The Plague Maiden: A Wesley Peterson Murder Mystery

The Plague Maiden - Kate Ellis One of the best books of the series, where the author interweaves historical tragedies with modern crime.
Everything is interconnected in the world of the young black detective Wesley Peterson, who works for the CID of an imaginary town in Devon, England. While Wesley wrestles with the threat letters to a supermarket chain and unravels two twelve-year-old murders, he finds that the parallels between past and present are more than a mild curiosity. Sometimes the only clues that lead to a murderer reside in the esoteric archeological documents.
The hero is a charming and smart, overworked policeman. The tension comes from the routine in the police work: waiting. They are always waiting: for the lab results, for the outcome of a search, for the next suspect’s interview or for the public to come forward with information.
As usual for this series, the story background is brooding, full of introspection. The grim, sunless atmosphere of the approaching winter and unresolved conflicts is augmented by the writer’s mastery of descriptions:
If an artist had been painting the Dartmoor landscape the next morning, he or she would have made good use of the color grey: mid-grey for the vast sky; green-grey for the sodden earth; a dark brownish grey for the trees and bushes; and a cold, darker shade for the scattered rocks, walls and farm buildings.

The emotional honesty Ms. Ellis employs in her writing raises the novel from the mass of mediocre mysteries. When the protagonist admits to himself something not commonly considered ‘politically correct’, I sympathize. I understand his feelings and share them, and in the process of our bonding, he becomes alive:
Mental illness made him uncomfortable… but then it had that effect on many people.

What I find extraneous in all the books of this series is the author’s attempts to introduce personal stress into her detective plots. The passages about Wesley’s sexual interest in his coworker Rachel, or hers in him, or the strain between Wesley and his wife seem alien to the stories. They don’t add color or verisimilitude. Instead, they seem to clutter the narrative and blur its focus. Without those, I’d have given it 5 stars. As it is – 4 stars.
Definitely recommended.