The Shadow Collector by Kate Ellis

The Shadow CollectorEighteen years ago, two schoolgirls were murdered by Lilith Bentley and her mother – everyone knew the story about how the two witches caught the girls who were spying on them and then fed them to their pigs. But Lilith always protested her innocence and eighteen years later, after serving her time in jail, she returns to her old isolated home.

On the neighbouring farm, a celebrity TV show is being filmed, but as the contestants are narrowed down to two, a woman is found on the edges of the farm, stabbed to death. As DI Wesley Peterson and his team look into the death, the light of suspicion falls once again on Lilith. Has she killed again? And did she kill the first time round? But with other problems to deal with – his best friend Neil is almost killed after excavating a wax doll that belonged to a seventeenth century witch, and his mother-in-law wants him to help her friend, a teacher accused of molesting a pupil – can he stop a determined killer from completing their task?

Book Seventeen of the Wesley Peterson series (and you can find reviews of the first sixteen on the website). Regular readers will know that I really like this series and Kate’s writing in general, so is there anything here that’s going to change my opinion?

It’s a little odd for me as I’ve jumped two books – The Jackal Man and The Cadaver Game – since my most recent review – The Flesh Tailor – as I read those when I bought them at a couple of signings that Kate did. Actually, that’s true of this one as well – it’s been on my shelf while I caught up with the rest of the series. Unfortunately (in the sense that there’s only two left to read – The Shroud Maker and the recently released The Death Season) I’ve now got round to it. Such a shame…

Anyway, enough of my woes. What about this book?

I’ve mentioned before the nature of Kate’s books, but just in case, I’ll say it again. Each chapter is prefaced with a document detailing a past case – in this case, the witchcraft tale tied in with the siege of Tradmouth during in the English Civil War – while we then return to the current case which will inevitably tie in to the past one. The link this time, apart from the obvious witchcraft bit, is actually rather subtle – in fact as the series has progressed, the links have become less obvious, which works better than the past case being an exact mirror.

The present day case is presented like a jigsaw  which you solve by starting at each corner and work your way towards the centre, with that central piece having the murderer’s face on it. As the pieces are joined together, unexpected links between characters and plot threads are revealed until the picture (which links almost everything in the tale) is revealed.

Kate’s plotting really is exemplary (provided one accepts the coincidences that cause events to kick off – hey, this is a murder mystery novel after all), with just enough revealed at the right time to steer the reader in the right direction without giving overt signposts. Even when the killer is revealed, there is still at least one twist in the case that I doubt many readers will spot – and as is often the case with the series, there is an extra kick at the end of the tale.

One other thing to mention about the series is that, despite me doing so (mostly), it can be read completely out of order. In fact, I’d recommend these later books (from The Flesh Tailor) was while the entire series is excellent, these recent entries are outstanding. As ever, this one is Highly Recommended. A great read.

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3 comments

  1. I have read only one book by Kate Ellis—The Shining Skull. It is a very good mystery, suspenseful with several surprise twists and turns and a shocking ending.However I have one complaint against it. There is a totally irrelevant strand which I skipped completely.!
    From your review it seems that the same is the case with this book !

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  2. I could have sworn I had one of these on the shelf already from your say so, but couldn’t find it – so I’ve ordered THE FLESH TAILOR – will let you know how it goes – thanks chum.

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