The Death Season (2015) by Kate Ellis

This is my first experience of Ellis’ Wesley Peterson series and I was impressed with how in this story she creates a vast web of varying narrative threads and characters spanning over a century, which by the end of the book becomes one interconnected piece.

The Death Season

The first of these threads is set in 1980, when an intoxicated man named Chris is saved from drowning after he decides to go for a post drinking plunge in the sea. Disaster may have been averted but we are left with an unsettling feeling when Chris’ rescuer tells him ‘that if someone saves you from drowning you belong to them from then on.’ The Death Season (2015) then jumps back in time to England, 1913 where a parlour maid’s dalliance with the son of Sandton House leads to her becoming pregnant. She believes he will do the honourable thing and marry her, yet I think most readers will be sceptical of this.

Our last narrative jump is to 2014, and this is where the majority of the story takes place, though with different groups of characters. There is Pauline who has a very suspicious fridge-freezer and that most dangerous of things (well in this book at any rate), secret information, which she hopes to use to her own advantage. We also have DI Wesley Peterson and his team members who initially begin in this story investigating a series of burglaries and the murder of a man in a local hotel, who seems to have more than one identity. However other deaths past and present soon intertwine themselves in the case, even putting those Wesley’s cares about the most in danger. The final group of characters is in the world of archaeology and Dr Neil Watson is involved in supervising both a dig of the lost village of Sandrock (which was lost due to sea erosion with most of the houses falling into the sea in 1918) and a dig at Paradise Court, which has a sinister secret. As the various strands of the story come together, they lead to a dramatic finale and an unexpected ending.

As you can see there are a number of plot threads to follow and initially I was sceptical of this, thinking it might be a hard to juggle that many different threads, but I quickly got into the story and Ellis is adept at weaving the different plot strands together. Having these different plot threads also meant that the narrative kept an exciting pace on the whole and drew you in. Although it may feel like we as readers have been given too many pieces of the puzzle in comparison to the characters, this turns out not to be the case, as Ellis creates a number of surprises and twists which make you rethink what you thought you knew. For example is there just one killer or several? And is the person you think is the killer really responsible or is there something much more menacing going on? The final narrative is an accomplished tapestry and I liked how the various story strands came together and how different groups of characters start to merge and interconnect with each other.

Although distinct periods of time are evoked in this book, various themes connect them together such as social climbing and the dangers of using information for blackmail. Moreover, Ellis uses to good effect the physical locations of her story, making them pertinent to the drama of the book and it is interesting to see how nature has a destructive background role. Furthermore, this is a book which exemplifies the link between history and detection, an issue which also came up in Martin Edwards’ The Coffin Trail (2004), which I reviewed last week. I also think that the serial characters in this book are quite likeable and interesting, making you want to read further books in the series to see what happens to them. Additionally, something which I appreciated was that although Wesley’s long work hours place a strain on his family life, there is not an overuse of policeman being besieged by personal problems.

This is definitely a book I would recommend with interesting characters (Neil Watson being a favourite of mine) and plenty of mysteries and puzzles to fathom.

Rating: 4.5/5

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About armchairreviewer

Qualified English teacher, with a passion for literature and crime fiction. On a random note I also own pygmy goats and chickens with afros (it doesn't get any cooler than that).
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6 Responses to The Death Season (2015) by Kate Ellis

  1. Glad you liked this one, Kate, as I don’t think it comes close to other-Kate’s best work. I’d head back to the start of the series with The Armada Boy – that’s a favourite of mine – but they’re all high quality reads.

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    • Always encouraging there are even better ones in a series to read, especially since I liked this one a lot. Impressed with how many books there are in the series as well. Thanks for the recommendation. I’ll bear it in mind when I return to Ellis’ work.

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  2. JFW says:

    Hmmm. I recall reading Ellis (‘Armada Boy’), Cleeves (‘Dorothea Cassidy’) and Edwards (‘Coffin Trail’) back-to-back – and liking Ellis least. I thought all three novels were well-written and interesting, it seemed to me that Ellis was least interested in fair play. In that yes, there were quite a few conundrums that were puzzling, and they were drawn together at the end capably – but there wasn’t really a sense in which a certain character had to be the culprit(s) based on the clues. Would this be true of ‘Death Season’ as well?

    Then again, I liked Wesley and Watson better than the leads in Cleeves’s and Edwards’s series – in that Ellis’s leads were less angsty. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes I can see from a clue point of view, Ellis may not be your cup of tea, as the hints about what is going on is less clue based and more based on reader intuition when reading certain sentences and making connections between characters. I didn’t mind this though, but I do think that there would not be sufficient number of overt clues for you in TDS. But I agree Wesley and Watson are an enjoyable pair to read about, which is partly due to, as you say, them being less angsty.

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  3. Pingback: Book of the Month: June 2016 | crossexaminingcrime

  4. Pingback: Watching The Ghosts by Kate Ellis – In Search of the Classic Mystery Novel

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