You could probably read this book out of order, but the driving force behind this series are the characters, which are among the best of any series out there, and it takes a little while to get to know them and reading in order is best, in my opinion. A few of the more minor characters get more page time here, which I really enjoyed.
This installment is not as heavy on the archeology as prior installments, but I don’t think it suffered for it at all. I do like the forensics, but this one more than made up for it in immediacy and tension. In fact, The Outcast Dead (I can’t imagine a better title for a mystery novel by the way) is one of my favorite of the whole series.
This is quite a thriller. We have a a series of child deaths which may or may not be the result of murder, a serial child kidnaper on the loose chillingly named “the Childminder,” and a cast of potentially guilty characters as diverse and compelling as any Agatha Christie novel. You know those ones in which you look at the list of characters and think that really any one of these people could have done this! I can say that at least four or five times during the novel I was weighing the evidence and coming with a different “most likely suspect.” Red herrings abound. The police chase different clues and different suspects all at the same time, multiple mysteries overlap, and tension mounts as time passes and fears for the safe return of the children increases.
I like a dark, gritty crime novel as much as the next guy, but if you also enjoy the traditional smart, witty, English style of mystery in the vein of Agatha Christie, and I do, Ms. Griffiths absolutely knocks this one out of the park.