Ellis, Kate - 'The Cadaver Game'
This novel, the sixteenth in the author's "Wesley Peterson Murder Mystery series", is a most unusual story in that it combines elements of historical events with present day killings. A corpse of an unknown woman is discovered in a suburban house. DI Wesley Peterson's team have great difficulty in establishing her identity as the body has been left undiscovered for some time and the process of heat decay and insect activity makes the task even more challenging. After much investigation the team is disturbed with the discovery of two more deaths, this time two naked teenagers found at the base of a cliff and with shotgun wounds. These two, both a girl and a boy, in their late teens were both players in a computer reality game called 'manhunt'. Could they have taken part in an actual manhunt as the prey?
A local Lord of the Manor in Morbay, Devon (loosely based on Torquay, Devon) is carrying out an archaeological dig and a skeleton is discovered which causes more headaches for DI Peterson. Back in 1815, the Lord of the Manor at that time was getting bored with the usual fox-hunting with hounds and pressured by his Steward and other associates payed young locals to act as "hares" much to the entertainment of his huntsmen. Back in the present day the present Lord of the Manor hoping to emulate his predecessors decides to pay modern day human "hares" £100 each to run as quarry for the Hunt.
Investigation of the corpse of the unknown woman eventually identifies her as an upmarket prostitute but there is still doubt about this identity as the person concerned is supposed to on holiday in France and the house was let to a friend acting as a house-sitter. A friend of the lady in France claims to have spoken to her on the phone but the detectives cannot get any response from her mobile when they try contacting her. What could have happened to her and who is the dead body?
All in all this is a very atmospheric and deftly plotted story. The characters are all richly drawn and in the historical elements of the book the period detail is wonderfully evocative of the Napoleonic era and I was kept guessing until the final page. I have not had the pleasure of reading Kate Ellis's previous Wesley Peterson books which I understand all include both historical and present day elements to their plots, as the author has said, two for the price of one. I will certainly look out for her name in future. Very entertaining.
Read another review of THE CADAVER GAME.
Terry Halligan, England