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This was my first encounter with Kate Ellis’ and her Wesley Peterson crime novels. In almost all respects I thoroughly enjoyed this story with its labyrinthine plot and multitude of suspects. I found it a real page-turner and look forward to experiencing more of what Ms. Ellis has to offer.

As crime novels go, I imagine this would be classed as relatively genteel, a far cry from the hard-boiled school. Likewise its central characters are lacking the flaws and frailties common to the detectives etc. of so many such stories. Indeed, they are perhaps, almost too good to be true, even a trifle colourless, certainly in comparison with Benjamin Black’s Quirke or M R Hall’s Jenny Cooper for example. Nonetheless, a wealth of secondary characters certainly compensate by virtue of their eccentricities. There is no lack of colour in the novel and the author sustains tension at a high level throughout.

Witchcraft is not the most original device for creating a sinister atmosphere and I’m not sure how much the historical passages add to the narrative, but after a rather tentative and over-familiar opening, I found myself more and more gripped as the novel twists towards its climax. Kate Ellis can certainly write and is clearly prolific, so I have plenty to catch up with. Recommended.
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on 18 September 2013
`The Shadow Collector by Kate Ellis
Published by Piatkus, 15 August 2013. ISBN: 978-0-7499-5802-2

A break-in at a smallholding is not usually something that falls to Detective Inspector Wesley Peterson to investigate, but as DS Rachel Tracey says, the break-in is a Devil's Tree Cottage, the home of mother and daughter Dorothy and Lilith Benley, who were convicted eighteen years previously for the brutal murder of two teenage girls. Dorothy died in prison, but Lilith has been released and has returned.

Along with Detective Chief Inspector Gerry Heffernan, who worked on the case against the Bentleys when he was a sergeant eighteen years ago, Wesley visits Lilith. She tells them that the only thing stolen is her Book of Shadows.

A short distance away from Devil's Tree Cottage is Jessop's Farm, now known to the viewing public as Celebrity Farm where a group of celebrities were sited in Big Brother style to revive their flagging careers. Originally there had been six contestants but now only Rupert Rayborne and Zac James remain. The discovery by one of the contestants of a dead body in a nearby field has Gerry Heffeman asking, has Lilith killed again?

Meanwhile, archaeologist Neil Watson, long time university friend of Wesley's, is working at Mercy Hall, the home of Evan and Harriet Mumford. The historic house is a two-star listed building, and although two thirds of the house has been renovated, the restoration of the semi-derelict east wing is moving slowly. When the panelling is removed a gruesome wax doll is discovered. Further discovery of an inscription in the stone points to a hanging circa October 1643, the year Tradmouth was besieged by the Royalist army during the Civil War.

As the murder investigation continues more and more suspects come to light, and fascinatingly they seem to link back to the killing of the two teenagers eighteen years ago. Despite his preoccupation with the murder enquiry, Wesley also has matters closer to home to deal with.

This is the seventeenth book in the series, and they get better and better. As with all the previous stories, the current investigation runs parallel with an earlier death, in this instance with narration from a statement made by Elizabeth Harkness, October 1643, and the journal of Thomas Whitcombe, a Captain in the King's army, September 6th 1643.

The story is complex and has many twists, but nothing quite prepared me for the final twist. Absolutely superb writing. Highly recommended.
Reviewer: Lizzie Hayes
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A convicted murderer is released from prison on licence and returns to the scene of the murders. Nearby a television company is filming a new reality series on a farm when an unknown young woman is found dead in a field on the farm. Neil Watson - the archaeologist and friend of Wesley Peterson - is observing a house restoration and making some interesting finds one of which seems to be having an evil influence on him.

This is a well written mystery which links the distant past - seventeenth century; the less distant past - eighteen years ago and the present. All are interlinked and influencing present day events. There are elements of police procedural and elements of archaeology in this atmospheric crime novel.

All this fascinating series have interesting backgrounds and the series characters are developing well. I do like the way all the police characters get on well together - which makes a change when compared with many police series.
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VINE VOICEon 29 March 2014
Time slip stories can be complicated and simultaneous mysteries such as Ellis specialises in need tight control. She's a past master at this genre. There's a plethora of suspects and the reader has to process a lot of evidence, red herrings, side-stepping and detail. This probably surpasses her previous Wesley Peterson mysteries but it was only after finishing the novel that I worked out the intricacies of this one. Who would have guessed? Pam is lightening up a bit despite Michael becoming an adolescent and Della causing trouble as usual. I'm still concerned about Wesley's diet - far too many take-outs, not good for Gerry at all, and Wesley is becoming an absent father. Will he regret this?
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on 22 April 2015
As always Kate Ellis manages to weave multiple timeline tales into a single intriguing plot. Ellis brings to life the country lanes, the country farms and pubs of Devon and throws in several murder mysteries into the story to keep the reader guessing at all times.
In this novel the present timeline focusses on a police investigation of a reporter who is brutally stabbed, causing Wesley Peterson and team to investigate. The investigation leads the team to another timeline, 20 years in the past, which involved the murder of two teenage girls (supposedly by a village witch and her mother). This storyline then vaguely ties in with a third timeline which brings in the archaeological side to the novel, this timeline features the story of a suspected witch (named Allison Hadness) who was hanged during the English civil war.
The archaeological timeline I did feel was slightly weak in substance. I think normally Kate Ellis portrays a very strong story as part of her historical timeline. In this case although the witchcraft issue was the conjoined link, the story seemed to include a lot of other more detailed elements such as the sick old man Allison had married and the impending invasion and not so much on the witchcraft theme or even the historic character Allison.
Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed Ellis's writing style, her dialogue and settings are superb. It is also fantastic to see how the core characters (Wesley, Neil, Gerry etc) are developing throughout the series. Another great read.
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on 10 February 2014
I loved this book. I have read about half of the Wesley Peterson novels so far, and each one has been unique and a gripping read. This author can really make historical characters come alive, and blend past with present in a way other authors strive to but can't. Dan Waddell's Grant Foster series is a pale shadow of Kate Ellis' books.

I don't want to give any spoilers away, but the witchcraft story line and the finding of the wax dolls gave this tale a spooky air without going into cackling, Hammer-horror-film stereotypes. It showed how an ordinary person in the 1600s could be locked up, have a mockery of a trial, and be hanged - all on the say-so of a peeved relative or neighbour. Contrary to what a lot of people think, no witches were ever burnt at the stake in England (though a few were in Scotland) - they were mostly hanged, so the author has got it spot on here.

I like Wesley Peterson because he is not the run of the mill, stereotyped detective in a lot of TV series, films or books. He's not a wise-cracking maverick with women and booze problems, fighting against his superiors and 'doing things his way'. He's a happily married detective who has to do paperwork as well as the exciting bits of police work, and he's intelligent. One thing I do find odd, though, is that Wesley and his superior, DCI Heffernan, are reactive rather than proactive police officers. They don't seem to think outside the box with the evidence even when clues are standing up and waving at them. For example, when the ex-teacher says that John Grimes went on to be a pop-star, we the reader are crying out saying "Its Zac the boyband guy", but it takes Wesley and Heffernan a bit more time to realise that.

Overall, this is an excellent book, and I found myself unable to put it down. I read it in two evenings, I was that into it. I really enjoyed reading Alison Hadness' journal from the 1600s, at the start of each chapter, and there's a real twist at the end when the murderer is discovered. And there's another twist when we learn what Alison Hadness really got up to.

I really recommend this book.
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on 12 December 2014
I've read a few of the Wesley Peterson books and I absolutely love them. The way the author writes keeps you wanting to read more and this book was no exception. Brilliant.
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on 31 July 2016
Another brilliant Wesley Peterson crime mystery.
If you have not yet read any of this series, you are in for a treat.
Set in Devon, police officer Wesley, investigates a series of crimes, where nothing is what it seems, his friend an archaeologist, turns up the past that has surprising links to the present. The stories will keep you guessing,and the endings are breathtaking. Lovers of police procedural tales will love Kate Ellis. A brilliant book, well written, be warned, you will not be able to put this down until the end.......
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on 3 May 2013
Oh dear indeed. Am I the only person to find this a little well, dull? I have read and enjoyed many of Ms Ellis's novels and enjoyed them but my expectations of this were quite high given the witchcraft involvement etc. It was a pleasant read, a little predictable dare I say and I had worked everything out well before the end so no surprises there. I have to say I had this on order so am not the sort to go buying books without due thought and therefore feel entitled to be a bit grumpy.It's not all bad though, the stories heading up each chapter from events in the past were so much more interesting and I would have really enjoyed reading more about them. Not for me this one sadly, I hope her next will be worth the wait, sorry.
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on 31 August 2014
Great story and up to the usual standard of Kate Ellis books usual threads of history and current issues alongside
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