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A Perfect Death by Kate Ellis

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A Perfect Death by Kate Ellis

I began reading the mystery series featuring Wesley Peterson, by Kate Ellis, a couple of years ago and have almost finished the series – I hate the idea of getting to the end! We first met Wesley Peterson in the novel The Merchant’s House when he has just arrived in the Devon town of Tradmouth. Initially the novelty of an educated black Detective Inspector made for some difficulty but since then Wesley has become part of the community and earned the respect and affection of his fellow police officers.

The novel A Perfect Death, number thirteen in the series, begins with Wesley and his wife, Pam, on holiday in the south of France. There have been some difficulties in the marriage and this is a holiday free of work and children, and we hope a renewal of their partnership. All is well until they meet Ian Rowe, an old classmate of Wesley’s, seemingly down on his luck, working in a restaurant, and playing his guitar on the streets of Carcassonne. Ian indicates that he needs Wesley’s help and Wesley grudgingly, and in spite of his awareness that Pam will not be pleased about this interruption to their holiday, agrees to meet him to learn what his problem may be. When Ian expresses concern for his friend, Nadia, back in England, Wesley agrees to try to find her on his return. When Ian then disappears Wesley finds himself with no choice but to try to discover what has happened to them both.

On return from his holiday Wesley finds himself embroiled in a conflict between a developer who is building sub-divisions in the countryside near Tradmouth and a group calling themselves the Pure Sons of the West who oppose the encroachment of housing in the countryside. When the body of a young woman is found in what appears to be a sacrificial burning the case becomes even more sinister.

Tradmouth is a tourist town, at the mouth of a river on the Devon coast. As Wesley and his boss, Gerry Heffernan, stop at a pub one day the owner observes that “what he made in the summer would tide him over for the whole year.” There are more and more people from away who are now purchasing country estates as second homes and the town is changing as the developers are turning former farmland into housing estates. Wesley’s friend, Neil, is the archaeologist who is hired to survey the property where a new development is about to be built. He also knew Ian Rowe at University, didn’t especially like him at the time, but becomes involved in both the discoveries he is making on the building site and the search for Ian and Nadia.

We find in this novel that Wesley is talking to Pam, for the first time in their marriage, about his work and we have a sense that this is a good thing for the marriage, with Pam feeling less removed from what her husband is experiencing in his work.

This book is currently the second to the last in the series – I certainly hope for more. As in any good mystery series, readers establish a “relationship” with the characters in the novels. Mystery novels, I think, have the same appeal and success as a good television series, when the author has merged the lives of her characters with a suspenseful plot - and Kate Ellis has done so very well.

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