The Outcast Dead is the sixth book in a series featuring the partnership of Ruth Galloway an archaeologist, and DCI Harry Nelson from the Norfolk police force.
This particular novel is set in and around Kings Lynn and Norwich, where Ruth is involved in an archaeological excavation at Norwich Castle. She uncovers the remains of several executed prisoners from the days when the castle was the local prison. One of these prisoners was the infamous Jemima Green, who in the 19th century was convicted of murdering three children, who she was looking after as a child-minder. News of this discovery quickly gets out, attracting a TV company, who are making a series called Women who kill, and Ruth is approached to provide some technical expertise.At the same time, Nelson becomes involved in an investigation, where a woman called Liz Donaldson is accused of murdering her baby son, who died unexpectedly. Whilst investigating this, Nelson discovers that both of her other sons also died unexpectedly in infancy, and he has to find out whether these deaths were from natural causes or murder. Nelson has to deal with Liz's friends and her ex-husband Bob, who are all convinced that she is innocent.
Alongside these investigations two abductions take place, each involving a young child, being cared for by professional child-minders, by someone who appears to have a grudge against working mothers.
The setting of the novel is appealing, as it takes place in Norwich. I was particularly interested in the fact that Norwich Castle was a central location in this novel, as it is an interesting place with a lot of history. We were also introduced to several villages, which are a mixture of real and fictitious places.
Part of the attraction of a series, is that you can re-discover characters from earlier novels, alongside new ones introduced in a particular book. This one is no exception, as we are re-introduced to Ruth, her daughter Kate, her friend Shona, and manager Phil. Harry Nelson, his wife Michelle and his colleagues Judy and Clough. We are also re-introduced to Cathbad the local druid, who seems to know what is going to happen before it does. I have always liked Cathbad, and was pleased to see that he had a bigger role in this book than he had in the previous two.
This is a darker and more moving novel than earlier books in the series, dealing with sensitive themes, such as the death of children, either your own, or someone else's, and guilt of survivors who were unable to prevent tragedies from taking place. In this novel, several on-going plot strands are resolved, so it will be interesting to see what happens next with the characters, or indeed whether or not the series continues.
I enjoyed this book a great deal, and look forward to reading the next book in the series.