Five bodies, two centuries, no waiting.
All the corpses—the two buried under an 18th-century garden plinth, the one beneath a centuries-old shell grotto, the one beside a cricket field, and the one in a holiday caravan park—are the responsibility of DS Wesley Peterson (The Armada Boy, 2000, etc.), archeology buff and sidekick to DI Gerry Heffernan at the Tradmouth stationhouse. The cricketer was timid solicitor Brian Willeby, who rang up Peterson for a confidential chat but died before they could meet. Did his demise have anything to do with the ownership of venerable Earlsacre Hall, recently sold by Charles Pitaway, the last of his line, and now under renovation? Or did one of the working girls he was fond of photographing at their sexual tasks have it in for him? While Peterson and Heffernan work the Willeby and caravan deaths, Peterson’s pal Neil Watson, an archeologist digging up the Earlsacre gardens, uncovers the ghastly events surrounding the three centuries-buried bodies: a serving girl, a transported noble returned from Barbados, and a Good Samaritan sea captain. But poor DC Rachel Tracey, on an ill-advised romantic outing, will almost become victim number six before Peterson and Heffernan swoop down to stop the Earlsacre slaughter.
The 18th-century tale of murder is more beguiling than the contemporary one, but Ellis is particularly crafty in dovetailing them, even writing in a role for a Peterson forebear in the process.