Friday, 27 July 2001

Kate Ellis: The Funeral Boat (2000)

Edition: Piatkus, 2000
Review number: 886

Having read some good review of Ellis' other mysteries featuring Wesley Peterson, I was initially disappointed by The Funeral Boat. The beginning is badly let down by poor dialogue, and I seriously considered abandoning the novel after the first two or three chapters. Things improve, even though unconvincing dialogue remains the novel's most serious flaw.

The story begins with the discovery of a body on a Devon farm, which soon seems to be likely to be a Viking warrior buried a thousand years ago rather than, as the police hoped, a villain who once lived at the farm, who had disappeared some years earlier. At about the same time a Danish tourist has gone missing, kidnapped, and there is a spate of armed robberies at local farms. Every one of these crimes - as well as the body - seems to Peterson to be bizarrely conntected to Viking raids in the area, though his original desire to become an archaeologist rather than a policeman might have something to do with this.

Apart from the dialogue, there is much to admire in The Funeral Boat. It is well characterised, the combination of policework and archaeology is unusual, and there are nice little touches of humour. I suspect that even so it is likely to be one of the weaker novels in the series, so that I look forward to trying others.

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