A High Mortality of Doves (2016) by Kate Ellis

Yes I know! The Book of the Month post is already up, yet here is another book review in May. I do have to admit to forgetting that there are 31 days in this month. However, since it doesn’t affect my winning choices for the month, I decided to throw the rule book out and post it anyway. You know me, typical reckless daredevil!

Today’s review was recommended by the Puzzle Doctor and dedicated blog reader, JFW. I’ve not read much by Kate Ellis, but I remember enjoying her work, so decided it was time to delve back in. A High Mortality of Doves is the start of a new series set just after WW1. There is no preamble in this story, with Ellis diving straight into the middle and thick of things. There is a serial killer on the loose, terrorising the women of a Derbyshire village. Readers know they are lured out by letters purporting to be from brothers, fiancés, sons, who the women believe to have been killed in the war. Each letter demands secrecy and the promise to meet at an isolated location. It is a given that such women go to the appointments and it is also a given that they end up stabbed in the chest with a bayonet. Eventually Scotland Yard are called in and Inspector Albert Lincoln has the unenviable task of tracking down the killer. But will he be able to find them or not?

Overall Thoughts

I think there is a lot for readers to enjoy in this one, especially for those who are fans of interwar set mystery novels, with female leads, such as those series by Jacqueline Winspear and Frances Brody. Though I would say Ellis bucks some of the trends those sorts of series generate. The female emancipation thread, for instance, certainly gets an interesting kick. For those who like fully fleshed out characters with back stories then this story will be right up your street, with Ellis being a dab hand at saying a lot in a few words. The narrative unfolds through different character focuses, although Flora Winsmore, the local doctor’s daughter and the Inspector are the main ones to carry the tale. As to the Inspector, I would say he definitely eschews the Great Detective mould, revealing himself to be vulnerably fallible in a number of areas. This of course makes him a more interesting read. Though in fairness it is not just him who makes a wrongful arrest, as it is hard for the police to pinpoint a specific suspect, despite unusual crime scene clues. The limited nature of the clues does make the investigation drag at times though, as the Inspector has to catch the killer in the act so to speak, before he can make the correct arrest. However, readers may feel the ending more than makes up for this, as it is certainly Surprise, with a capital S. I can definitely envisage such an ending being a big talking point for any book group discussion. Given the ending, it is interesting to see where future books in the series will go next and in fact there is no waiting required as the second book in the series, The Boy Who Lived with the Dead (2018), came out last December, getting another thumbs up from the Puzzle Doctor.

Rating: 4/5

Calendar of Crime: January (8) Month related item on the cover

7 comments

  1. Surprised nobody has comment on your review. It sounds interesting. You do not review many contemporary books. One question. Is this solution solvable with the information given to the reader?

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thanks for the review, and I’m glad you seemed to enjoy it. 😊

    Admittedly, I thought you would have enjoyed it more, as the historical setting and strong characterisation were right up your alley. But I agree that the investigation took slightly long, and there weren’t that many concrete clues. If I recall correctly, the second novel in the series had a few more concrete clues.

    *Possible Spoilers*

    I actually guessed the ending, which I thought was telegraphed by the bizarre behaviour of another character associated with the culprit. And I suppose ever since that famous novel, I tend to be suspicious of certain sorts of narratives… 😅

    Liked by 1 person

      • I have read two books from the Wesley Peterson series, the first one in 2009, and The Bone Garden (the 5th) last year. It wasn’t that they were bad but they just did not grab my attention and I felt like the links between the two time periods were unrealistic and forced. I have the first Joe Plantagenet mystery, and was planning to try that, but it is a serial killer story, which is not appealing to me.

        Liked by 1 person

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