Thursday, July 5, 2018

The Mechanical Devil by Kate Ellis

First Sentence:  The car was red, the colour of fresh blood. 
Archeologist Neil Watson uncovers a long-buried mechanical figure in Dartmoor field.  Who made this figure and what was its purpose?  Is there more than one figure?  Neil's friend, DI Wesley Peterson has more important things on his mind.  Town resident Brenda Crillow claims someone is threatening her and wants Wesley to investigate it.  Two people have been killed by rifle shot in Manor Field.  The killings appear to be execution style, yet the bodies are in different locations and no apparent connection between the two individuals can be made.  When the daughter of a local MP has gone missing, a link is made between her and one of the victims.  Are these each separate issues, or is there a thread which ties them all together?
One can't complain of the story getting off to a slow start or of having to wait a long time for the murder to occur.  Ellis gets your attention from the very start, having created multiple threads.
Ellis is very good at summarizing all the characters.  One knows the members of the police, how they fit together, and a bit about their lives.  She includes members of their families, and the victims as well and brings each to life. 
The way in which Wesley and DCI Gerry Heffernan conjecture on the connections of the victims and the missing girl is an interesting and realistic process.  However, Wesley's callousness toward Brenda is disturbing, especially as his attitude changes when the threats extend to his wife—"Pam's had a threatening phone call.  Number withheld.  Whoever it was said they're watching her and they're coming to get her." In contrast, Gerry's low-key response is rather refreshing—"No points for originality." 
Although it may be tempting to some, one should not skip over the medieval letters which serve to demark chapters.  They may not seem relevant, but one can be assured that they are. 
For those who enjoy archeology, this is a fascinating book, as are all of those by Ellis.  Who'd have thought about archeological graffiti on a church roof, yet it makes sense when one remembers that everything, including the roof tiles, would have been handwrought.  As always, the author notes are fascinating and shouldn't be overlooked.
The way in which Ellis slowly makes the connection between the distant past, the recent past, and the present is nicely done, and her ability to creating links between the characters is deft and admirable.  Ellis takes a character who seems initially incidental only later to find they serve as a lynch-pin to the story. 
One storyline is predictable.  However, the identity of the killer was a complete surprise and related to both the past, the present, greed, and jealousy. 
"The Mechanical Devil" is a very good, multi-thread mystery.  Ellis excels at combining archeology and a murder in a police procedural.  

THE MECHANICAL DEVIL (Pol Proc/Arch-DI Peterson/DCI Heffernan/Neil Watson-England-Contemp) – VG
Ellis, Kate – 22nd in series
      Piatkus - April 2018

1 comment:

  1. I do like this series, so I'm glad you enjoyed the book. One of the things I like best about it is the relationship between Wesley and Neil. In ways, they're quite different, but they have an interesting friendship.