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by Kate Ellis
Piatkus, September 2009
432 pages
7.99 GBP
ISBN: 0749909269

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Kate Ellis's books seem to have passed under my radar and I'm not quite sure why. On the evidence of A PERFECT DEATH, she writes highly-proficient and well-plotted police procedurals, set in a fictional Devon town. And, for an added twist, there's an archaeological angle.

Her hero, Wesley Peterson, is a Detective Inspector. As the book opens, he and wife Pam are on holiday in France where they come across someone Wesley knew at university. Despite the fact he and Ian Rowe weren't bosom chums, Wesley agrees to meet him the next day to get some information on a friend who has disappeared. Rowe, though, doesn't turn up.

Back to England and a woman is burned to death in a field. Add in a link to 13th century legend, a property developer whose plans for new houses are being held up by an archaeological dig, plus a strange university professor, and a seemingly good-guy philanthropist, along with several more bodies, and Wesley and his colleagues have a problem on their hands.

The investigation uncovers the fact that the archaeological excavation at Grandal Field hasn't gone smoothly, and that records from a previous dig have disappeared ľand two of the archaeologists involved died young. The more Wesley asks questions, the more he puts himself in danger.

It's tricky assessing characters some way into what's clearly an established series. Ellis, though, makes us want to know more about them, despite the fact they're not the most vivid creations in the genre. So the tactless DCI, the efficient DS and the gormless new DC are painted in rather broad brush strokes. Wesley, Pam and archaeologist friend Neil Watson are probably like old chums to people who've read the previous books, but lack depth to us newcomers.

A PERFECT DEATH is a well-paced story with a mix of modern headlines and medieval legends. The extracts from an academic's papers don't bring much to the feast, and I was conscious after a while of skimming them. But I'd certainly be happy to read other books in the series.

Reviewed by Sharon Wheeler, December 2009

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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