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Cover image for The bone garden
The bone garden
1st U.S. ed.
Publication Information:
New York : Thomas Dunne Books, 2003.
Physical Description:
232 pages ; 22 cm.
Number in series:
General Note:
Originally published: London : Piatkus, 2000.
Detective Sargeant Wesley Peterson investigates a series of brutal deaths connected to an archeaological excavation, but may be too late to save a beloved member of his own force, who is about to become the latest victim.


Call Number

On Order



An excavation at the lost gardens of Earlsacre Hall is called to a halt when a skeleton is discovered under a three-hundred-year-old stone plinth, a corpse that seems to have been buried alive. But Detective Sergeant Wesley Peterson has little time to indulge in his hobby of archaeology. He has a more recent murder case to solve. A man has been found stabbed to death in a caravan at a popular holiday park and the only clue to his identity is a newspaper clipping about the restoration of Earlsacre.

Does local solicitor Brian Willerby have the answer? He seems eager to talk to Wesley, but before he can reveal his secret he is found dead during a "friendly" game of village cricket, apparently struck by a cricket ball several times with some force. What is it about Earlsacre Hall that leads people to murder?

Author Notes

Kate Ellis was brought up in Liverpool and studied drama in Manchester. She has worked in teaching, marketing, and accounting, and first enjoyed literary success as a winner of the North West Playwrights competition in England. Keenly interested in medieval history and archaeology, Kate lives in North Cheshire with her husband and two sons.

Reviews 3

Publisher's Weekly Review

Once again British author Ellis smoothly blends old and recent crimes in an archeological mystery featuring Det. Sergeant Wesley Peterson and his fellow Tradmouth (Devon) police officers. Detective Constable Rachel Tracey in particular makes a striking return from last year's The Funeral Boat. While clearing the overgrown site of the extensive 17th-century gardens of Earlsacre Hall during a restoration project, diggers find two skeletons, one belonging to a young woman buried alive three centuries earlier. Neil Watson, of the County Archeology Unit, calls Peterson, with whom he studied archeology at university, but Peterson is busy investigating a stabbing murder in a nearby caravan park. Skillfully combining identity theft and blackmail with murder, the author treats the reader to a host of distinctive supporting characters, including the owner of a discreet brothel, its girls and clients, a petty thief, a sex-driven "poetess in residence," a solicitor's litigious neighbor and Peterson's giddy and unconventional mother-in-law. The well-researched historical background (involving the enslavement in the West Indies of rebels against James II) and an unusual murder weapon (a "knocking-in mallet" used on cricket bats) add interest. Anglophiles will drink up the local color and south Devon towns modeled on Dartmouth and Torbay. (July 31) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Kirkus Review

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. Copyright ©Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Booklist Review

Past and present come together in Detective Sergeant Wesley Peterson's latest case. In the course of restoring the gardens at historic Earlsacre Hall, three skeletons are uncovered. The bones appear to be centuries old, but they hold an interest for Peterson, whose degree is in archaeology. But despite the attraction of the skeletons, Peterson has more pressing concerns. A decomposing body with multiple stab wounds is found at a local campsite, and shortly afterward, the body of a local lawyer is discovered, his head bashed in by a cricket bat. Peterson's intuition tells him the two murders are connected, and he also suspects a link with Earlsacre, but he has no evidence to back up his hunches. Then his colleague, Detective Rachel Tracey, is kidnapped, drugged, and left for dead, and the intrepid Peterson has a more pressing reason to connect all the dots. Capable plotting, an absorbing story line, and a cast of appealing characters make this fifth entry in the Peterson series a good choice for British procedural fans. --Emily Melton Copyright 2003 Booklist