When the body of Pauline Brent is found hanging from a yew tree in a local graveyard, DS Wesley Peterson immediately suspects foul play. Then history provides him with a clue. Wesley's archaeologist friend, Neil Watson, has excavated a corpse at his nearby dig - a young woman who, local legend has it, had been publicly hanged from the very same tree before being buried on unhallowed ground five centuries ago. Wesley is forced to consider the possibility that the killer knows the tree's dark history. Has Pauline also been 'executed' rather than murdered - and, if so, for what crime? To catch a dangerous killer Wesley has to discover as much as he can about the victim. But Pauline appears to have been a woman with few friends, no relatives and a past she has carefully tried to hide...
In her third mystery featuring Trinidadian police sergeant Wesley Peterson (after 2000's The Armada Boy), Ellis proves herself once again adept at linking a contemporary British police procedural to a crime from centuries in the past that neatly parallels the present-day murder. When the body of Pauline Brent, a doctor's receptionist, turns up hanging from a yew tree in Stokeworthy churchyard, Wes and his colleagues of the Tradmouth (Devon) police soon determine that she was initially strangled. But who would want to murder Pauline, who by all reports had led a blameless life? While Wes and his team interview people who knew the victim, who mysteriously doesn't have much of a past, an archeological dig unearths the 500-year-old skeleton of a young woman whose broken neck suggests that she was hanged. As the police draw closer to identifying Pauline's killer, 15th-century legal documents just as suspensefully reveal an ancient miscarriage of justice. Besides providing a clever dual mystery, Ellis humanizes her characters with glimpses into their reassuringly ordinary personal lives. (Wes's wife, Pam, for instance, worries about finding child care for their newborn son.) This is a series that just gets stronger with each new book.