Title: Playing With Bones
Author: Kate Ellis
Publisher: Piatkus, 2009
Mass Market Paperback, 320 pages
Genre: Police Procedural, #2 D.I. Joe Plantagenet mystery
Source: Christmas gift from Denis.
First Line: The girl raised her hands in a feeble attempt to save her life.
There is so much to like about this new series from Kate Ellis. Detective Inspector Joe Plantagenet is a multi-faceted character who's a bit different from your run-of-the-mill copper because he originally studied for the priesthood. His boss, Detective Chief Inspector Emily Thwaite, is a good match for him, and since she's also a wife and mother, she has a lot of history to bring to this literary plate.
When you've finished savoring the characters, there's the history of York that pervades the book (where it's thinly disguised as "Eborby"):
He walked under Canons Bar, catching a strong whiff of urine, and looked upwards at the wooden teeth of the ancient portcullis poking out of their stone slit like the fangs of some sleeping animal-- a reminder of Eborby's warlike past. When he emerged from the shadows he saw the cathedral's golden towers looming above the crazy maze of narrow medieval streets....
Is there a copycat killer on the loose in Eborby? This is what Joe and Emily have to investigate after the body of a young girl is found in Singmass Close, "a place that dogs refused to enter at night." All the evidence found at the scene shows an intimate knowledge of the murderer known as the Doll Strangler, a man who killed women in the exact same area in the 1950s and was never caught. Moreover, Joe and Emily are also trying to find a missing girl and an escaped convict. There won't be much sleep for any of the police in the area until all the cases are solved.
As in her Wesley Peterson mystery series, Ellis shows how talented she is at weaving together several plot threads and imbuing them with a sense of the history of the place. What sets this newer series apart is not just the location but a sense of the supernatural-- as if Eborby is so saturated with history that spirits of long-dead centuries still walk the streets and have a say in what happens in the present day. This sense of the supernatural is not a strong one. It's just enough to add a touch of spice, a bit of the "what if". It's the thinnest ribbon of smoke in the breeze.
Ellis's sense of place is so very strong that I feel as though I'm walking the streets of "Eborby" with people like Joe and Emily that I'm beginning to think of as friends. I also feel as though Joe is soon going to supplant Wesley in my affections.
What's a woman to do?