First Sentence: The intruder stood quite still and listened.
1991, a man was convicted of murdering the Reverend Shipbourne during
the course of a robbery. Now, many years later, a letter appears at the
police station addressed to the former Chief Inspector claiming there
is evidence the man was innocent. The police already have one case on
their hands of someone placing tampered, poisoned food on the shelves of
the local supermarket, and another case where a quite recent body is
found during the archaeological dig of a plague pit.
does open with a prologue—suspenseful, thrilling, and compelling without
giving anything away or having been lifted from the middle of the
story. Instead, it sets the stage and carries us willingly forward into
the first chapter. At the same time, contrary as this seems, the book
also could have done without it as the opening chapter also performs the
Although the book is designated as a “Wesley
Peterson murder mystery,” this really is an ensemble cast. What’s nice
is that they are individuals, each with their own strengths, weaknesses,
personal issues, and habits. In other words, they are very human. How
can one not like a pathologist who insists on a cuppa and biscuit
before discussing autopsy findings?
Ellis does have a very good
ear for dialogue, adding just the right touch of wryness…”Perhaps we
should have a word with ex-DCI Norbert, then.” “That’d be difficult
unless you’re thinking of holding a séance…”
There are three
threads, from three periods of time but all woven together in the
present. The historical and archaeological information is fascinating,
including the chapter-opening diary excerpts. The plot twists are very
well done and the conclusion effective. Ellis has a remarkable ability
to establish a feeling of empathy in the reader, even toward those who
killed. She doesn’t ask us to excuse their crimes, but to understand
them. Yet she then turns that emotion around with an act of complete
heartlessness that is like a punch to the gut.
“The Plaque Maiden” is a very good, well plotted mystery of secrets, lies, human weaknesses and regrets.
THE PLAGUE MAIDEN (Pol Proc/Archeo-DI Wesley Peterson-England-Contemp) – VG
Ellis, Kate – 8th in series