FICTION / Mystery & Detective / General. | FICTION / Mystery & Detective / Women Sleuths. | FICTION / Mystery & Detective / Traditional British. | GSAFD: Mystery fiction.

Classification: LCC PR6107.R534 W66 2016 (print) | LCC PR6107.R534 (ebook) | DDC 823/.92—dc23

LC record available at http://lccn.loc.gov/2016004629

Cover design by Martha Kennedy

Cover photographs: (skull) © Joe Clark/Tetra Images/Corbis; (rosary) © Peter Dazeley/Getty Images

Author photograph © Sara Reeve

eISBN 978-0-544-41932-2


For Giulia

Weep, weep, O Walsingham,

Whose dayes are nights,

Blessings turned to blasphemies,

Holy deeds to despites.

Sinne is where Our Ladye sate,

Heaven turned is to helle;

Satan sitthe where Our Lord did swaye,

Walsingham, O farewell!

—Ballad of Walsingham, anonymous, sixteenth century


19th 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 with etchings from the Old Testament. Justin, a 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 onto 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 onto 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.


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.’

Nelson straightens up. He has heard a car approaching and guesses that it’s Clough and Tim. Besides, he’s had enough of Chris Stephenson and his breezy good humour.

His sergeants come towards him. Both are tall and dark and have been described (though not by Nelson) as handsome, but there the resemblance ends. Clough is white and Tim is black, but there’s much more to it than that. Clough is heavily built, wearing jeans and skiing jacket. He’s looking around with something like excitement and there’s a half-eaten bagel in his hand. Tim is taller and slimmer, he’s wearing a long dark coat and knotted scarf and could be a politician visiting a factory. His face gives nothing away.

Nelson briefs them quickly. He calls over the local officer, who explains that the body was found by an early morning dog-walker. ‘Her little dog actually got into the ditch and was . . . well . . . shaking the deceased.’

‘If she’s in nightclothes,’ says Tim, ‘she could be a patient at the Sanctuary.’

The same thought has occurred to Nelson. It was the waffle-patterned slippers that first gave him the idea. The Sanctuary is a private hospital specialising in drug rehabilitation. Because a lot of the patients are famous (though not to Nelson), the place exists in an atmosphere of high walls, secrecy and rumours of drug-fuelled orgies. It is quite near here, about a mile across the fields.

‘Good thinking,’ he says. ‘You and Cloughie can go over there in a minute and ask if any patients are missing.’

‘Foxy O’Hara’s meant to be there at the moment,’ says Clough, swallowing the last of his bagel.


‘You must have heard of her. She was on I’m a Celebrity before Christmas.’

‘You’re jabbering, Cloughie.’ Nelson turns to Chris Stephenson, who has emerged from the ditch and is taking off his coveralls. ‘Anything else for us, Chris? No handy nametapes on the dressing gown?’

‘No, but it’s a good one. Pricy. From John Lewis.’

‘Costs a bit to stay in the Sanctuary,’ says Nelson. ‘I think that’s our best bet.’

‘Excuse me, sir.’ It’s one of the local policemen, nervous and respectful. ‘But there’s a man asking to see you. Looks a bit of a nutter, but he says he knows you.’

‘Cathbad,’ says Clough, without looking round.

Clough is right. Nelson sees Cathbad standing beyond the police tape, wearing his trademark cloak. How strange, and slightly unsettling, that Nelson was thinking about him only a few moments before. He strides over.

‘Cathbad. What are you doing here?’

‘I’m house-sitting in Walsingham.’

‘What about Judy? Have you left her alone with a newborn baby?’

‘Miranda’s ten weeks old and she’s an old soul. No, Judy’s taken the children to visit her parents.’

‘That doesn’t explain why you’re here, at a crime scene.’

‘The woman you’ve found,’ says Cathbad. ‘Was she wearing a blue cloak?’

Nelson takes a step back. ‘Who says we’ve found a woman?’

He half-expects Cathbad to say something about spiritual energies and cosmic vibrations, but instead he says, ‘I heard the milkman talking about it. Useful people, milkmen. They’re up and about early, they notice things.’

‘And what did you mean about a cloak? I’m sure the bloody milkman didn’t see that.’

Cathbad exhales. ‘So it is her.’

‘What are you talking about?’

‘The cottage where I’m staying, it overlooks the graveyard.’ That figures, thinks Nelson. ‘Well, last night, I saw a woman standing there, a woman wearing a white robe and a blue cloak.’

‘What time was that?’

‘About nine.’

Nelson lifts the tape. ‘You’d better come through.’

The scene-of-the-crime team have arrived. In their paper suits and masks they look like aliens taking over a sleepy Norfolk village. As Nelson and Cathbad watch, the dead woman’s body is slowly winched out of the ditch. The corpse is covered with a sheet, but as the stretcher passes them they both see a length of muddy blue material hanging down. Cathbad crosses himself and Nelson has to stop himself following suit.

‘Any idea who she was?’ asks Cathbad.

‘She was in nightclothes,’ said Nelson. ‘Your cloak was a dressing gown. I’m sending Clough and Heathfield to the Sanctuary.’

‘Do you think she was a patient there?’

‘It’s a line of enquiry.’

The aliens have now erected a tent-like structure over the ditch. The atmosphere has somehow stopped being that of an emergency and has become calm and purposeful.

‘Look, Cathbad,’ says Nelson. ‘I’m going to brief the boys and finish up here. Then I’ll come and talk to you about what you saw last night. Where’s this place you’re staying?’

‘St Simeon’s Cottage. Next to the church.’

‘I won’t be long.’

‘Time,’ says Cathbad grandly, ‘is of no consequence.’ But he is talking to the empty air.

Ruth Galloway doesn’t hear about the body in the ditch until she’s at work. She did listen to the radio in the car, but what with the hassle of getting her five-year-old daughter, Kate, to school in time, it all became rather a blur. ‘Have you got your book bag?’ . . . Here’s Gary with the sports news . . . ‘Can you see a parking space?’ . . . Thought for the Day with the Revd . . . ‘Quick, there’s Mrs Mannion waiting for you. Love you. See you later.’ . . . Icy winds, particularly on the east coast . . . If the dead woman did make it on to the Today programme, Ruth missed it altogether. It wasn’t until she was at her desk, trying to catch up on emails before her first tutorial, that her head of department, Phil Trent, wandered—uninvited—into her office and asked if she’d heard ‘the latest drama’.

‘No. What?’

‘A woman found dead in a ditch out Walsingham way. It was on Look East.’

‘I must have missed it.’

‘I thought you had a hotline to the boys in blue.’

Phil is jealous of Ruth’s role as a special advisor to the police and sometimes she likes to tease him, dropping hints of high-level meetings and top-secret memos, but this morning she doesn’t have the energy.

‘I doubt it will have anything to do with me. Not unless there’s an Iron Age skeleton in the ditch as well.’

‘I suppose not.’

Ruth turns back to her screen, and though Phil hovers in the doorway for a few minutes, eventually he drifts away, leaving her to concentrate on her emails. They are the usual collection of advertisements from academic publishers, departmental memos and requests from her students for extra time to finish their essays. Ruth deletes the first and the second and is settling down to answer the third when she sees a new category of email. The subject is ‘Long time no see’. This is either intriguing or worrying, depending on your mood. Ruth is probably fifty-fifty on that. She clicks it open.

Hi, Ruth,

Do you remember me, Hilary Smithson, from Southampton? Where have the years gone? I understand that you’re in Norfolk, doing very well for yourself. I’m coming to Norfolk next week, for a conference in Walsingham, and I wondered if we could meet up? I’d like to ask your advice on a rather tricky matter. And I’d love to see you of course.

Looking forward to hearing from you.

All best,


Ruth stares at the screen. It’s the second time that Walsingham has been mentioned that morning and, as Nelson always says, there’s no such thing as coincidence.


The Sanctuary is an imposing Victorian edifice, more suited to a sooty city centre than the Norfolk countryside. Even softened by trees and gently rolling hills, it looks like a town hall or a railway station that has somehow planted itself in the middle of a field.

Clough, though, is impressed. ‘Look at this place. It’s like a stately home.’

‘Looks more like a prison,’ says Tim.

They have stopped at the electronic gates but, before Tim can speak into the intercom, they open soundlessly.

‘Not very good security for a prison,’ says Clough.

Tim says nothing. In fact, both have brothers who have been in prison, but they are not in the habit of discussing their families. Tim puts the car into gear and they approach the house via a sweeping gravel drive. Wide steps lead to the front door and, facing them, there’s a perfect ring of grass with a stone fountain in the middle. There is not a soul to be seen.

They ignore signs to the visitors’ car park and leave the car at the foot of the steps. Tim presses the bell and, this time, a voice answers. He has hardly finished saying the word ‘Police’ when the double doors open.

Inside it’s definitely more like a hotel than a prison—a baronial hall with a monstrous stone fireplace and a round table bearing an arrangement of waxy-looking flowers. A grandfather clock ticks ponderously, and gloomy oil paintings look down from the walls. There’s even a reception desk where a woman is flashing her teeth at them.

‘How can I help you?’

Tim shows his warrant card. ‘Can I speak to whoever’s in charge?’ They agreed in the car that he should take the lead in the interview. Clough hovers supportively at his shoulder.

The receptionist looks at them nervously. ‘That’s Doctor McAllister.’

‘Can I speak to him then?’ asks Tim.

‘I’ll see if she’s free.’ The receptionist picks up a phone and Clough murmurs, ‘You’ve got to watch these sexist assumptions, Tim.’

‘Bugger off,’ says Tim without moving his lips.

Doctor McAllister arrives very quickly. She’s an attractive middle-aged woman with short brown hair and narrow intimidating glasses. She ushers them to a leather sofa in front of the fireplace. Tim was going to suggest somewhere more private but as—apart from the receptionist who seems oblivious—the lobby is as empty as the grounds, he subsides.

‘What’s all this about, officer?’ The doctor takes charge immediately, smoothing her white coat and adjusting her glasses.

‘We were wondering if any of your patients were missing?’ asks Tim.

‘What do you mean, missing?’

‘It’s a simple enough question,’ says Clough. ‘Are any of your inmates missing?’

‘They’re not inmates, officer, they’re patients,’ says Doctor McAllister.

‘And are any of your patients missing?’ asks Tim.

‘Our patients are free to come and go. They sign themselves in for treatment.’

‘Did anyone sign themselves out yesterday?’

‘I don’t think so,’ she admits.

‘So everyone is where they should be?’

‘Well, we haven’t done the rounds of the rooms yet, so I can’t be a hundred per cent sure.’

‘The thing is,’ Tim says, and leans forward confidentially, ‘a body has been found.’

‘A body?’

‘The body of a woman in her nightclothes. We wondered if she was one of your patients.’

‘But that’s impossible.’

‘I thought people were free to come and go,’ says Clough.

‘Yes,’ says Doctor McAllister and shoots him an unfriendly look. ‘But we wouldn’t sign anyone out just wearing their nightclothes. And, as I say . . .’

The pocket of her white coat starts to vibrate: they can see a red light flashing under the fabric.

‘I think someone wants you,’ says Tim.

Doctor McAllister pulls out her phone and has a brief monosyllabic conversation. Then she gets to her feet, saying, ‘Excuse me, gentlemen.’

Clough and Tim exchange glances, then get up and follow her.

There’s a grand staircase to the right of the fireplace. Doctor McAllister takes the stairs two at a time, with the policemen following her. On the landing she opens a door and immediately the country-house hotel vanishes and they enter a world that is altogether more institutional: numbered doors, hand-gel dispensers; even the carpet looks different. Two men in white coats (nurses? doctors? orderlies?) stand by one of the doors. Doctor McAllister hurries forward to speak to them and Tim hears the word ‘missing’. He holds out his warrant card and asks, ‘Is somebody missing?’

The doctor shoots him an irritated look, but says, ‘Apparently, one of our patients isn’t in her room.’

A white-coated man pushes open door number 12. It’s a pleasant but functional room: single bed, table, wardrobe, armchair and a beautiful sash window that is slightly too big for the space.

‘The patient’s name?’ asks Clough briskly.

Doctor McAllister confers. ‘Jenkins. Chloe Jenkins.’

‘And when was Miss Jenkins last seen?’

One of the white coats replies, ‘Last night, at about eight, when I took supper round.’

A covered plate lies on the bedside table. Clough lifts the lid, revealing uneaten shepherd’s pie congealing at the edges.

‘And after that?’

‘No. She didn’t ring her bell.’

Tim has opened the wardrobe. ‘What would Miss Jenkins have been wearing?’

The orderly replies nervously, ‘She was in her nightclothes and a dressing gown.’

‘What colour?’


Tim turns to Doctor McAllister. ‘I think you’d better come with us.’

What with one thing and another, it’s nearly eleven o’clock when Nelson knocks on the hobbit-sized front door of St Simeon’s Cottage. The door is opened immediately, but is held ajar, with only Cathbad’s face showing through.

‘Quickly,’ he says. ‘I don’t want to let the cat out.’

‘Trust you to be looking after a mad cat,’ says Nelson, squeezing through the aperture.

‘He’s not mad,’ says Cathbad, showing Nelson into a low-ceilinged sitting room. ‘He’s disconcertingly sane.’

The slim black cat is sitting by the wood-burning stove. He gets up, shoots Nelson a look of contempt and stalks out of the room.

‘Friendly creature,’ says Nelson.

‘I think he’s the reincarnation of my old Latin teacher,’ says Cathbad. ‘He looks at me with exactly the same expression of disappointment.’

Nelson laughs and then realises that this might not be a joke.

‘Why’s he not allowed out?’ he asks.

‘He’s allowed out in the day, but not at night,’ says Cathbad. ‘But I’ve got twitchy about letting him out of the front door. I keep thinking that he’ll get run over just to spite me.’

‘When’s the owner of the house back?’

‘Tomorrow. Thank the gods.’

‘It’s an interesting place,’ says Nelson, though privately he thinks that all those beams and uneven floorboards would get him down after a while. There doesn’t seem to be a straight line in the whole place. To his surprise, though, Cathbad shudders. ‘It’s got bad energies,’ he says. ‘Oppressive. Can’t you feel it? I’ve had a headache all the time I’ve been here.’

‘It’s probably just because you keep hitting your head on doorposts.’

Cathbad laughs. ‘Probably.’

‘So, tell me about this woman you saw last night.’

‘I’ll show you.’

Cathbad leads Nelson through a door and into a narrow stone passageway. The cat is waiting by the door at the end of it.

‘I’ll let you out, Chesterton,’ says Cathbad, ‘if you promise to come back.’

The cat ignores him.

The back door opens directly onto the graveyard. Some of the stones are almost as big as the low house; others lean towards it in a rather threatening way.

‘Blimey.’ Nelson follows Cathbad along the path through the graves, saying, ‘Talk about dead centre of town.’

‘It’s a very old church,’ says Cathbad. ‘Anglo-Saxon. It’s older than the priory.’

The word ‘Anglo-Saxon’ reminds Nelson of Ruth, who is fond of throwing around historical eras as if she is unaware of the fact that Nelson has never worked out whether Bronze Age comes before the Iron Age or who the hell Homo Heidelbergensis is. The Anglo-Saxons he thinks came after the Romans, but that’s as far as he’s prepared to go.

‘Where did you see the woman?’

‘Here. By this white tombstone.’

Nelson looks at the grass around the stone. It’s slightly flattened, but there are no footprints or any signs of a struggle. ‘What time was this?’

‘About nine. I’d just rung Judy and I try to do that before nine because she goes to bed early these days.’

‘What happened next?’

‘She smiled at me. Honest to God, Nelson, she had such a beautiful smile, like an angel. I thought . . .’

‘What did you think?’

‘Walsingham is a shrine to the Virgin Mary. And she was wearing a blue cloak. Well, I thought it was a cloak at the time.’

‘You thought you’d seen a vision of Our Lady?’

‘Our Lady. You’re still such a Catholic, Nelson.’

‘Stop trying to wind me up. What happened next?’

‘She turned away and started walking towards the gate. I tried to follow but Chesterton jumped out and tripped me up.’

‘Chesterton, the cat?’

‘Yes. He’s like some malign sprite. I’m sure he did it deliberately. When I got back he was sitting by his bowl in the kitchen as if nothing had happened.’

‘Forget the cat for a minute. What happened to the woman?’

‘When I got up, she was gone. I went to the gate and looked down the lane but there was no sign of her.’

‘Show me.’

They walk through the churchyard. There are a few impressive tombs, with weeping angels and towering crosses, but most graves are simply marked by stones, their edges blurred by time and exposure to the elements. Some gravestones have fallen over and others are lined up against the low brick wall; a few are lying flat, sunk into the grass as if laid out for a macabre game of hopscotch. Nelson tries to avoid treading on them. The gate opens easily and leads into another narrow lane with high hedges. It’s a fairly straight road, though. The woman must have been walking fast, thinks Nelson, to have got out of sight so quickly.

He looks at Cathbad, who is examining the inscription on a stone angel. ‘You

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  • (4/5)
    A rather disappointing development in the continuing lives of Ruth Galloway, daughter Kate, Cathbad, Nelson and his police team in the serious crimes unit. The murder mystery theme was innovative, although terribly contrived and I didn't feel drawn in by the story except for the initial scene (when Cathbad sees an apparition that manifests as if she's the Virgin Mary).Griffiths' great strengths in this series are her evocative descriptions of the low lying Norfolk broads, the marshes and the archaeological discoveries. These aspects were largely missing from the story and along with a few of those eye-roll passages, I was bored. I think 3½ ★s is a generous rating, but I do intend to keep on with my RG addiction.
  • (4/5)
    Not quite as much archeology but a murder mystery solved.
  • (4/5)
    The eighth book in the Ruth Galloway series is set in Walsingham, a Norfolk village known for religious shrines and a popular destination for pilgrims. DCI Harry Nelson is investigating the murder of a young woman, a patient at a drug rehab facility. Ruth reconnects with a university friend, who is attending a conference in the area. Hilary, an anglican priest, has been receiving threatening letters from someone who clearly objects to women in church leadership. Ruth encourages her to share the letters with the police. Then a second woman is murdered who bears some resemblance to the first, and there’s reason to suspect the letter-writer might also be the murderer. I liked the change of setting in this novel, both the location and the connections to the church, priesthood, and lenten rituals. Similar to an earlier book set in Blackpool, moving outside of Ruth’s immediate neighborhood provides an opportunity to center the crime in a new environment where new themes can be explored. Several new characters also came on the scene and while I suspected one of them was likely the perpetrator, Elly Griffiths kept me guessing up to the reveal. I’m glad I still have a few more books left to enjoy.
  • (5/5)
    This was yet another excellent read in the Ruth Galloway series, and it was great to be back with some of my favourite characters. Elly Griffiths kept her cards close to her chest in this one and it was difficult to work out who the murderer was but s/he was definitely on my list of suspects. Some quite important events happened in the lives of the central characters in this one, and I loved how the author took forward one of the storylines, although it is a shame we have to say goodbye to one of the characters. If I was to be picky I would say it would have been even better if we had seen more of Cathbad in this one. I hope Elly Griffiths writes quickly as I have now read all books in this series.
  • (3/5)
    Well, I've been reading these at the pace of eating popcorn, and that may be why I didn't like this one as much as the others. I suspect Griffiths had to end some threads of romantic tension that were getting a little histrionic, but the central mystery is filled with coincidences and conveniently hidden relationships among the quick and the dead. And the characters are a bit more cardboard than I have come to expect from her. Oh well. I hope the next one's better.
  • (4/5)
    8th in the series. Someone is strangling beautiful blonde women. Is it tied to a conference for women priests and a Virgin Mary cult. Love the characters, but this time the red herring was a little too obscure.
  • (4/5)
    As usual, the mystery aspect of the plot has ties to the past & is rich in detail. There are some changes in store in terms of the main characters' personal lives & Harry is particular is forced to reexamine his relationships. Ruth evolves the most as a character & I enjoyed seeing flashes of her as a strong, more determined woman & mother. The mystery aspect is well written & keeps you guessing to the end.
  • (4/5)
    This opened strongly with Cathbad cat-sitting Chesterton, and the sections dealing with the death of Chloe, the model murdered while in rehab, were good. Progress was made on Nelson/Tim/Michelle, which was satisfactory. However, the rest was less good. Certain plot strands seemed entirely extraneous, for example SPOILERSthe group obsessed with the breast-feeding Virgin Mary, which seemed to include almost all the male clergy knocking around, and also the suicide of Chloe's boyfriend. The motive for the murders was thin and very unlikely.
  • (3/5)
    In a cemetery in Walsingham, a Norfolk village famous for its pagan past and its pilgrimages to the Virgin Mary, Cathbad, house-sitting for a friend, sees a vision of a young woman in a blue cloak. He wonders if he has seen the Madonna but the following morning a young woman in a blue dressing gown is discovered in a ditch. DCI Harry Nelson and his team are called in to investigate the murder and discover that she was a recovering addict being treated at a nearby rehabilitation centre. Dr Ruth Galloway, an archaeologist and long-term friend of the DCI, is approached by Hilary, an old friend, who is now a priest and attending a local course for women hoping to become bishops. She has been receiving threatening letters from a man who is vehemently opposed to women in the priesthood and who makes references to a woman “clad in blue, weeping for the world”. Ruth informs harry and they both think there must be a link between the letters and the murder, a belief reinforced when a second murder takes place. Will there be a third? Ruth and Harry are determined to ensure that the killer is identified before he can strike again.This is the eighth novel in the Ruth Galloway series but it is the first one that I have read. Although there many references to the characters who will be familiar to anyone who has read previous stories in the series, I thought that it was easy to read this as a stand-alone novel. I thought that there were some clever twists and turns in the story-telling (although I did guess the outcome quite early on!) and that the cast of characters was well drawn. There were three aspects of the story which I found particularly enjoyable – the issue of women clergy and whether they should be allowed to rise in the hierarchy of the church, all the historical information about Walsingham as a place of pilgrimage, and the wonderfully evocative descriptions of Norfolk. This is an area I know well and I think that Elly Griffiths really brought it to life. There was a degree of tension as the plot unfolded but there was also a rather gentle, leisurely aspect to the story-telling which made for a welcome, non-demanding read – I could certainly be tempted to get to know these characters better!
  • (4/5)
    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 novel from Netgalley (thank you!); it is available for publication on 02/04. You can check out a review of this novel and many others on my blog.
  • (4/5)
    Much as I love Ruth Galloway books, this one was less satisfying. First of all the plot and motive for murder was weak, more cannot be explained without giving a spoiler. Parts of the story were implausible to say the least: two characters decided to go for a walk in the middle of the night, one while drunk after a night of serious drinking, and another in nightclothes? Ruth's contribution to solving the crime was almost nil and the one piece of information she uncovered concerning a missing broken glass vial was ignored. Griffiths' intention for this book was to highlight the shrine at Walsingham as well as to work into the story a real person and dog (the distinction won in a contest at a charity fundraiser) but I believe this stratagem came at the cost of her novel. And there was far too much religion, understandable to a point, given the location, but it began to wear. I couldn't imagine police wearing the robes of the apostles in order to blend in. I still have a soft spot for Ruth, Nelson, Cathbad and Clough and I'm sorry to see Tim leave but I'll expect more from Griffiths in the next episode.
  • (4/5)
    I just love the humor in these books. This one started out in a particularly amusing way.Interesting setting, interesting new/temporary characters, and I always love being back with the recurring characters. I had many suspicions about some people from the start and it was fun to read and find out when I’d guesses right/wrong. There were lots of red herrings but all of them made sense. I’d thought of the culprit (s) at different points but I love when I can’t guess correctly and this was one time when I was stymied. I read these books for the characters and the relationships and the settings, but this mystery was complex and complicated, and believable, and I thought it was a great part of the book. I found particularly sad both of the murders in this book. Despite all the talk about religion (most of which either went over my head or I had to look up and that didn’t greatly interest me, except for the history aspect) I really liked this book.I love how there was a very unlikely dog hero.I appreciated the acknowledgments section in this book, especially the naming contest and the dog and woman involved. I always like maps in books and liked the map in front, of Walsingham, partly as it is and partly made up for this story. In all the books in this series I love the cat and dog characters. I enjoyed buddy reading this book with Hilary. We weren’t able to always read at precisely the same time but we read sections at close enough to the same time that we were able to have good email chats about them and about the book/series. Our stopping places often seemed to end up being cliffhangers, and in this book the very end is another cliffhanger. I’m glad we’ve decided to read book 9 sooner rather than later. I don’t want to catch up though and have to wait the full length of time for the next book to be published, even though I want to try this author’s other books too. I’m not longer thinking of this series book by book and comparing them with each other. I’m looking at the eight books I’ve read and the at least four books I’ve yet to read as one long story.
  • (3/5)
    A favorite series, just hits the spot.
  • (3/5)
    I was kind of annoyed with this book because of the way believers are portrayed as naive for revering and making pilgrimages to see holy relics and believers in general. That said, I do like catching up with the lives of Ruth, Katie, Nelson, Michelle and Cathsbad.While housesitting in a cottage next to a cemetery in Walsingham, Cathsbad sees what he believes could be a vision of the Virgin Mary. However, the next morning a woman is found murdered in a ditch nearby wearing a blue cloak. At the same time there’s a meeting of women Anglican priests in Walsingham and threatening letters are being sent to them and another murdered woman is found.
  • (4/5)
    Note: Spoilers for previous books in this series.The eighth book in the Ruth Galloway Mystery Series begins not too long after the previous book. In the first seven books, we got to know Ruth Galloway, now 45, who is a self-described overweight forensic archeologist at the (fictional) University of North Norfolk, and Detective Chief Inspector Harry Nelson of the Norfolk Police. The two teamed up to solve several crimes since Ruth is an expert on bones, and now Ruth is seconded to the Serious Crime Unit, which is headed by Nelson.The crime portion of this book begins with a body found near a church graveyard in Walsingham, a major pilgrimage center in the county of Norfolk famous for its religious shrines to the Virgin Mary. As in previous books, Griffiths skillfully weaves actual information about Norfolk area sites into her crime story, allowing us, in the process, to become acquainted with the religious and archeological history of the region.Most of the story is focused on the “transient” characters associated with the murder rather than with the usual ensemble cast, which I found unfortunate. For one thing, I didn’t think the crime aspect of this book was as well done as in previous books - these characters weren’t very likable and the actual motive when finally revealed seemed rather flimsy. For another, it is the “regulars” that draw one back to this series, and there wasn’t nearly enough about them in this book.On the other hand, Griffiths employed plenty of her trademark sardonic sense of humor as revealed through the wry observations of both Ruth and Nelson.Discussion: While I would have liked to see more of Ruth and Nelson together, it was nevertheless an entertaining addition to the ongoing story. We do have Ruth musing that with Nelson always in the background, it makes it impossible for her to contemplate life with another man; deep down, she confesses to herself, she is still in love with him. And what of Nelson? It seems he wants to have both Ruth and his wife Michelle, and all of their daughters, and doesn’t want to have to choose. In fact he rejects “soul-searching”; “He doesn’t like talking about emotions, even to himself.”Evaluation: I really like this series; it is one of my favorite crime series (and I read many of them). The regular characters are well-drawn and seem very much like real people. I especially enjoy Ruth’s reflections on food and on motherhood, both of which ring so true, and her sense of humor. I also love that one comes away from these books learning a great deal more than about how to commit a murder.
  • (5/5)
    Book DescriptionKnown as England’s Nazareth, the medieval town of Little Walsingham is famous for religious apparitions. So when Ruth Galloway’s druid friend Cathbad sees a woman in a white dress and a dark blue cloak standing alone in the local cemetery one night, he takes her as a vision of the Virgin Mary. But then a woman wrapped in blue cloth is found dead the next day, and Ruth’s old friend Hilary, an Anglican priest, receives a series of hateful, threatening letters. Could these crimes be connected? When one of Hilary’s fellow female priests is murdered just before Little Walsingham’s annual Good Friday Passion Play, Ruth, Cathbad, and DCI Harry Nelson must team up to find the killer before he strikes again.My ReviewThis is the 8th book in the Ruth Galloway series and it does not disappoint. I very much enjoyed learning the of history of Walsingham and the yearly Passion Play that is performed. Elly Griffiths gave many clues to the murderer but they were hidden pretty well. The plot kept the pages turning and the ending was full of surprises. I'm looking forward to reading the next installment in order to check up on the many relationships that are continually changing. I would highly recommend reading this series in order as the stories are built one upon another.
  • (5/5)
    I like the way the plot of this book makes use of a current contentious issue in the religious world: that of women priests in the Anglican Church.Ruth's friend Hilary is visiting Walsingham for a conference which prepares women to become bishops. She has received a number of threatening letters related to her position as a priest and contacts Ruth to ask her advice. Ruth passes copies of the letters on to Harry Nelson.There seemed to be less of an archaeological emphasis in the plot than usual, although Walsingham is noted for its reliquaries and Ruth does some research about them.Threads from earlier novels are further developed, particularly Nelson's marriage and his relationship with Ruth. I really enjoyed the latest episodes in the continuing story, as well as the mystery of who the madman is who is threatening Hilary.Highly recommended, but I also recommend that if you haven't read any in the series, that you start from the beginning.
  • (5/5)
    [The Woman in Blue] by Elly GriffithsRuth Galloway series Book #84.5&#9733'sFrom The Book:Known as England’s Nazareth, the medieval town of Little Walsingham is famous for religious apparitions. So when Ruth Galloway’s druid friend Cathbad sees a woman in a white dress and a dark blue cloak standing alone in the local cemetery one night, he takes her as a vision of the Virgin Mary. But then a woman wrapped in blue cloth is found dead the next day, and Ruth’s old friend Hilary, an Anglican priest, receives a series of hateful, threatening letters. Could these crimes be connected? When one of Hilary’s fellow female priests is murdered just before Little Walsingham’s annual Good Friday Passion Play, Ruth, Cathbad, and DCI Harry Nelson must team up to find the killer before he strikes again.My Thoughts:It doesn't seem possible that it's been 8 books ago that we first met this eclectic group of characters. The past is never far away from any Elly Griffiths novel and [The Woman in Blue] is no exception. We are introduced to a group of believers that are a bit over enthusiastic in some of their worship practices and of course we have a murder to solve. Elly Griffiths has again written an excellent murder mystery complete with creditable characters and enhanced by the wild and beautiful landscapes and history native to the region. The conflicted relationship between Ruth Galloway and Harry Nelson as well as several others provides an interesting counterpoint to the entire story.
  • (4/5)
    When Chloe Jenkins is found dead near an ancient burial ground in Walsingham, the police investigation reveals she was a guest at the local rehabilitation facility. While it's obvious drugs weren't the problem, it takes them quite a while to find the connection, which was quite obscure. Archaeologist Ruth Galloway has also been called to Walsingham meet with a former classmate, Hillary Smithson, who has now become an Anglican priest. She has been getting threatening notes. The letter writer has a problem with women becoming priests, let alone bishops, which is becoming a possibility. When a second body is found and it turns out to be a women priest, DCI Harry Nelson is certain the two murders are connected.

    I really like this series and it's one of my favorites. I'm always interested in seeing how the dynamics between Nelson (who is the father of Ruth’s daughter) and Ruth work during each of these books. The regular characters are well-drawn and seem very much like real people. The author gives us a wonderful cast of characters, from the mysterious Cathbad to the very average Clough. I especially enjoy Ruth’s reflections on food and on motherhood, both of which ring so true, and her sense of humor. The plot is woven to incorporate the Passion of Christ re-enactment during Easter and it was an enjoyable, well researched read with plenty of excitement and intrigue.

  • (2/5)
    Thank you NetGalley for an advance copy of this book. For the first time I was completely disappointed by a book written by Elly Griffiths. The writing was not fluid and even choppy in places. The structure was uneven and the story was not well developed. The back and forth between the main characters was not interesting and felt forced and hollow. I always find a frisson of anxiety when I read her books but not in this one. Perhaps this one was just not for me.
  • (4/5)
    The Woman in Blue is the 8th novel in the Ruth Galloway series. I have read all of the previous books and was eagerly anticipating this one. I received an advance reader copy from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.Ruth Galloway is a plain-looking archaeologist with a Ph.D., who teaches at a University in Norfolk, UK. She is a forensic archaeology consultant to the police. Ruth lives with her cat and her young daughter, Kate, whose father is Detective Chief Inspector Harry Nelson. Although Nelson is married, he and Ruth had a brief affair during the first case they worked together. Michelle, Nelson's beautiful wife, is aware of the relationship between Ruth and Nelson, and she has romantic feelings for one of Nelson's staff, although she has not acted upon them yet.Cathbad, a druid, is a friend of both Ruth and Nelson, and also the partner of Nelson's sergeant, Judy. One evening, while Cathbad is house and cat-sitting, he sees a young woman in a blue cloak in the nearby graveyard. She appears to need something, but when Cathbad follows her, she disappears. The next morning, a body is found in a nearby ditch matching her description. Meanwhile, in the same town, an Anglican conference for female priests is taking place, and one of the participants is an old friend of Ruth's, Hilary. Hilary has received threatening letters and has asked Ruth's advice. Ruth takes the letters to Nelson. They both believe that the letters must somehow be related to the girl's murder.The more I read of Elly Griffiths' books, the more impressed I am. All of the books in the series have an archaeology component which is somehow tied to the mystery. Ms. Griffiths has certainly done her homework as Ruth introduces a technical aspect to the investigation. The scientific parts are just right - not too technical to put someone off. I am almost immediately hooked into the story, and it is hard for me to put the book down until I am finished. Ms. Griffiths develops the story well; all the clues are there, but they are not necessarily obvious. She also has developed the characters well. I feel as if I know Ruth, Nelson and the other recurring characters in the books. The characters' lives continue to change over the series. One could indeed read each book as a stand-alone book, but I would recommend reading them in order as it is enjoyable to get to know the characters as they grow and change.I can't wait for the next book in the series!
  • (4/5)
    3.5 This outing takes the reader to the medieval town of Walshingham, once the site of a monastery and a site known for its veneration of the Virgin Mary. The site and its lady slipper cathedral is a big draw for pilgrims, priests, nuns and every years hosts an reenactment of the stations of the cross and the crucifixion of Jesus. Ruth is brought into the story when a friend from college and one time archeologist, now an Anglican priest receives threatening letters, decrying the use of woman as priests in the church. Murders follow, Cathbad becomes involved as do the rest of the police.Such a good series, just the right combination of archeology, ancient sites, history, crime and personal relationships. A bit of a personal surprise in this one but will have to wait till the next book to see how it develops, if it does at all. Love these characters too, they are easy to relate to and interesting as well.ARC from Netgalley.
  • (4/5)
    As always, enjoyable.
  • (4/5)
    I really enjoy this series. I like the array of characters from Ruth, the archeology instructor to Cathbad, the Druid to the members of the police, Clough, Tim, Tanya and of course Harry. If you have read the series from the beginning you have been part of the character development. As a reader, these characters are central to the story. The mystery is there of course but the characters make this series. The setting is described so well that when the reader begins a new addition to the series , it feels like coming home.In this book Ruth is contacted by an old classmate who is coming to Norfolk. Her friend, Hillary, has become an Anglican priest. She has been receiving threatening letters that she shares with Ruth who of course shares these letters with Harry. Against the backdrop of the Medieval town of Walsingham with its religious rituals and the pagentry of Easter week the story plays out. Well done but I think this series needs to be read from the beginning to enjoy it to the upmost. These are not stand alone books.Read as an ARC from NetGalley.
  • (5/5)
    If you're new to this series and wondering if you should give it a try because you've heard people like me raving about it, let me give you one piece of advice: if you're a mystery reader who prefers the crime and its investigation over the characters, you might just want to give this series a miss. Now... it hurt me to say that because I'd love to have everyone read and love these books, but it's true. The characters in Elly Griffiths' Ruth Galloway series have personal lives that are every bit as rich as the mysteries they solve-- sometimes more so-- and their personal lives can often impinge on the investigation. In The Woman in Blue, we learn about another location in the county of Norfolk-- Walsingham-- and the place of women in the Church of England. It also gives us a chance to see Ruth side by side with a woman with whom she went to university. Ruth-- an archaeologist and single mother to five-year-old Kate, who is the result of one night of passion with the very married DCI Harry Nelson. What a contrast with Hillary, the Anglican priest! One of the strengths of this series is the relationship between Ruth and Nelson. This is no simple case of infidelity. Griffiths does an excellent job of showing the characters' good and bad points. It isn't a matter of readers blythely choosing which character they believe is hardest done by and cheering him or her on. As time passes, Nelson's wife is becoming a more important character, and no one can tell what the future will bring for any of them. I think Griffiths is superb at showing life in all its complexity.But how about the mystery, I hear you ask. It's a good one. There may not be much archaeology this time around, but there are several things going on, and one of the tasks readers have is to decide if everything connects to one source... or if there's more than one villain. It's certainly not an easy decision to make!If you love mysteries with an excellent sense of place, complex and intriguing crimes to solve, and absolutely splendid characters, you'd be hard-pressed to find a series better than Elly Griffiths' Ruth Galloway.
  • (4/5)
    Ruth teams with DCI Nelson to discover who is killing beautiful young blonde women in the religious pilgrimage town of Walsingham. Ruth's involvement is more tenuous here than in earlier books, as there isn't much in the way of archaeology to the story, but that didn't matter to me. I really like Ruth and the rest of the characters, and the mystery plot was also solid and satisfyingly resolved. And now the long wait until the next book begins.