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.