The Shroud Maker, by Kate Ellis

Review published on June 12, 2014. Reviewed by Marleen Kennedy

Nudge Reviewer Rating:

It has been a year since Jenny Bercival disappeared during Tradmouth’s annual Palkin festival and her mother is back in town pushing Wesley Peterson and his team to not give up on finding her daughter. When the body of another young woman is found floating in an inflatable dinghy, the similarities between the two women are too striking to dismiss.

Wesley’s friend Neil Watson, an archaeologist, makes a gruelling discovery while digging on a site that once used to belong to the John Palkin the local festival is celebrating. Is there any link between the remains of two women found in Neil’s trench and the modern day disappearance and murder?

With the Palkin Festival in full swing Tradmouth is full of guests, tourists and history buffs, not to mention gaming enthusiasts fascinated by the fantasy website Shipworld. The site features Palkin as a supernatural hero whose faceless and sinister nemesis is only known as The Shroud Maker.

This case doesn’t lack suspects although it does appear to lack motives and opportunity. The answers to modern questions are firmly rooted in a dark past that only slowly emerges. Before all is revealed others will fall victim to violence and danger will come lurking very close to home.

I’ve read most, although not all, of the previous Wesley Peterson mysteries and have to admit that even after almost twenty books I’m still intrigued with these stories. The way in which Kate Ellis manages to combine historical mysteries with present day crimes never fails to impress me. Of course it is a stretch of the imagination that every crime this police force investigates happens to bear striking similarities with crimes committed in the past but it is a conceit that works very well and gives the story added interest.

The mystery in this book intrigued me and kept me on the edge of my seat although I have to admit that there were times when the sheer number of characters and suspects confused me. In fact, even now that I’ve finished the book I have to think long and hard before I’m able to explain exactly what happened and why. In fact, it almost feels as if the author went a bit too far when she plotted this story. There are too many different angles that are too similar to each other. I’d like to expand on this point but since I’m unable to do so without spoiling the story for others I’ll refrain. Having said that, while the resolution may have been convoluted, it did work and fit the story perfectly. My issue is not with an unsatisfactory ending rather than a not clear cut enough one.

One of the things I enjoy about long running series is the opportunity they give the reader to really get to know the characters and watch them as time passes. Having said that, some plot points have been dragged out a bit too long for me by this stage. I just don’t buy Rachel still being obsessed with Wesley after all this time and while I appreciate it gives the story added spice I really think that particular storyline has been milked for all its worth.

I do appreciate Kate Ellis painting a more or less realistic picture of police work and the frustrations involved. While the mysteries are solved and the reader is given all the answers, it doesn’t always mean that those who need to be punished are also caught. And I like the way these books are written. The style is unhurried, almost leisurely, and yet there isn’t a boring or uninteresting sentence in the book. The star attraction in these books has always been and still is the very clever link between past (be it distant or recent) and present.

I am still glad I discovered this series several years ago and know that I will continue reading these mysteries for as long as the author continues to write them.

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