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


Review of The Mermaid’s Scream – 4 Stars

The Mermaid’s Scream by Kate Ellis

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Premise: This is book 21 in the DI Wesley Peterson Crime Series. This story centres around the mysterious figure of Wynn Staniland, an enigma of the literary world. After his wife’s unusual death Wynn stopped producing novels and retreated from the literary limelight, now many years later a biographer set to publish Wynn’s story disappears. Bodies begin to stack up in the area with their only commonality being a connection to Staniland.

In the historical timeline, Neil Watson of the County Archaeological Unit is dealing with his own mystery, the death of Mary Field and a gruesome retelling of her story from the nineteenth century which fascinated Victorian taste for grim tales.

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:

Wesley recognised the object in her hand as a driving license.
‘Maybe he found it.’
‘There was money too.’
‘How much?’
‘Thirty pounds. I know he didn’t have that much. Look at the name on the licence: Zac Wilkinson. I went to that talk he gave last week. Remember? Didn’t you say he was missing?’
Wesley caught his breath as she handed him the license. The picture stared out at him. Wynn Staniland’s biographer; the man who’d failed to turn up at Neston Library.
‘I’d better have a word with Michael.’

Viewpoint: The story regularly changes perspectives from a host of characters and includes diary extracts from the nineteenth century. This makes the story feel fresh and fast-paced even during the more police procedural sections when the police are frustrated with a lack of progress/delays.

Character(s): Using the multi-viewpoint approach also allows the author to introduce us to a great breadth of characters. Some bringing more to the novel than others. There is a sub-story to this of a son navigating trials of being a teenager, a story of a long-lost daughter and the story of a sick wife. All these threads are woven together with great skill without too much distraction from the main plot.

Setting: This novel is mainly set in the region of Tradmouth which is, of course, loosely based on Dartmouth. This setting with small towns and remote locations really compliments the community feel of the novel but also highlights the isolation of the rural communities.

Any Negatives: I love this series, it’s one of my favourites. The author has such a talent for drawing me in quickly so that I am eager to turn the page. With this novel, there were a few things holding me back from going for the full five stars. The first was the random entries of Delia, the mother-in-law. I really don’t think it added anything to the main story or even contributed to the daughter’s cancer storyline. It may be the author setting the series up for a future book, but it didn’t seem to work for me in this book.

The main reason I didn’t give that 5 star is how the standalone book works. I appreciate it is incredibly difficult for any author to balance a book as both a series entry and a standalone and normally I haven’t noticed this as an issue at all. It’s been a number of years since I read the previous novels in this series and I was really struggling to recall details of past relationships etc. The author gave small snippets of info but it wasn’t really enough to clarify things for me e.g. Neil’s girlfriend is working away, Gerry’s relationship with Joyce, Gerry’s daughter Rosie is often spoken of as highly sensitive etc. I just felt like a little more detail or backstory to these would have helped this work better as a standalone, or for those of us whose memories are not as they once were – haha.

Overall View: As always a brilliant book by Kate Ellis. She is a truly fantastic writer. A great array of characters. A lot of fast-paced action. The fascinating historical aspects still pull me in and are so intriguing, I love how she intertwines these with the modern storyline.

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Extract from The Mermaid’s Scream

Review of The Shroud Maker (Wesley Peterson #18) by Kate Ellis

The Shroud Maker (Wesley Peterson, #18)The Shroud Maker by Kate Ellis

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

As novel #18 in the Wesley Peterson series, readers generally know what they are getting now with a Kate Ellis novel and The Shroud Maker doesn’t disappoint. Ellis easily allows the reader to imagine the hustle and bustle of a busy seaside town.
I always enjoy Ellis’s use of past and present storylines within her novels, mixing archaeological finds, forgotten manuscripts with present day sources to intricately weave the plot. This storyline took the notion one step further with the present timeline focussing on a computer game and how the victim linked with it.
The story itself focusses on two similar young women who have gone missing in the town, one of whom has been found dead. This happens at a time when a yearly historic festival is taking place, meaning a surge of incomers, the majority of whom are in fancy dress. How can the police pull together a suspect list?
The only minor criticism is this storyline has similarities with Ellis’s “The Cadaver Game” with the life imitating video games theme, but this doesn’t take anything away from this really enjoyable read with a lot of twist and a good range of characters/character viewpoints.
With enough clues (and a few surprise twists) dropped along the way to keep the reader guessing, this is another well written who-dunnit.

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Review of The Shadow Collector (Wesley Peterson -17) by Kate Ellis

The Shadow Collector (Wesley Peterson, #17)The Shadow Collector by Kate Ellis

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

As always Kate Ellis manages to weave multiple timeline tales into a single intriguing plot. Ellis brings to life the country lanes, the country farms and pubs of Devon and throws in several murder mysteries into the story to keep the reader guessing at all times.
In this novel the present timeline focusses on a police investigation of a reporter who is brutally stabbed, causing Wesley Peterson and team to investigate. The investigation leads the team to another timeline, 20 years in the past, which involved the murder of two teenage girls (supposedly by a village witch and her mother). This storyline then vaguely ties in with a third timeline which brings in the archaeological side to the novel, this timeline features the story of a suspected witch (named Allison Hadness) who was hanged during the English civil war.
The archaeological timeline I did feel was slightly weak in substance. I think normally Kate Ellis portrays a very strong story as part of her historical timeline. In this case although the witchcraft issue was the conjoined link, the story seemed to include a lot of other more detailed elements such as the sick old man Allison had married and the impending invasion and not so much on the witchcraft theme or even the historic character Allison.
Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed Ellis’s writing style, her dialogue and settings are superb. It is also fantastic to see how the core characters (Wesley, Neil, Gerry etc) are developing throughout the series. Another great read.

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Review of “The Armada Boy” (Wesley Peterson Series book 2) by Kate Ellis

The Armada Boy (Wesley Peterson, #2)The Armada Boy by Kate Ellis

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The second novel in the Wesley Peterson series really showcases the authors writing ability. The storyline is intriguing and fast paced particularly in the opening chapters hooking the reader and the level of mystery is maintained throughout.
The story combines multiple storylines and multiple character viewpoints effortlessly. The modern mystery of a pensioner (and was survivor) death provides the whole rural police team the opportunity to investigate their own theories of the murder. This allows Ellis to subtly weave in each characters strengths and weaknesses.
The locations are very descriptive and these play a focal point in the story; small town syndrome mixed with British coastal town and the characters that appear in these areas.
This book is excellent as a standalone, although as part of the series it is excellent to be able to see how the characters are growing and changing. As this novel is based on the second world war, and this year is the 70th Anniversary of the end of the war, this would make a great year to read this novel and relate to the characters brought to life.
Definitely worth five stars.

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Review of “The Merchants House” (Wesley Peterson Series -book 1) by Kate Ellis

The Merchants HouseThe Merchants House by Kate Ellis

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is the opening novel of the Wesley Peterson series, about a police sergeant and his wife moving from London to the West Country. Wesley’s interest in archaeology brings the story of the merchant house to the reader’s attention quickly while the diary extract of the “merchant” are excellently placed adding to the drama. The modern mystery is handled excellently for a missing child subject, something that should be handled sensitively and the author achieves this while also weaving in the story of Wesley and his wife trying to conceive their first child, bringing a tender touch to the storyline.
The locations are well described and very visual, although perhaps a few too many places covered for the first novel in the series. The sense of everyone having something to hide came across very well in this book, leaving the suspect list wide open.
The fact that this is a series could be picked up while reading this book, but I don’t think it detracted from the story line, just a sense of waiting for the characters to grow a little more on the reader. I would say as a standalone novel this book was very good, but as a series I am hoping for it to be excellent.

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Learning from the best




As a writer-in-training one of my current hobbies is absorbing others language and the creative ways they use it, in an attempt to learn the craft from those that have already made it. As a kindle addict this is a bit more difficult than a post-it on a page so I recently began using the highlight tool on kindle (press & hold on the first word until the grey highlight appears and then drag over the sentence/passage you wish to highlight), you can then add a note to help you trace why you highlighted it.

To then retrieve your highlights – log-on to

See an example below from one of my favourite authors, these are two extracts I had highlighted showing descriptive technique.

The Bone Garden: The Wesley Peterson Series: Book 5 by Kate Ellis

You have 2 highlighted passages
You have 2 notes
Last annotated on June 27, 2014

Monday morning brought rain – or drizzle to be more precise. It fell in gossamer sheets over the hilly landscape, turning the greens and golds of the September fields to shades of grey.

Note: Weather description

Heffernan was making a great effort to sound professional, detached – but he wasn’t making a very good job of it. The expression on his face betrayed every emotion, every fear and doubt.

Note: description hidden emotion

Anyway, I thought this might be a useful tool for other aspiring writers’.