Kate Ellis is probably one of the best mystery authors most people have never heard of. I’ve read almost every book in her Wesley Peterson series; I own the first two books in her Joe Plantagenet series, although I haven’t read them yet, and I own her historical crime novel, The Devil’s Priest. Her recent books are hard to obtain in the U.S., and I’m going to have to get a few more from my local independent bookstore, The Poisoned Pen. But, anyone who enjoys the blend of contemporary mystery, police procedural, and history, should appreciate Ellis. In my opinion, no one entwines those elements any better. The Blood Pit, a Wesley Peterson mystery, represents Ellis at the top of her form.
It’s not necessary for the police to like the victim in order to investigate a murder. And, Detective Chief Inspector Gerry Heffernan and DI Wesley Peterson find nothing to like about wine merchant Charles Marrick. The man died in a macabre way, murdered and drained of blood. There are any number of suspects in Marrick’s murder, even his wife and step-daughter. But why was a well-liked local vet killed in the same way?
While Wesley investigates these murders, his archaeologist friend, Dr. Neil Watson, is supervising the dig at an abbey. There seems to be some unusual aspects at the site, dating back to the days of Henry VIII. And, someone seems to know a little too much about the violence and bloodshed that occurred there, someone who is writing anonymous letters to Neil. Although Wesley doesn’t have time to spend on anonymous letters, Watson worries that the person Peterson is hunting might be stalking him at the dig site.
As always in this series, Ellis brilliantly links the contemporary murders with historical stories. I recommend Ellis’ Wesley Peterson books to anyone who appreciates archaeology or the repetition of history. This series always brings those elements into play.
But, for those who appreciate fascinating characters, I recommend readers start with the first book, The Merchant’s House. Get to know Wesley Peterson, the son of doctors from Trinidad; the man who studied archaeology but became a policeman; the man who faced racial prejudice as he rose in the force. Anyone who read Dorothy Simpson’s Luke Thanet series for the family relationships will appreciate these books since readers get to know Wesley and his wife Pam. (And, if you like British police procedurals, try Dorothy Simpson.) Ellis has created realistic, interesting characters in all the members of her police force in South Devon. It’s hard to resist Wesley and Heffernan. But, Ellis introduces readers to the entire force, including the personal lives and troubles. For anyone who has read the series to this point, The Blood Pit offers a shocking ending.
Kate Ellis’ mysteries are complex, mixing history and contemporary crime and life. I can’t recommend her books, and this one, The Blood Pit, highly enough. No one does police procedurals any better than Kate Ellis.
Kate Ellis’ website is http://www.kateellis.co.uk
The Blood Pit by Kate Ellis. Piatkus. ©2008. ISBN 9780749908812 (paperback), 346p.
FTC Full Disclosure – I bought this book.