A Painted Doom by Kate Ellis

When a teenager discovers an horrific painting in a medieval barn, the interest is piqued of local archaeologist Neil Watson. But soon the dead body of sixties pop idol Jonny Shellmer turns up in a nearby field and the teenager disappears, it soon becomes  a problem for the local constabulary, in particular our hero DI Wesley Peterson and his team. As the story of a nearby corpse dating from the Wars of the Roses comes to light, it seems that there are parallels with the modern day tragedy that is about to unfold…

Old Author August continues with another entry in the Wesley Peterson series from Kate Ellis, again marrying a present day case with something from the mists of time. Last time I had a little “favourite author” splurge, I ran out of time and missed this series out, so I was determined to get back to it as soon as possible. So, how does this one rate with respect to the others?

I think the hardest part of a reviewer’s job is dealing with unachieved expectations. I’ll make this clear first of all – this is a very good book. Kate Ellis always writes a solid mystery plot with local and historical colour and I definitely recommend it. But it’s not the best in the series.

You see, The Jackal Man, The Cadaver Game, The Armada Boy – these are truly outstanding books. I really enjoyed them, they kept me guessing until the end… and this one is “only” very good. It’s a similar problem that I had with Suspicious Minds by Martin Edwards. I’d have enjoyed it a lot more if I’d not read All The Lonely People or the Lake District Series.

I’m almost tempted to simply shut up at this point but that’s not much of a review. I’ve got a couple of niggles with the story that knocks it down a peg. Primarily, the motive for the murder is rather essential to spotting the killer, and once it’s known, the killer is quickly cornered. So we spend a long time not only without a motive, but with no-one particularly concerned about this. One particular plot point did seem to be there primarily to drag the story out a bit and unfortunately this came across a bit too clearly for me.

Secondly, the characters, while being good company, don’t seem for the most part to have moved forward much over the last couple of books – although there is an important development for Wesley’s boss here. I know there is forward motion to come, as I’ve read some of the later books, but I kind of hope it happens soon.

On the plus side though, I was impressed with the clever way that the writer gives a reason why the past mirrors the present. Given that this happens in every book in the series to some extent, I was pleased to see a rationale behind it beyond coincidence in this case.

So, just to reiterate, this book is recommended, as is the rest of the series. This isn’t the strongest entry in the series, but then it’s up against some serious competition… If you haven’t had a look at this series before, please do. It’s one of my favourites.

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About Puzzle Doctor

I'm a mathematician by nature and as such have always been drawn to the logical side of things. Hence my two main hobbies being classic mysteries and logical puzzling. Oh, and cats. No logic there, I'm afraid.
This entry was posted in Historical Mysteries, Kate Ellis, Old Author October, Wesley Peterson. Bookmark the permalink.

10 Responses to A Painted Doom by Kate Ellis

  1. I read The Jackal Man and must admit I wasn’t too impressed, certainly not enough to read more in the series. It seemed too obviously a novel constructed around an idea, if you know what I mean.

    • Not sure that I do. Surely most crime novels, especially classic mysteries, fall into that category.

      • Curious Presbyterian says:

        It just seemed to me that she liked the image of a murderer walking around wearing a jackal head and built an entire plot around it.
        I also found her detective a bit uninspired, character-wise.

      • Fair enough, I suppose, but the same accusation can be levelled at a number of other more famous books. I’d be willing to wager Dame Agatha came up with the twist in Ackroyd before the rest of the book wad written around it. There is something Scooby Doo ish about the Jackal mask, but I found it rather fun. As for Wes, I find his lack of irritating quirks rather refreshing. But each to their own.

  2. So, really, this would be the right place to start if, like me, you have yet to pick up one of Reid’s books, but make sure I commit in advance to THE JACKAL MAN or one fo the others – I can live with that! Thanks for the advice Steve, very sage as always.

    • Puzzle Doctor says:

      I’d start with either the first book or The Armada Boy. There are enough niggles here that if you didn’t already have faith in the series, it might put you off.

      To be honest, I think there’s only one major development that happens to the cast that would count as a spoiler – I know it happens from later books, but thankfully don’t know when it happens, so I’m still able to be surprised when it happens. There’s no real reason not to go straight to The Jackal Man or The Cadaver Game.

      • Cavershamragu says:

        Cheers – I’m stockpiling for 2013 when I will not be undertaking any reading challanges whatsover unless they are without deadlines …

      • Puzzle Doctor says:

        Yeah, that’s why I didn’t do the Alphabet of Crime this year. It’s hard enough keeping up with review requests (having trouble saying no!) without other restrictions to what I want to read.

      • Cavershamragu says:

        Congrats incidentally on the reviews of new books – I find it very hard to keep up with what’s coming out and having a trusted guide is a really big help mate.

  3. Pingback: The Puzzly – The ISOTCMN Book of the Month – October 2012 | In Search of the Classic Mystery Novel

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