The Shining Skull by Kate Ellis


The Shining Skull by Kate Ellis
Publisher: Piatkus
Genre: Contemporary, Historical, Mystery/Suspense/Thriller
Rating: 3 stars
Reviewed by Fern

Little Marcus Fallbrook was kidnapped in 1976 and, when he never returned home, by his grieving family assumed the worst. Now, thirty years later, teenager Leah Wakefield has disappeared and DI Wesley Peterson has reason to suspect that the same kidnapper is responsible.

As Wesley delves into the case, his friend, archaeologist Neil Watson, discovers a mystery of his own when he exhumes the dead from a local churchyard. A coffin is found containing one corpse too many and Neil believes it may be linked to a strange religious sect.

Wesley is still searching for the key to the abductions when, in a shocking twist, Marcus Fallbrook returns. DNA evidence confirms Marcus’s identity but his recollection of his past kidnapping is hazy. Wesley hopes that, as Marcus begins to recover memories, it will lead them to a sinister criminal. But he is about to discover that the past can be a very dangerous place indeed.

DI Wesley Peterson and his team are thrown into an unusual situation when a man returns home, claiming to be son of a local family – one kidnapped back in 1976. While they have their hands full with that, a local famous teenager is kidnapped and the two cases bear some striking similarities. Can they sort out what’s really going on?

Overall I have been enjoying this series though I must admit I do feel some of the characters have some ups and downs. The plots though – and the skillful way Ms Ellis weaves together the current mystery with a historical one – is always a pleasure. Admittedly I felt this time Wesley’s good friend Neil takes a bit of a back seat. I feel this was very well handled – and the reason for Neil keeping his distance completely understandable – and while I feel one of Neil and Wesley’s last interactions shows a strong glimmer of hope I have to say I’m glad things seem to be getting back onto a more even keel.

I also felt there was a fairly major “aha” moment for one of Wesley’s team-members, though the low key drama surrounding Rachel and her messy love life usually is one of the things I like least about this series. I am hoping the strong development/understanding that occurred in this book will also start putting all that tension to rest as well.

In amongst all these personal interactions and developments I felt the historical and current mysteries were given a good amount of weight and were written very well. While I admit I did guess a few of the revelations there were still a few interesting twists and I must admit the interwoven plots kept my attention riveted throughout the book.

Readers who enjoy a solid British police procedural style of book but also enjoy a bit of historical mystery and a few different layers to their plots should find this an agreeable read and a series worth investing in.

The Plague Maiden by Kate Ellis


The Plague Maiden by Kate Ellis
Publisher: Piatkus
Genre: Contemporary, Historical, Mystery/Suspense/Thriller
Rating: 3 stars
Reviewed by Fern

A stir is caused in Tradmouth when a letter arrives at the police station claiming that the man convicted of murdering the Vicar of Belsham is innocent. DI Wesley Peterson already has his hands full with threats made to local supermarket chain, Huntings – the last thing he needs is an alleged miscarriage of justice to investigate.

Meanwhile, Wesley’s friend, archaeologist Neil Watson, uncovers a medieval plague pit at a site near Belsham church earmarked for Huntings’ new superstore. As Wesley’s investigations continue, he begins to suspect that the vicar’s murder, the disappearance of a woman and the threats to the supermarket may be linked in some way.

Dr Neil Watson and his archaeology team uncover what they believe to be a plague pit in an open field earmarked as the site for a new local supermarket. Despite the growing number of bodies, DI Wesley Peterson is relieved, since the bones are clearly mediaeval and solving their deaths is not his problem. Wesley’s plate is already quite full, with his wife due to deliver their second child any day now, new evidence found that clearly shows an innocent man has been in jail for a decade for the murder of a vicar he can’t have committed, and an unknown person leaving infected products at the local Huntings supermarkets which has killed a number of people. When Wesley begins to find more and more connections between all these cases he will need every talent he can draw on to uncover what’s really going on.

This is another book in the DI Wesley Peterson series and I have been really enjoying them so far. Many of the books are primarily a British police procedural style with a good hit of history/archaeology running through the plots and this book is no exception. While some of the connections between the team members and Neil with the various other characters does have plenty of history from the previous books, I strongly feel this story can be picked up easily by itself and really enjoyed. The plot and central focus of the investigations are well contained in this story.

Readers looking for something very heavily historical might not find this quite suits their purposes. While Neil’s archaeology dig and investigations does indeed create quite a strong sub-plot there are a number of modern mysteries and police investigations that take up the main aspect to the plot in my mind. I feel the author has given a good balance between the past mystery and the current problems facing Wesley and his team but readers wanting something more historical might feel this balance isn’t quite right. I also could appreciate there were a number of cases that interwove here and that took some exceptional writing both to make it believable but also to knit it all together. In such a small town it makes sense that seemingly unconnected events actually could have cross over in parts since with such a small pool of people, the interactions and connectedness really would make sense to cross over into all aspects of the town’s life.

I found this to be a well written and strongly plotted police procedural with a number of interesting plots and a strong and equally interesting historical aspect too. I’m very much enjoying this series and am eager to get to the next book.

The Skeleton Room by Kate Ellis


The Skeleton Room by Kate Ellis
Publisher: Piatkus
Genre: Contemporary, Historical, Mystery/Suspense/Thriller
Rating: 3 stars
Reviewed by Fern

When builders converting Chadleigh Hall, a former school, into a luxury hotel discover a skeleton in a sealed room, DI Wesley Peterson is called in to investigate.

Soon Wesley has a second suspicious death on their hands: a team of marine archaeologists working on a nearby shipwreck off the Devon coast have dragged a woman’s body from the sea.

As Wesley investigates Chadleigh Hall’s past and the woman’s violent death, both trails lead in surprising directions. Matters are further complicated when a man wanted for murder in London appears on the scene – a man who may know more about the case than he admits . . .

DI Wesley Peterson is called in to investigate when the building refurbishment of an old girls’ school in preparation to become a ritzy hotel finds the skeleton of a young girl walled up in a small room. Unsure exactly how old the skeleton is, DI Peterson soon finds himself quite busy when the body of a woman washes up off the coastline, and the skeleton is found to likely be from the 1960s and still requiring investigation. With an old shipwreck being dived and excavated by his archaeologist friends the small country town is soon bustling and very busy just before the summer tourist season begins once again.

I’ve been enjoying this series and found this British small town mystery book to be yet another excellent addition. While I did find in this installment the archaeology took a bit more of a back seat than I’m used to, I was pleased that the two main mysteries – that of the schoolgirl skeleton and the suspicious death/drowning of the young woman were both logical, interestingly written and very much front and center for most of the book. The shipwreck – and slight sub-plot involving the genealogy investigation surrounding this – all added a good bit of extra mystery and overall, I found the book quite the page turning. It certainly held my attention as these various plots all revolved around each other and appeared in places to cross over.

The main cast of the police team, Wesley’s wife and child, and Wesley’s old school chum Neil all worked very well together, and I was doubly intrigued when one of the previous detectives who had left for the bright lights of London and the Met also turned up. I feel readers should greatly enjoy the many moving parts to this story and feel it can certainly be picked up as a stand along from a plot perspective. There is a bit of history and connection between the network of characters though I feel that is all clearly and well explained and so readers who haven’t read any of the previous books should feel comfortable picking this book up by itself.

With a solid series of plots and a good small town/British police procedural feel to it this is a great book and one I enjoyed.

The Bone Garden by Kate Ellis


The Bone Garden by Kate Ellis
Publisher: Piatkus
Genre: Contemporary, Historical, Mystery/Suspense/Thriller
Rating: 3 stars
Reviewed by Fern

The ancient gardens of Earlsacre Hall are being excavated by a local team of historians in preparation for plans to recreate the gardens in their former glory. But the dig is called to a halt when two bodies are discovered under a stone plinth. More than 300 years old and buried on top of one another, there is every indication that one of the corpses had been buried alive. Despite the intriguing circumstances, DS Wesley Peterson has little time to indulge in his hobby for archaeology: a man has been found brutally stabbed to death in a trailer at a popular vacation site. There are no clues to the dead man’s identity except for a newspaper cutting about the restoration of Earlsacre. Soon after, the body of local solicitor Brian Willerby is found during a game of village cricket. The postmortem reveals that his death was caused by being struck by a hard ball several times with some force. Now Wesley must decipher the connection between Earlsacre and the murders before any more victims arise.

DS Wesley Peterson is called in when a body is found buried under a three-hundred-year-old plinth. Even though it’s soon proven that the body was buried all those centuries ago, work in the gardens of Earlsacre Hall is halted when yet another body is found to be buried under that original grave. Wesley is deeply curious about who these people were – and why were they buried in the large gardens – but soon a man is stabbed in a rental caravan and Wesley is called away to investigate something more recent than the old skeletons. And when yet another body turns up, Wesley realizes there might be some deeply sinister secrets floating around after all.

I have been greatly enjoying this series and found this book to be a lovely addition. Wesley is really beginning to settle into the police team and the small township, and I was pleased that the author had what I felt was a good balance between the history/archaeology angle and the more current police procedural aspect of the current murders. Readers who enjoy both historical mysteries as well as modern British police procedural style murder mysteries should find this book – and the series as a whole – a good read.

I definitely feel the plot of this book can be read as a standalone. The characters are linked throughout the series, but this book does stan well by itself and aside from catching up on how everyone knows each other I feel readers shouldn’t worry about whether they’ve read the previous books in this series.

An interesting plot with a good balance between history/archaeology and the present times, this was a good read.