Thursday, September 03, 2009

Seeking the Dead by Kate Ellis

Title: Seeking the Dead
Author: Kate Ellis
ISBN: 9780749909352, Piatkus Books, 2008
Genre: Police Procedural, #1 D.I. Joe Plantagenet mystery
Rating: A

First Line: Things that frighten the devil away.

I've been a fan of Kate Ellis and her D.S. Wesley Peterson mystery series from the very first book. I love her characterizations and the blending of an old mystery with a new one. When I learned that she had begun a second series featuring D.I. Joe Plantagenet set in North Yorkshire, you know I couldn't rest until I had a copy of Seeking the Dead in my hands!

As I began to read, it was obvious to me that the book was written by Kate Ellis. Her love of history and archaeology just can't be disguised. Seeking the Dead is set in "Eborby", and the more I read, the more I was convinced that Eborby was really the city of York. When I visited Ellis's website, I saw that my guess was correct.

Joe had heard that plague victims had been buried beneath these banks in the seventeenth century and he wondered whether the mothers would have let their children play there if they'd known. Probably. The past was the past.

Detective Inspector Joe Plantagenet has a new boss, Detective Chief Inspector Emily Thwaite, and they both have a very big problem: someone is binding and asphyxiating victims and leaving their nude bodies in isolated country churchyards. The ever-witty media has dubbed the killer "the Resurrection Man". On the surface the victims appear to have nothing in common except the manner of their deaths, but as Plantagenet continues to investigate, he begins to wonder if there isn't an occult connection. The clock is ticking while Thwaite and Plantagenet race to find the killer before there's another victim.

As I've said before, I've been a fan of Ellis's Peterson series from the get-go, so I was a bit surprised to realize that I was enjoying this new series even more. The characterizations seem even richer in Seeking the Dead. Plantagenet spent a year in the seminary, thinking to become a priest before he discovered that the priesthood was not his real vocation. He is an excellent listener, but doesn't divulge much of himself, so there's that air of mystery to pique a reader's interest in him. His boss, DCI Emily Thwaite is also well drawn, a woman in a difficult career position that's made even more stressful by events in her current investigation. Even when stressed, she can show more than a glint of humor:

"I had a gran like that." Emily smiled at the memory. "Expert on surveillance she was and all. I sometimes wonder whether MI5 have ever considered the effectiveness of the net curtain."

In this series, there isn't a resident archaeologist and a separate mystery involving the past, but Ellis uses the setting to such excellent effect that it is a character in itself, as when Plantagenet does some research for the case:

The city archives-- those that weren't housed in the history department at the university-- were housed on the second floor of the library, a red-brick product of Victorian civic pride built on the site of a medieval hospital whose undercroft still stood next door, all that remained above ground of a once vast complex. Twelfth-century confidence cheek by jowl with the nineteenth-century variety.

Although I had an inkling as to the identity of the killer, it didn't spoil my enjoyment of this book one jot. All the police work that went into solving the crimes, the characters, the setting... every element blended together into a truly pleasurable read. The next book in the series is Playing With Bones. I'm trying my best not to buy books, and after reading Seeking the Dead, I really feel the need for an intervention!


  1. I feel so under-read! Another good series. Argh.

  2. The DI's name interests me the most (it reminds me of this), but the actual book looks good, too. I'll have to see if I can get this somewhere in the library (I'm, uh, trying not to buy books, either).

  3. sounds like an interesting book and that cover is eerie!

  4. Oh, I haven't read this author yet but this sounds fabulous! Just what I need, another crime series to start {slap on the head}!

  5. Two temptations on the same day!

    Cathy, you are an expensive acquaintance ;)

  6. Beth--You're not the only one who feels under-read. Bring on retirement!

    Anastasia-- I find the DI's name interesting too for the same reason.

    Serena-- Yes, that cover is a bit spooky!

    Nicola-- I think I'm trying for the record in the Mystery Series Started category! LOL

    Dorte-- But at least the expense is in a good category. Fortunately I'm one of those rare women who hate expenses like diamonds. Forget gemstones--gimmee the books!!


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