The Woman in Blue (Ruth Galloway Series #8)

The Woman in Blue (Ruth Galloway Series #8)

by Elly Griffiths


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“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

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780544947115
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Publication date: 03/21/2017
Series: Ruth Galloway Series , #8
Pages: 368
Sales rank: 88,452
Product dimensions: 5.20(w) x 7.90(h) x 1.10(d)

About the Author

ELLY GRIFFITHS is the author of the Ruth Galloway and Magic Men mystery series. She is a recipient of the Mary Higgins Clark Award.

Read an Excerpt


19 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 by etchings from the Old Testament. Justin, the 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 on to 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 on to 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.’

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The Woman in Blue 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 6 reviews.
Kathlingram More than 1 year ago
great Elly Griffiths Ruth Galloway novel..Ruth and Nelson are getter closer..What did he say at the end when he touches her hand? Hmmm.. Plots are thickening in every direction here, the mystery was very intricate, as are the personal dynamics. Sexism rears it's ugly head in this book about Walsingham Pilgrims and Pilgrimages on Holy Week. The mystery culminates at a Good Friday Passion Play and the story ends on Easter Sunday. In between there is madness, murder and mysterious assignations. Ruth Galloway is an archeologist and unwed mother with a terrifically diverse group of cohorts. She is "seconded" to the Serious Crimes police department for her expertise in bones, so has this dual professional life, where her main love interest is DCI Harry Nelson the "chief". So I am caught up until Book #10 comes out, but will go back and order the 2nd and 3rd books in series and someday will reread in order. I saw a review where someone said "the world could end while I am reading this and would not notice" Yes! Exa
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Elly is stale and still caught up in the narcissism of nelson and michelle- a little character development would be a useful thing especially given all the trauma elly sees - her being so emotionally flat is getting dull. Why does cathbad even like her? Pity? I suppose her pathetic obsession with the emotionally lazy and exploitive nelson is sadly realistic.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is such an enjoyable series! Elly is now on my preorder list of authors.
Anonymous 11 months ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
If you like Bones, Agatha Christie, history, England and archaeology then this series is for you! I think this was one of the best of the Ruth Galloway series!!
wendywhiner More than 1 year ago
Very very good I wish she would let Ruth and Nelson get together.....