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Tuesday 5 September 2023

‘The Killing Place’ by Kate Ellis

Published by Piatkus,
3 August 2023.
ISBN: 978-0-349-43414-1 (HB)

Bonfire Night, the 5th of November opens with the killing of Patrick North. Why and by whom, we know not. Thus opens the 27th book in this highly acclaimed series.

Developer, Jason Fonsby was keen to get the archaeological report completed and signed off so that building work could begin. Jason had twelve luxury executive homes lined up on land that had once belonged to the big house, Nesbarton Hall, a large estate that dated back to the eighteen century. Now archaeologist Dr Neil Watson, Heritage Manger, has discovered a Grotto, an unexpected feature in the middle of a copse that he feels calls for further investigation. Squeezing himself through the narrow entrance to a second room he finds at the far end what looks like an altar, adorned by a naked human figure.  He wastes no time in dialling Wesley Peterson’s number.

DCI Gerry Heffernan, Wesley’s boss says, ‘what’s the fuss?’  Surely, he says, your mate Neil is always finding skeleton’s that’s his job, isn’t it?   Wesley had worked with Gerry for many years, and never takes his comments too seriously. Wesley and Neil had studied archaeology together at Exeter University but had remained friends despite their different career choices.

With the summer season over in South Devon DI Wesley Peterson had been hoping for a quiet month. But a call from his colleague DS Rachel Tracey saying that her husband’s uncle Geoff has just found a dead body while walking his dog in the woodland near Nesbarton Hall puts paid to that.

The body is identified as that of Patrick North who worked for the Smithson family the owners of Nesbarton Hall estate. Wesley and Gerry head to Nesbarton Hall. Wesley has looked up Silas Smithson and learned that he founded a tech company. Later selling it for seventy-five million pounds. The door is answered by middle-aged woman dressed in black who identifies herself as Mr Smithson’s personal assistant. When she is told of Patrick North’s death her mouth drops open in shock, and she identifies him as Darius’s tutor. Darius is Mr Smithson’s thirteen-year-old son, and he is with his parents on holiday touring the Scottish Highlands, and they are not contactable. No phone, no Internet. Wesley muses that he couldn’t imagine his thirteen-year-old son Michael taking kindly to a digital detox in Scotland in cold, damp November!

Although identifying the body as that of Patrick North was quite straight forward discovering anything of his background is not so easy.  Eventually they track down previous employment which answers some, but not all questions.. Then the arrival of an anonymous letter threatening to abduct the Smithson son and kill him if the police are informed, rather muddies the water. So, is Darius safely with his parents, or…….

Interspersed with Wesley’s investigation there are several entries dating from April 1787 from an actor named Charles Burbage, currently with no work and little money answering a request for an actor of quality to assume an important role in the county of Devonshire.  With the offer of a lucrative post Charles sets off from London to Devonshire, where he meets his new employer who asks him a rather odd question. Just what has the lure of money got him into?

As in all previous novels we have the current day mystery and running alongside an historical story set in exactly the same place and in this instance 236 years ago.  

Clever, complex, fascinating and intriguing, as both stories unfold, they provide a thoroughly satisfying read. Most highly recommended.
Reviewer: Lizzie Sirett

Kate Ellis was born in Liverpool and she studied drama in Manchester. She worked in teaching, marketing and accountancy before first enjoying writing success as a winner of the North-West Playwrights competition. Crime and mystery stories have always fascinated her, as have medieval history and archaeology which she likes to incorporate in her books. She is married with two grown up sons and she lives in North Cheshire, England, with her husband.  Kate's novels feature archaeology graduate Detective Sergeant Wesley Peterson who fights crime in South Devon.  Each story combines an intriguing contemporary murder mystery with a parallel historical case. She has also written five books in the spooky Joe Plantagenet series set up in North Yorkshire as well as many short stories for crime fiction anthologies and magazines. Kate was elected a member of The Detection Club in 2014. She is a member of the Crime Writers Association and Murder Squad, and Mystery People. Her most recent series is set post WW1.  The third and latest book in this series is The House of the Hanged Woman. 

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