A murderer stalks the streets of a medieval town known for its religious fervor.
A woman’s body has been found strangled outside the village of Walsingham. DCI Harry Nelson’s friend Cathbad, a druid and mystic catsitting at a nearby cottage, saw the woman, dressed in blue and white and reminiscent of the Virgin Mary, standing in the cemetery earlier that night. It turns out that Chloe Jenkins, a resident of The Sanctuary, where she was being treated for drug addiction, had been scrubbing clean the grave of a woman who had once been her minder and foster mother to a large number of children. Nelson’s fling with archaeologist Ruth Galloway, a police consultant, produced a child he spends time with despite remaining married to his stunning wife, Michelle. Ruth becomes involved in the current case when a university friend, Hilary Smithson, asks to meet her at Walsingham, where she’ll be attending a conference. Hilary, a priest, has been getting letters railing against women in the clergy, the last with a distinctly sinister tone. As Nelson searches for clues to the murder, he learns that Michelle’s been seeing one of his sergeants. He himself is still a little in love with Ruth, who tries not to admit to herself that she loves him. When Michelle barely escapes death at the hands of the strangler and one of the other female priests is strangled, it’s hard not to notice that all the victims were attractive blue-eyed blondes. Since religion seems to play a role in the murders, Ruth wonders if a part of a missing, broken vial that supposedly contained breast milk from the Virgin Mary is the key to the case.
Griffiths (The Ghost Fields, 2015, etc.) always provides a clever mystery and a wealth of historical detail. But it’s her complex characterizations that put her in the forefront of the current mystery field.