Review of A High Mortality of Doves – 3 Stars

A High Mortality of Doves by Kate Ellis

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Premise: Flora Winsmore, the local doctor’s daughter, worked as a volunteer nurse during the war. Now working alongside her father as little more than a receptionist she wishes for more. Within quick succession, several women have been murdered and the ponderous local police force fail to identify the killer, the victims mount up, and the powers-that-be call in Scotland Yard’s Inspector Albert Lincoln.

I often think it’s useful to see an extract of a book to get an idea of the writing style. Here is a brief extract so that you can see a sample of the writing yourself:

‘I thought you were going to the Cottage Hospital,’ I say as soon as he’s within earshot.
He looks annoyed, like a man whose plans have been thwarted. ‘Sergeant Teague has made a telephone call… to London.’ There is a note of awe in his voice as he pronounces the name of the capital.
‘If the same murderer’s responsible it means they’ll have to release Jack Blemthwaite,’ I say. ‘Surely they can’t think he’s guilty now.’
Father shakes his head. ‘I suspect that was the purpose of Teague’s call. He’s calling a detective from London. Scotland Yard. He will let me know when he receives a reply. I am told the detective might wish to attend the post mortem so it’s been postponed.

Viewpoint: This story is told from multiple viewpoints and the timeline contains many flashbacks to the time of the war.

Character(s): The main two characters Flora and Albert are both strong with their own personal complicated histories they are working through. There is a cast of other characters, many of whom are equally caught up in the aftershock of the war trauma, with their own secrets, lies and grief distorting the investigation.
Setting: The novel is set in 1919 in a Derbyshire village. Ellis captures the village life excellently with its gossips, loyalties to manor houses and landowners, and the life of a country doctor called upon for all jobs. She also captures that small-mindedness that is sometimes felt amongst a rural community. It also helps bring an air of both sophistication and isolation to Albert. He is an outsider so not trusted but also a Londoner, so he is granted a degree of respectability.

Any Negatives: I am a massive fan of Kate Ellis, I think she is one of my favourite authors but I found this book a rather challenging read at times. I can’t quite put my finger on why, it feels very heavy and repetitive in places, it’s quite slow and laboursome at times to get to the action (which is unusual considering the body count). I don’t know, it wasn’t the worst, it just wasn’t the best for me either. I’m really glad I didn’t let it put me off as the ending was great.


Overall View: Brilliant concept. I love some of the historical details woven into the story. The love affair and guilt associated was great. However, in other areas, the plot was a bit slow and cumbersome. A very strong ending.

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Extract – A High Mortality of Doves

Know Your History – 28th October – Anne Perry born

know your history - writingOn this day… 28th October 1938 – Anne Perry born.

Anne Perry (born 28 October 1938 as Juliet Marion Hulme) is an English author of historical detective fiction, best known for her Thomas Pitt and William Monk series. Her publishing career began with The Cater Street Hangman. Published in 1979, this was the first book in the series to feature the Victorian policeman Thomas Pitt and his well-born wife Charlotte.

On Writing

In this 5On interview, author Anne Perry discusses learning from mistakes and plotting advice.

What mistakes did you make as a new mystery writer that you’ve since mastered (or at least corrected)?

Mistakes in early mystery writing days? I hope, since mastered! Not pacing the plot as well as possible, so losing some of the opportunities for tension, conflict, tying all the ends in without the mechanism showing. I am always delighted if I surprise people at the end, because I don’t expect to. But more than surprise, it must make sense. The mystery is only the vehicle for the real story, which is the moral dilemma, the social ill, the exploration of what went wrong.anne perry

What plotting advice would you give someone about to write their first mystery?

Write a very detailed outline so that everything makes sense. No character at all ever does anything without a reason—good or bad. I would give quite a bit of time to the “back story”—everything that happened before your first page. And don’t forget that villains must be “human” and that they keep on reacting, as well.

Did You Know?..

Perry was convicted of participating in the murder of her friend’s mother in 1954. She changed her name after serving her sentence.

 In June 1954, at the age of 15, Hulme and her best friend Pauline Parker murdered Parker’s mother, Honorah Rieper. Hulme’s parents were in the process of separating and she was supposed to go to South Africa to stay with a relative. The two teenage friends, who had created a rich fantasy life together populated with famous actors such as James Mason and Orson Welles, did not want to be separated.