Monday 17 June 2013

The Shadow Collector by Kate Ellis

The Shadow Collector is the 17th and latest entry in Kate Ellis's series featuring Di Wesley Peterson.and set in a fictionalised version of Dartmouth. Reading these books has, over the years, made me keen to explore the area, and towns like Dartmouth and Totnes ('Neston' in this book), to which I've only paid flying visits in the past.

Very often with Kate's books, there is an atmospheric theme that links in with her interest in archaology. For example, in The Jackal Man (which, along with The Cadaver Game, is my favourite of her novels) it was Egyptology. Here it is witchcraft. Eighteen years ago, two modern 'witches' were found guilty of murdering two girls whose bodies were never found. The older woman is now dead, but her daughter is released from prison shortly before the action begins.

Kate, like me, is a fan of the dazzling early series of Taggart, written by Glenn Chandler, which used to begin with a series of complicated and seemingly distinct storylines which were eventually woven together in a compelling and elaborate way. This approach is mirrored in the opening chapters of this novel,which introduce several storylines, and an extensive cast of characters. In true Taggart fashion, It's a bit dizzying in the early stages, but as the book develops the strands begin to connect.

There's a very clever twist towards the end that I didn't see coming, even though I had focused on the right culprit. As with classic Golden Age mysteries, you do need to suspend your disbelief in one or two places (was the original evidence strong enough to sustain two murder convictions? why did the culprit make one particular life choice?) , but Kate's skill with plot makes this a  pleasure. As she is a good friend of mine, it's difficult for me to be totally objective, but I genuinely believe that this book, like the other Wesleys, will appeal to fans of Golden Age stories as well as lovers of contemporary mysteries with lots of plot complications. It's extraordinary that this very entertaining series is not even better known.


J F Norris said...

Well, you sold me on these books. I'm off to the library to find both the earlier ones and this new one. I can never pass up any crime novel that touches on witchcraft.

Martin Edwards said...

Thanks, John. The Cadaver Game and The Jackal Man are stories that I think you'd like. Complex but very entertaining.