This is the second of Kate Ellis’ crime novels to come my way and it has confirmed my initial verdict that she has written a hugely enjoyable series. Her main character is DI Wesley Peterson, a black London Met detective relocated to scenic (and largely white) Devon. Peterson is an Exeter archaeology graduate, so he still takes an interest in local excavations run by his old undergraduate friend Dr Neil Watson.
A common thread in the plots of the books is that curious links between Peterson’s cases and Watson’s investigations add an unusual element. In this book, Neil is supervising an excavation at an old manor house in Dead Man’s Lane, shortly to be converted into holiday homes. Ten years previously, three teenage girls were murdered, and possibly a fourth teenager whose body was never discovered. When a builder discovers a skull, the police consider the possibility that it could belong to the missing girl. To cap it all, a woman is murdered in a remarkably similar way to the previous cases. Is a copycat killer at large?
Interspersed with the current crime investigation are extracts from the diary of a seventeenth century owner of the house, which indicate much earlier deaths on the site. An intriguing parallel in Neil and Wesley’s cases is the folklore of ‘revenants’, those who return from the dead to torment the living. I enjoy the mixing of past and present in this series, though I do wonder whether it could pall after a while. Meanwhile, I am willing to be entertained and fascinated by the nuggets of folklore and history that Ellis weaves into her crime novels.