The Boy Who Lived With The Dead by Kate Ellis

Detective Inspector Albert Lincoln is a man scarred by his past. One year ago, in 1919, while he captured the phantom soldier who was brutally murdering the population of Wenfield, it was at great personal cost to himself. And another failure haunts him – the unsolved death of young Jimmy Rudyard in the village of Mabley Ridge in 1914 before the outbreak of the war. But as a new murder – and the disappearance of a baby – draws him back to Mabley Ridge, it seems that the past has not been forgotten by others too.

Jimmy’s brother is a child with a vivid imagination, a child that no one seems to believe. Not about his stories of the night his brother died. Not about the Shadow Man who lives on the Ridge above the village. But it may be time to start believing Jimmy… for it seems his stories are coming true.

This is the second book in a trilogy featuring Albert Lincoln, and I’d recommend that you read the first book, A High Mortality Of Doves. Kate Ellis makes an reasonable attempt not to spoil the details of the finale in this book, but eventually, she has to make clear what happened and it is a spoiler. So before you read this one, read the first book of the trilogy. You should read it anyway, because it’s really good, possibly Kate’s strongest book to date.

And this one continues the high quality of the first book. Albert is a lead character that you can empathise with, a man with a conscience, flawed despite not being weak, determined to do the right thing, despite not always making the right choices. And he’s not the only fully developed character on display.

The book is populated with believable characters while still adopting the classic mystery format. A reasonable body count with everyone being a suspect, possibly due to a number of characters being up to… something, and while that something isn’t murder necessarily, it gives the characters good reason to behave suspiciously.

The plot is typical of Kate – complex while still being perfectly simple to follow – and there is a stunningly obvious clue hidden in plain sight. It’s a gripping read from cover to cover and I’m fascinated as to where Kate is going with the finale of the trilogy, given the loose ends left dangling at the end. Don’t get me wrong, this is a complete standalone tale, but I hope it’s not too long before Book Three turns up as I need to know what the future holds for poor old Albert.

I’ve always been a fan of Kate’s work, ever since I came across her work in the early days of the blog, and I do hope this series gets her the recognition that it deserves. In case it’s not obvious, this (and its predecessor) comes Highly Recommended.

Many thanks to Little, Brown for the review copy. The Boy Who Lived With The Dead is out now.

5 comments

  1. […] I think there is a lot for readers to enjoy in this one, especially for those who are fans of interwar set mystery novels, with female leads, such as those series by Jacqueline Winspear and Frances Brody. Though I would say Ellis bucks some of the trends those sorts of series generate. The female emancipation thread, for instance, certainly gets an interesting kick. For those who like fully fleshed out characters with back stories then this story will be right up your street, with Ellis being a dab hand at saying a lot in a few words. The narrative unfolds through different character focuses, although Flora Winsmore, the local doctor’s daughter and the Inspector are the main ones to carry the tale. As to the Inspector, I would say he definitely eschews the Great Detective mould, revealing himself to be vulnerably fallible in a number of areas. This of course makes him a more interesting read. Though in fairness it is not just him who makes a wrongful arrest, as it is hard for the police to pinpoint a specific suspect, despite unusual crime scene clues. The limited nature of the clues does make the investigation drag at times though, as the Inspector has to catch the killer in the act so to speak, before he can make the correct arrest. However, readers may feel the ending more than makes up for this, as it is certainly Surprise, with a capital S. I can definitely envisage such an ending being a big talking point for any book group discussion. Given the ending, it is interesting to see where future books in the series will go next and in fact there is no waiting required as the second book in the series, The Boy Who Lived with the Dead (2018), came out last December, getting another thumbs up from the Puzzle Doctor. […]

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