The Mermaid’s Scream by Kate Ellis

Wynn Staniland was a giant in the world of literature. His books were not to everyone’s taste, but everybody still read them. So when he stopped writing in the 1980s and became a recluse, people wanted to know why. And now his official biography is going to explain all. But his biographer, Zac Wilkinson, has his own secrets that he is desperate to keep. For if someone finds out who he really is…

DI Wesley Peterson soon finds himself investigating not just Zac’s murder, but the double poisoning of a married couple in a caravan. But there seems to be a link to a sinister puppet show from the past, a show that re-enacted famous murder cases, and when Wesley’s son becomes involved in events, it seems that this case is going to get extremely personal.

It’s very tempting to just say something like “same old story” here, but it’s quite possibly that readers may not have read and memorised my previous twenty six reviews of Kate’s work – twenty Wesley Peterson stories, five Joe Plantagenate tales and the recent, outstanding A High Mortality Of Doves. So to clarify to newcomers and those with less-than-perfect memories, what do you get from one of Kate’s novels?

  • Central characters that you care about, who don’t have self-destructive tendencies.
  • A complex mystery which, while possibly not classically clued, is meticulously constructed and usually surprising while still having a logical solution.
  • An alternative strand or strands about past crimes that have parallels to the modern day mystery.
  • Oh, yes – lots of murders!
Kate Ellis and me at the British Library!

I honestly don’t know why I rarely hear Kate’s name mentioned in the same breath as the other great UK crime writers and was delighted when she was shortlisted for this year’s Dagger In The Library. I’m also not sure why the Wesley Peterson series hasn’t been produced for TV either, as it seems ideal Sunday evening fodder. But in the meantime, the series goes from strength to strength – this is a very strong entry, by the way – and needless to say, this is Highly Recommended.


  1. Thanks for the review, and for putting Kate Ellis back onto the radar. 🙂 I confess my past two forays into Kate Ellis’s Wesley Peterson series did not incline me towards further exploration. I thought the two titles I read had good characters and were well-written, but I suspect my tastes lie with something slightly more (to borrow your phrase) ‘classically clued’. But I recently purchased, off my local Kindle store, ‘High Mortality of Doves’ – and I’m saving it as a treat.


  2. Hi Puzzle Doctor,it is indeed an excellent ongoing series.My second favourite series.My favourite series is the Bryant and May series.


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