Playing With Bones by Kate Ellis

Playing With BonesForty years ago, a serial killer stalked the streets of Eborby, killing young girls and leaving an antique doll beside their bodies. He became known as the Doll Strangler. And then he vanished…

Today, a young aspiring model has disappeared. A convicted murderer has escaped from prison. And a young girl has been found strangled… with an antique doll by her side. When the fact that one of her toes has been removed – a habit of the Doll Strangler that was never made public – it is clear that either there is an OAP serial killer on the prowl or a very well-informed copycat.

DI Joe Plantagenet and his team are stretched to the limit but as time goes by – and the body count begins to increase – the three crimes seem to grow more and more interlinked. But as the ghosts of the past gather, can they stop the Doll Strangler before he completes his work?

This is the second book in Kate Ellis’s non-Wesley Peterson series – rather than the archaeological aspect tying the plot together, these books have a whiff of the supernatural about them. I was somewhat divided about the first in the series – in part, because I solved it. This, however, was a marked improvement. It’s almost as good as anything Kate has written – and if you whizz back through my blog, you’ll see that’s strong praise indeed coming from me.

First off – would-be serial killer thriller authors out there. Read this book. It contains what I normally cannot stand – the POV of the nutcase. Normally these are full of details of the atrocities that the character wants to commit to his various victims. And by details, I mean every single horrific detail. Here, however, it’s about the power that causing death brought to the murderer. And it’s ten times more terrifying than any descriptions of mutilations or the like.

This is another demonstration of the authors ability to weave seemingly disparate plot strands together into a cohesive whole. The plot is full of twists and turns and the identity of the killer was, for me, both shocking and believable. And the supernatural element is note-perfect. Nothing is ever confirmed; the spirits, if indeed there are any, only ever observe and as such, they complement the plot perfectly.

Niggles? Well, there are a couple of characters who make some unbelievably stupid decisions, but oddly this only really occurred to me in hindsight, so that shouldn’t be an issue. Any clues are few and far between as well.

So ignoring that, this is another excellent book from one of my favourite authors. Highly recommended.

Oh, and if you’re in Formby on Saturday, 12-1pm, do pop in to Formby Books (next to Oxfam) to meet Kate and buy lots of her books – you can find a bucketload of positive reviews of her work here.


  1. I was glad to see this review. I have the first in the series (not read yet), and went back and looked at your review of that. I definitely need to try more of her books.


    • I was probably a little harsh on the first one namely because I worked it out – I find it always hard to rate the quality of a mystery if I can actually solve it – was it too obvious or was I being clever? I can never tell…


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