Book Reviews

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With the October 2004 review, we began rating the books on the basis of one to four trowels; 
one trowel= don’t bother, to four trowels= run right out to your local book store and buy the hard cover!

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The Burial Circle by Kate Ellis

Reviewed on: April 1, 2022


Piatkus Publishing:  London
2020 (HC)

Twelve years after her disappearance, the remains of Erica Walsh are exposed when a winter storm uproots a tree on farmland owned by the family police woman Rachel Tracey, colleague and close friend of Wesley Peterson, Detective Inspector from the Tradmouth CID on the southwest coast of England.  This grisly discovery continues a complex train of events stretching back to the 1880s when the parishioners of nearby Petherham created a “burial circle,” a kind of cooperative effort by farmers and workers to pool monetary resources to guarantee loved ones a decent burial.  This concept, rich in tradition, takes on sinister implications in the present as Wesley and his fellow officers attempt to solve this cold case.

Archaeologist Neil Watson is called in from his work surveying the historic woolen mill at Petherham to excavate the skeletal remains of Erica Walsh.  At the same time, television psychic Damien Lee is scheduled to conduct an advertised “paranormal” weekend at Petherham’s Mill House, adjacent to Neil’s woolen mill.  Included among the paying guests is Corrine Malin, whose doctoral thesis on the paranormal in contemporary life has drawn her to the event.  She is, coincidentally, an old friend of the long-missing Erica Walsh, and as events unfold and the Devon police continue to probe Erica’s murder, it becomes evident that a number of the weekend guests at Mill House, including the owners Jeremy and Selena Quayle, may have a link to the murder of the young woman more than a decade earlier.  The investigation puts into question the suicide and murder of a mother and her young son at Mill House close to the time of Erica’s disappearance.   Past violence gives way to present violence when psychic celebrity Damien Lee claims to sense a long-existing evil at Mill House and is found stabbed and drowned in the mill race that drives the woolen mill water wheel. 

Kate Ellis, in her 24th literary outing with Wesley Peterson and Neil Watson, continues to excel at laying out the plot of a contemporary crime that has its roots in the past, often brought to light by Neil Watson’s archaeological efforts.  She presents a bevy of suspects that the reader finds plausible, only to be logically exonerated, and then finally exposes the real villain—often the least likely character in the entire cast!  Neil Watson’s role in The Burial Circle is less than in many previous Wesley Peterson mysteries, but it is still crucial to the solution to the crimes, past and present, committed at Petherham.

Three trowels for The Burial Circle.