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A Perfect Death
by Kate Ellis

Release Date: 2nd Apr 2009
Publisher: Piatkus
ISBN: 978 0 7499 0910 9
RRP: £19.99

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A Wesley Peterson murder mystery...

A Perfect Death is set on the premise that the recent brutal killing of a woman in the same field where a Jeanne de Minerve (a thirteenth century Cathar) was transformed into the legendary ‘Burning Bride’ is in some way, connected. Perhaps, the fact that the victim in question was also burnt alive may have been a coincidence too far.

DI Wesley Peterson had been holidaying in France with his wife, a holiday that had gone very well indeed until an old university acquaintance, Ian Rowe, started pestering him about a missing friend called Nadia. Wesley was prepared to go along with Rowe’s fantasist notions for a while, but on returning back to Devon, the reality of a particularly gruesome murder puts pay to that – besides, Rowe had mysteriously and quite suddenly vanished from France.

Grandal field. Seemingly nothing out of the ordinary; recently purchased by a developer called Jon Bright who is keen to build on it, but who must undergo due process first, which consists of an archaeological dig. Wesley’s old friend, Neil, is responsible for the dig and is in no hurry to oblige Mr Bright will the required speed. Not only is the site potentially of historical value, but the recent murder of an unidentified woman has made everyone jittery.

The Pure Sons of the West are an organisation dedicated to the passive harassment and torment of second-home owners in the region who are perceived to be out-pricing the locals from the housing market. Jon Bright’s wife has been receiving rather nasty letters threatening to burn her alive.

Suddenly, there is another fire – another death – a man, presumed to be Ian Rowe. Then, the Bright’s summerhouse is set alight, though fortunately, no one is injured. More death threats, more secrets, more lies; and amongst them all is the legend of the Burning Bride and an archaeological dig of Grandal field done in the 1980’s that suddenly stopped.

Ellis has a way of commanding attention through her writing; it is in the short, sharpness of tone and language and the prepossessing nature of her characters. Wesley’s personal life is almost as enticing as the plot itself, which to some might be a distraction, to others, merely an elaboration of his essence. Whichever side you decide to plum for, no one can dispute that Ellis has honed her skills at whodunits. Rather pleasurably, I prefer the somewhat crass and overbearingly forthright, DCI Gerry Heffernan, to Wesley’s more subtle and subdued persona and would have preferred him to end up as the undeserving and rather bashful hero at the end, but perhaps one day old Gerry will have his day? Until then, Wesley will make do.

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