The Marriage Hearse by Kate Ellis

The Marriage HearseKirsten Harbourn was getting married that day – until someone strangled her as she was changing into her wedding dress. Once DI Wesley Peterson and his team start digging into her background, they find more that just an obsessive stalker who might have a reason to kill her. Kirsten had a lot of secrets – one of which seems to have been important enough to kill for.

On the same day, a frightened young girl is married in a registry office. And a few days later, the husband is found stabbed in a seedy hotel room. Connections start to appear that seem to link the two deaths, but what possibly links the two victims.

Meanwhile in Tradmouth, as the first performance in four hundred years of Ralph Strong’s The Fair Wife of Padua takes place, a body is unearthed that seems to be Strong’s fiancée. Is the play a confession of a murder, or a dark mirror of the events in the present?

Kate Ellis writes jigsaw puzzles. I think that’s the best way to describe it. No, maybe she writes about solving a jigsaw puzzle. She starts off by giving you the pieces, then proceeds to show you how pairs of pieces link together and then slowly the picture emerges. Then you realise that you’ve been looking at it upside down the whole time.

The marriage (sorry) between past and present is the corner-stone of Kate’s writing, in this series at least, but she does a good job of varying it from book to book. As ever, each chapter opens with a piece of the past story – in this case excerpts from The Fair Wife of Padua – before switching back to the present day investigation, which to be clear, is the focus of the book. As ever there are parallels from the past case to the present day – possibly too strong a link in this case, as it beggars belief that the skeleton and its story would be unearthed at the same time Kirsten’s murder is being investigated given that… oh, I can’t say that. It’s happened before in the series – more often than not, in fact – but if you can turn a blind eye to coincidence, there’s a lot to admire here.

The ongoing subplots concerning Wesley’s personal life, which I’ve bemoaned before about moving at a snail’s pace, actually take a step forward this time, in a slightly unexpected direction. I still think it’s beyond time for the Rachel-Wesley thing to be knocked on the head, but that’s probably the hopeless romantic in me who likes to read about happy marriages… There’s some good news for Gerry, Wesley’s boss, who I always feel should get more page time. It’s nice to see a DCI who, given that they’re not the lead character, isn’t portrayed as an idiot.

So an intriguing whodunit – not a great deal of clues, more guesswork really when trying to solve it – and you’d think that the police would have checked SOMETHING a bit more carefully, which would saved them a load of time. But that’s a niggle, and you have to suspend your disbelief sometimes.

So, as ever with this series, Highly Recommended.

I bought this copy from Formby Books in Formby. Great little shop, do pop along. They always have plenty of copies of Kate’s books in stock.


  1. When I first discovered Kate Ellis I had to pay the English price in order to read them. A local bookstore always had a selection of British titles that I couldn’t resist. I haven’t read her in a long time. I can see I have been left behind. I’ll put this series on my research list and hope to download on my Kindle. Thank you for your reviews that suggest a good read for an addicted English cozy kinda of mystery reader and then some.


    • Thanks, Martin. It’s a shame my new local bookshop isn’t quite up there with Formby Books, certainly for visits from some of my favourite crime writers, but everyone should still use their local bookshops when they can.


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