Grandal Field in Devon seems to have a curse upon it. In the thirteenth century, a French woman, fleeing the terrors in her own country, was burned to death. Ten years ago, an archaeological dig ended in tragedy with the deaths of two of the workers. And now a young woman is found dead in the field – also burned to death.
When Wesley Peterson, on holiday in Carcassone, is asked for help by an old university acquaintance, he presumes that the problem of his missing friend (back in Devon) is a minor matter. But as his friend disappears from the town overnight, and another burned body is found near Tradmouth, it seems that things are much more complicated than they first appeared. Is there really an ancient Cathar treasure buried under the field? And will someone kill again to get their hands on it?
Catching up now with the Kate Ellis back catalogue – this is book thirteen in the Wesley Peterson series (and I’ve already read books fifteen – The Jackal Man – and sixteen – The Cadaver Game) leaving me with just three books left! Aaagh! Luckily she’s a fairly fast writer…
To reminder readers – the Wesley Peterson series features Wesley (duh) a black policeman in rural Devon with an interest in archaeology, which comes in handy as whenever there’s a murder in the area, there’s a parallel between the case and the current thing that Wesley’s chum Dr Neil Watson is currently digging up. That may seem awfully coincidental but that’s fiction for you. It gives a fairly unique spin on the police procedural that makes it stand out from other series. On top of that, the mysteries in this series are multi-layered with there being many strands to bring together in order to see the big picture.
I’ve enjoyed all of this series to date, and I this one was no exception. The characters were nice and distinctive – I hate it when I have to go back and work out who did what in earlier chapters – and the leads are enjoyable company, although as I’ve said before, their private lives, while part of the narrative, seem to creep forward at a snail’s pace across multiple books. We meet DS Carstairs’ replacement and he doesn’t seem to be doing a particularly good job, but we don’t see any sort of resolution to this plot in these pages. I know this sort of thing doesn’t get resolved overnight in the real world, but simultaneous past-and-present murders don’t either!
The solution is even more complex than usual with virtually everyone doing something – I particularly liked the resolution to the Cathar treasure plot – but I’m not a fan of the method of hiding the murderer that is, in part, used here. It can backfire – it doesn’t here, but comes quite close – but it’s a satisfying resolution. Let’s hope that the finale doesn’t sour Wesley’s wife’s newfound tolerance of his police work.
Overall – not the best of the series, as it lacked the final emotional punch that the better books have, but even the weakest books (which this definitely isn’t) are still well worth a look. Recommended.