The Merchant's House

Kate Ellis, Author Thomas Dunne Books $22.95 (256p) ISBN 978-0-312-20562-1
Enough promise survives this choppy debut to warrant hope for future mysteries by Ellis. British Detective Sergeant Wesley Peterson's transfer from London to Tradmouth in South Devon promises a fresh start near his wife's hometown. Peterson, a black detective with a degree in archeology, is warmly received by his new colleagues, among whom are unorthodox Detective Inspector Gerry Heffernan and bright Detective Constable Rachel Tracey. Although Tradmouth is a small town, the precinct has its hands full with two puzzling cases: one involves the kidnapping of a young boy, the other the brutal murder of an anonymous woman. As Peterson and his colleagues track down the identity of the murder victim and find her killer, Ellis unfolds a parallel mystery set 400 years earlier by placing short excerpts from an old journal at the beginning of each chapter. All the while, Peterson also follows a longtime archeologist friend's excavation of a 17th-century house that contains the skeletons of two bodies. Peterson, Heffernan and their colleagues form an interesting ensemble, and an effective subplot concerning Peterson's wife's anxiety over her inability to conceive a child adds emotional punch to the tale. Ultimately, however, the coincidences converge too neatly, and the clumsy tying together of the historical and present mysteries undermines the novel. (May)
Reviewed on: 05/03/1999
Release date: 05/01/1999
Paperback - 246 pages - 978-0-7499-3699-0
Mass Market Paperbound - 246 pages - 978-0-7499-5275-4
Open Ebook - 256 pages - 978-0-7481-2674-3
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