Saturday 18 April 2009

Seeking the Dead

I mentioned the other day Kate Ellis’s first book in a new series, Seeking the Dead. In some respects, it’s a departure from her previous books, set in a fictionalised Dartmouth, and featuring Wesley Peterson. The backdrop here is Eborby (a fictionalised York) and the detective Joe Plantagenet, who gave up a calling as a priest to become a cop. But the new book possesses the same virtues that have made the Wesley books very popular.

Prime amongst those virtues is a gift for complex, yet credible plotting. Kate’s books invariably offer a traditional convoluted whodunit in modern guise. Here, the mystery concerns a serial killer, the Resurrection Man, who is terrorising Eborby. There is a very neat red herring and I have to admit I fell for it. I was for many chapters convinced that I’d figured out the solution, but Kate managed to confound my expectations with a double twist ending.

Kate’s enthusiasm for history and archaeology is again well to the fore. The Wesley books offer a historical mystery that runs in parallel with the contemporary puzzle, and in this book there is a comparable plot strand, harking back to the Great Plague.

Joe is a likeable fellow, similar to Wesley in that respect and various others, and I look forward to his next outing. Kate is a prolific writer, so fans can be assured that there will not be too long to wait!


Lesa said...

I wish Kate Ellis' books were easier to get here in the U.S. I'll have to check for this one at the Poisoned Pen. They're usually pretty good at carrying British titles. Thanks, Martin, for the heads up!


Steve Lewis said...

Martin, I found it interesting that you fell for another mystery writer's plotting device. Without trying to put you on the spot, how often do you spot (um) the killer in other writers' books? Do you think that being a mystery author yourself gives you an advantage over other readers?

In my case, having read a lot, and I mean a lot, of detective stories isn't enough. I so seldom come up with the right answers that I hardly ever try any more. It's too much fun to go along with the ride. (I play the Watson part very well.)

--- Steve

PS. This Kate Ellis book went on my want list immediately.

Martin Edwards said...

Lesa, suffice to say that Poisoned Pen is one of the most fascinating bookshops I've ever visited and I envy the fact you live so close to it.
Steve, it may be an advantage that I think a lot about whodunit plotting, though I find it easier to spot solutions in TV crime series rather than in novels, because novels have more room to obscure the clues. But typically I'd expect to spot the killer in most whodunits, though very often there is some element that I don't figure out (for instance, in a locked room story, the precise way the locked room was breached.)
But I do enjoy it most when the wool is pulled over my eyes fairly and succesfully.