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Mystery author #21: Kate Ellis

Title: The Merchant's House
Series detective: Wesley Peterson
No. in series: 1
Year of publication: 1999
Type of mystery: Police procedural: murder, theft, missing persons
Type of investigator: Police
Setting & time: Devon, UK, 1990's
Number of murders: 2
Some themes: Infertility, obsession, infidelity, archaeology

Story: DS Wesley Peterson transfers from the London Met to the police force in a small seaside resort town in Devon. On his first day of work the body of a brutally murdered young woman is found and he is plunged into an investigation. Meanwhile, another officer is becoming increasingly upset over a case involving a child's disappearance, and a team of archaeologists dig up two skeletons in the ruins of a 17th century merchant's house, one of them clearly a murder victim. Each chapter begins with a passage from the diary of the man who owned the house, slowly uncovering the story of the murder that was committed in the house.

Review: Here's a well-written and beautifully constructed first novel. The story has several strands that are gradually brought together with a sure hand. The writing is polished and the characters are interesting. The sexist and racist attitudes encountered by Peterson (who is black) and a female DC Rachel Tracey are never overdone and their reactions are realistic. (One has hopes that DC Carstairs will get a comeuppance in a future book, or at least see the error of his ways).

I want to read more of Ellis' books before I write an author review, but judgning from this one I am fairly certain that I am going to enjoy her other books.

Rating: An interesting and cleverly woven tale of crimes new and old. 4 stars.


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