My second book for June’s 12 in 12 Challenge is a crime novel by Kate Ellis. The Shroud Maker is one of her series set in Devon and featuring Wesley Peterson who is a member of the local police service. I have read a few of this series in the past and they are perfectly good crime novels but they have never engaged me enough to sit down and read them all in order or to collect the novels. I picked this book up in a charity shop for 50p which seemed like excellent value as I shall now pass it on to my mother-in-law who likes this author, and after she has read it we will regift it to a charity shop for someone else to enjoy.
You don’t have to have read the series to enjoy this book. There are some references to events in the lives of the main characters but not enough to cause a problem for the reader. The private lives of the police officers are not a major factor in the story – I think that you can enter the series at any point.
This book follows the pattern of all the books in the series. There is an event in the town of Tradmouth which involves Wesley and his colleagues – in this case it is the disappearance one year ago in a local festival of a young woman and the death of another young woman in this year’s festival. At the same time, Wesley’s friend Neil, who is an archaeologist, will be conducting a dig locally which mirrors or has some bearing on the police story – in this case he finds the bones of a young woman which may be connected to the historical figure who is the subject of the local festival. In addition there are usually extracts from an historical document setting up a mystery which will be resolved by the archaeology – in this book they are extracts of letters from a young woman who is finding that her marriage may be not what she has expected.
I quite like novels with an archaeological element and this is what makes these books stand out in the mass of crime novels. They are police procedural but err on the cosy side and are not gory or gritty. I thought that the atmosphere of the festival and the events around it were well done and enhanced the book. The author weaves the two elements of the story together well and the historical story neatly echoes the current day one. She also creates a lot of red herrings and potential suspects and I wasn’t at all sure who the murderer was until the end. The book is a little on the far-fetched side in places and resolving the historical mystery with the discovery of a trunk of relevant documents which tie up all the loose ends is beyond belief but it does lead to a satisfactory ending and a feeling of resolution.
It needs to be mentioned that Wesley Peterson is one of the few black police officers in crime writing. In this book it is not a plot issue and no one refers to it at any point. In other books I think it is more part of the story but these books are not created to be anti-racist books and race isn’t the main plot driver.
This is a good, solid, crime novel and if you enjoy this type of book it may well be worth exploring this series.