3.5 stars out of 5
For the record, I read this book - an advance copy in exchange for a review - in early March. The publisher requested that all reviews be held until the release date (March 3, 2016), and I have honored that request.
While this is the eighth book in a series, it stands alone fairly well; that said, I do believe I'd have enjoyed it more had I read at least a couple of the previous entries. Somehow, everything seemed a bit disjointed (made more noticeable, I think, because settings often shift back and forth in the middle of a single chapter with no warning). I'm also not a big fan of books written in the present tense, although in fairness I got used to that after a few chapters. For those reasons - and the fact that the ending somehow left me feeling I'd read all the other "stuff" more as filler than leading up to the conclusion.
The story is set in a medieval town known as England's Nazareth, a place known for religious phenomena. Cathbad, a druid friend of Ruth Galloway (the "star" of the series), notices a woman in a blue cloak in a cemetery at night and believes her to be the Virgin Mary. But when a woman wearing a blue cloak is found murdered the next day, there doesn't appear to be any connection to religion. Then, one of Ruth's friends who's an Anglican priest starts getting threatening letters - women simply shouldn't be priests, the writer asserts - and not long thereafter, another female priest is murdered.
Harry Nelson, who has a rather shaky history with Ruth, is in charge of the Serious Crimes Unit and takes charge of the case. He and his team set out to learn whether the murders are connected - and if so, how - and catch the killer before he (or she) kills again.
The characters are quite complex and well-developed, although quite honestly, I never really identified emotionally with any of them. The plot had some twists and turns as well, at times veering off toward Da Vinci Code territory. Still, for the first half of the book, I just couldn't work up much enthusiasm. After that, though, the action started to pick up and get interesting; from that point on I didn't want to put it down. Overall, it's a solid book, and I thank the author and publisher, via NetGalley, for providing me with an advance copy for review.
The Woman in Blue by Elly Griffiths (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, May 2016); 384 pp.