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by Kate Ellis
Piatkus, March 2005
320 pages
ISBN: 0749907258

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

In 1985, the Harford family was massacred at Potwoolstan Hall in Devon. The evidence pointed to the housekeeper having shot the family and then committing suicide, so the case was closed. Twenty years later, the corpse of a man is found in the River Trad.

Pam Peterson, wife of DI Wesley Peterson, is getting ready to go back to work as a teacher after the expiration of her maternity leave. But Wesley is getting involved in the newest murder case in Tradmouth. Neil Watson, college friend to both Wes and Pam, tells Pam that he has a chance to go to the US to help in a dig in Virginia that apparently has some relationship to Tradmouth. Pam is wondering if she married the wrong man when she chose Wes over Neil all those years ago.

Potwoolstan Hall has had a long history. The original was built in the late 16th century, a tribute to the wool trade. It is now, ignominiously, a New Age centre. One of the guests is missing a diamond ring, and Wes asks DC Steve Carstairs to investigate. Steve looks for a pattern among recent thefts from spas, art centers, and so on.

Meanwhile, Neil Watson, now in Annetown, Virginia, a community founded by men and women who sailed from Tradmouth in 1605, finds journal entries that indicate the manor house has apparently had a long history of evil, starting in the early 17th century, not 1985 as had been previously thought.

Ellis ties all these threads up nicely by the end of the book. Her forte is in describing past events as if they really happened. By now, we now can count on the group at Tradmouth nick, including DCI Gerry Heffernan, the pathologist Dr Colin Bowman and local DS Rachel Tracey as friends.

Reviewed by Barbara Franchi, April 2005

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