Review: A Perfect Death by Kate Ellis

While DI Wesley Peterson is holidaying in France with his wife he runs into an old acquaintance from his university days. Ian Rowe asks Peterson to help him investigate what’s happened to Nadia Lucas, a woman he knows back in England who has suddenly stopped phoning and emailing him. Before Peterson can talk to him further Rowe disappears and Peterson heads home not thinking much more about the issue. Back at work (in a fictional town in Devon) he’s soon in the thick of a murder case involving a woman who was deliberately burned to death in a nearby field. Due to imminent property development on the site an archaeological dig is being carried out there, led by Peterson’s old college friend Neil Watson. He discusses with Wes the legend associated with the site, that a woman was burned to death there in the 13th Century, and they visit a professor who has some history with the site and a sinister habit that might have implications for the case. There are death threats, affairs, unexplained deaths, a Richard Branson-esque character and in what is virtually a text book example of the English police procedural.

I did enjoy the way the plot unfolded in this one. It’s a labyrinth of twists and turns and those moments when you think you have it all worked out only to find that you’re wrong again. Ellis kept it all hanging together beautifully though, tying up the loose ends and linking things together in an easy to follow way. Rather than a single build up of tension from beginning to end the book has several arcs where things build up then one element of the story is resolved (or so you think) and then it all starts building up again.

I think perhaps I suffered from having read none of the earlier books in this series as the characters seemed a bit distant to me. Peterson for example seems quite detached from his personal life as I only ever remember him referring to his children a kind of amorphous blob known as “the children” rather than by name and he has virtually no interaction with them. And other than his boss, a somewhat tactless and outgoing DCI, we really don’t see enough of anyone else to develop a strong picture. But it’s probably unfair to judge character development in a long running series only by what you can pick up in a book so late in the series.

Overall I found this an enjoyable read with a plot that kept me interested from start to finish. There was so much going on, including interludes of an ancient mystery, that there wasn’t a single moment to get bored. Ellis is a fine writer and I will be investigating her other series featuring DI Joe Plantagenet which is only 3 books old and looks like something I might be able to sink my teeth into.

What about the audio book?

Peter Wickham is a new narrator to me but hopefully this is not the last book I listen to of his as I found him terrific. I don’t think I would recommend this book to audio book novices though, with such a complex plot and so many characters I think it might be a little difficult to follow if you’re not used to using your listening skills (I know I had to work my way up to really complex books, otherwise you tend to spend a bit of time re-winding).

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A Perfect Death has also been reviewed at Reviewing the Evidence

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My rating 3/5 (It would have been a 3.5 if I could have connected with the characters a bit more, not entirely Ellis’ fault though as it must be hard balancing the needs of new and old readers in a long-running series)
Author website
Narrator Peter Wickham
Publisher ISIS Audio Books [2009]
ISBN N/A (downloaded from
Length 11 hours 5 minutes
Format audio (mp3)
Book Series #13 in the Wesley Peterson series
Source I bought it

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3 Responses to Review: A Perfect Death by Kate Ellis

  1. Bernadette – Excellent review as always. It always is a challenge, I think, for authors of a series to draw in readers who start with the 4th, 5th or Xth book. On one hand, too much backstory detail take away from the plot. On the other, not enough and the characters are, as you say, distant. It’s a delicate balance. I’m glad you enjoyed this read, though.


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