Sunday, August 19, 2007

A Cursed Inheritance

In the ninth Wesley Peterson mystery, A Cursed Inheritance, author Kate Ellis gives Peterson a complicated home life to complement his workload. Once again, Peterson struggles to give his wife, Pam, and his growing family the attention he gives to his latest murder case.

Detective Inspector Wesley Peterson and his superior, Detective Chief Inspector Gerry Heffernan are called in when an unidentified body is pulled from the river. It becomes their case when the man is found to have been stabbed. When their victim turns out to have a connection to Potwoolstan Hall, it leads to a story out of Heffernan's earlier career.

Today, Potwoolstan Hall is a healing center. Twenty years earlier, it was the site of a family massacre, in which it appeared that the housekeeper had shot and killed five people and then turned the gun on herself. The younger daughter returned to discover a bloody scene. But the housekeeper's young daughter had also been there, and, as an adult, she's still trying to remember what she saw. The corpse from the river will lead a number of people back to Potwoolstan Hall, and its history.

At the same time, Wesley's friend, Neil Watson has his own mystery to solve. He's in Virginia, as a visiting archaeologist, with a family commission from his grandmother. He's to find the man she knew as a young woman, a man whose own family is connected to Potwoolstan Hall, and the 1605 settlement of a Virginia town.

Neil's letters home to Pam and Wesley further inflame Pam's dissastisfaction with Wesley's long hours and lack of family time. She's trapped at home with two young children, while both men have engrossing outside work. Neil's letters serve to link the distant past to Wesley's current situation, but they also link Neil, Pam and Wesley.

As usual, Ellis does an excellent job linking history with current crimes. In this case, three generations of crimes are closely tied to Potwoolstan Hall.

She always does an excellent job showing that police work can be frustrating and time-consuming as witnesses are not available, and people lie for their own reasons. The police work on more than one case at a time, and the work is often repetitive and plodding.

Anyone who liked Dorothy Simpson's Luke Thanet mysteries, with the combination of mystery and family life, might appreciate Kate Ellis. Ellis combines police procedural, family life and a cold historical case into enjoyable stories.

Kate Ellis' website is

A Cursed Inheritance by Kate Ellis. Piatkus, ©2005, ISBN 0-7499-0725-8 (hardcover), 361p.

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