The Funeral Boat and The Plague Maiden By Kate Ellis
The first novel I read by Kate Ellis, The Funeral Boat, is the fourth in her series of mystery novels featuring Detective Sergeant Wesley Peterson. I enjoyed it so much, I immediately read the other one I had on hand, The Plague Maiden, the eighth in the series. I have ordered the rest and can't wait to read them - described as 'wonderfully addictive' by the publisher. I heartily agree. The series takes place in Devon, the detective, Wesley Peterson, is a Trinidadian born black man, a keen amateur archaeologist, having studied archaeology before choosing the police force as his career. Each of the novels I have read follow both an ancient story and a modern one, as the crimes of both time periods come together. The ancient story is only a few short paragraphs at the beginning of each chapter, just enough to keep the story going.
DS Wesley Peterson is an attractive character - good looking, intelligent, kind, and responsible - a thoroughly nice man. His boss, Gerry Heffernan, is a sort of rough and ready war-worn detective, a man who often jumps to conclusions, looking for the easy solution, if not the right one. The other detectives are fully developed and appealing characters, especially Detective Constable Rachel Tracey, and Peterson�s wife, Pam.
The Funeral Boat involves the disappearance of a Danish tourist and the discovery of an ancient Viking grave. The tourist, Ingeborg Larsen, worked as an au pair in the area many years earlier, and Wesley is convinced that something ties her earlier visit to her disappearance. There are all sorts of other crimes needing attention, thefts at local farms among them. I found that I could follow the many different investigations that this police force is dealing with while at the same time focusing on the "primary" crime.
The ancient story is enhanced by the character Neil Watson, Wesley's friend from University, who is now an archaeologist working on the site of what may be an important Viking battle site or graveyard. I also very much liked that, although the reader sometimes knows things the detectives do not, or that several detectives know separately, but have not yet been brought together, I did not figure out the solution before it was revealed by the author.
The Plague Maiden follows the years of the Black Death in the Devon area as the ancient story, and the death of a clergyman 12 years earlier as part of the contemporary story. A man was convicted at the time, but his guilt is now in question. Neil Watson is on the scene again, digging up the churchyard where he has discovered what may be an ancient burial ground for plague victims. There are in fact several murders in this novel, some today and some in the past, and again there are several story lines as the detectives investigate each case. There is also the modern plague of urban sprawl - the plague of the Super stores and the death of small independent petrol stations and grocers.
The relationships between the detectives' progress is a satisfying way that we learn more about Wesley Peterson and his wife and child. This is, so far, for me, a satisfying series and I can't wait to read more.