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SKELETON ROOM
by Kate Ellis
Piatkus, January 2003
374 pages
8.99 GBP
ISBN: 0749906200


Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Prologue: A woman wearing a red T-shirt lies on the rocks below the cliffs. A person watches, waiting for the tide to take her out to sea.

1771. Chadleigh hamlet. Devon. Southern England. George Marbis, a farmhand, is dying. His daughter runs to fetch the Vicar because George has a dying confession to make. He tells of the Devon "wreckers" and the vicar later publishes a book based on this story. The leader of the villagers was a man named Jud Kilburn.

Present Day. Chadleigh Hall is being renovated. It had been the home of the squires, then used as a posh girls' school, and will someday rise again as an elegant expensive hotel. A workman breaks through a wall and finds a skeleton tied to a chair in a walled off small room.

Neil Watson, archeologist, is working of the wreck of the Celestina which went down in 1772 in Chadleigh Cove and was supposed to be carrying a cargo of gold and jewels. Dominic Kilburn, who owns Chadleigh Hall, owns this beach and if treasure is found on the ship, it would belong to him. So far, Neil's divers have only found ingots of iron. But on one dive, they find the body of a woman wearing a red t-shirt. One of the crew runs up to the nearest telephone, at the Old Coastguard Cottage, to ask the tenant, Robin Carrington, genealogist, to use the phone.

DCI Gerry Heffernan and DI Wesley Peterson, already at Chadleigh Hall, are called to Chadleigh Cove. While they are contemplating this new event, Lisa Marriot comes to the Chadmouth police station to report that her friend, Sally Gilbert, has been missing for several days. During those several days, a lorry load of computers was hijacked from Nestec, where Trevor Gilbert, Sally's husband, works as warehouse manager.

There are more twists and turns and strange doings on the Devon coast. Everything and everyone seems to be related to everything and everyone else. Do the police have to worry about the skeleton in the hidden room, or is it older than 70n years? What connection is there between the computer theft and several of the players in this tale. ?

As usual, Ellis has successfully woven many strands to make the story work. She traces the history of each family in the village mentioned in Reverend Mount's account of the doings of the villagers during the 18th century and shows how their descendants really haven't changed all that much. Another interesting tale from Ellis.

Reviewed by Barbara Franchi, April 2003

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