Thirteen Torland Place, Eborby (a thinly disguised York) is a house with a dark history. In the nineteenth century Obediah Shrowton murdered five members of his family with an axe. Twelve years ago, two teenage girls disappeared in the wood behind the house. And now Death is stalking the house itself.
DI Joe Plantagenet is called in when some DNA trace evidence from the girls’ disappearance points towards the local Member of Parliament. But when one of the students who live in the house is discovered murdered, with her tongue cut out, it seems as if the past dangers are suddenly very real…
I’m rapidly running out of Kate Ellis novels to read – all twenty Wesley Peterson novels are done and dusted so I’ve turned to the Joe Plantagenet series, some of which is a little harder to get hold of. As with Kate’s main series, the past plays an important role in this one, but there are supernatural overtones as well. The killer is flesh and blood, though, just in case that would put off some readers.
It’s a complex tale with many plot strands running through it – basically exactly what I’d expect from Kate’s work. There are some rather nasty things going on here, but it’s to the author’s credit that at no point does it feel exploitative. She avoids any graphic descriptions of the crimes, leaving it to the reader to fill in any details if they so desire.
It keeps moving forward – there’s a new development every few pages so the reader is kept on their toes trying to work out what’s going on. The final sections are tense and, as is often the case with Kate’s work, there is a kick on the final page. Not a twist in the mystery but it’s damn creepy all the same. And there’s a clever trick to hide the killer that I missed. It’s a bit of an old trick but with so much going on, I missed it completely.
But… because of the fast pace, a couple of subplots that end up not being related to the murderer don’t quite get the resolution that the main plot does. They get tied up but could have done with a little more page space. I wonder if it’s due to the switch in publisher – the first two books in the Plantagenet series were published by Piatkus, before the series switch to Severn House which has a lower page count. I’m theorising that the book was written with a longer page count and then cut down, but I’m probably wrong.
Having that said, it’s only in hindsight that this niggle presented itself. As I was reading it, I was completely gripped – it’s a real page-turner and is Highly Recommended.