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Playing with Bones (Joe Plantagenet Book 2) [Kindle Edition]

Kate Ellis
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Is the Doll Strangler back? Or is a copycat killer on the loose…?

Singmass Close has a sinister past. Reputedly haunted by the ghosts of children, in the 50s it was the hunting ground of the Doll Strangler, a ruthless killer who was never brought to justice. Now DI Joe Plantagenet wonders whether a copycat killer is at work when the strangled body of teenager Natalie Parkes is found in the same close, a mutilated doll lying by her side.

With the recent disappearance of a young female model and an escaped convict at large, this new, horrific murder stretches Joe’s team to their limit. But as the bodies start mounting up and Joe’s questioning brings him closer to the real strangler, he comes to suspect a shockingly creepy connection between all three cases…

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In Ellis's run-of-the-mill second procedural to feature North Yorkshire Det. Insp. Joe Plantaganet (after 2009's Seeking the Dead), Plantagenet, who carries with him the de rigueur tragic backstory (i.e., the loss of his wife in an accident, the murder of his partner), looks into a potentially explosive case—the strangulation of a young woman, eventually identified as Natalie Parkes, whose left big toe was severed postmortem. Beside her corpse was a porcelain doll, mutilated in the same fashion. Incredibly, the police only learn of similar murders in the 1950s committed by a killer nicknamed the Doll Strangler of Singmass Close, who was never apprehended, by reading a true-crime book. A subplot concerning a naïve would-be model who finds herself abducted and forced to care for an ailing elderly woman provides a clumsy link to the police investigation. The solution to Parkes's murder will strike many as coming out of left field. (Jan.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Three unrelated cases come together in this atmospheric mystery set in the English town of Eborby, patterned after York. A convicted child murderer escapes, two teenage girls go missing, and a serial killer from the 1950s, the Doll Strangler (or his copycat), is again murdering young women, mutilating them in a manner never made public and leaving a similarly marred antique doll at the scene. DI Joe Plantagenet and his boss, DCI Emily Thwaite, are on the case but struggling with personal problems: he deals with the earlier deaths of his young wife and detective partner and the potential relocation of his current girlfriend, she with concerns of neglecting her family. Overlaying all is the gloomy, supernatural atmosphere of Singmass Close, the site of the murders, an area reputedly haunted by the ghosts of ill-treated orphans and destitute children. Ellis, author of the Wesley Peterson mysteries, follows her first in the Joe Plantagenet series (Seeking the Dead, 2009) with this worthy successsor, a compelling thriller perhaps best enjoyed during daylight. --Michele Leber

Product Details

  • File Size: 369 KB
  • Print Length: 321 pages
  • Publisher: Piatkus (January 6, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B004JHY7NQ
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #450,509 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Kate Ellis has another winner in Joe Plantagenet July 8, 2010
First Line: The girl raised her hands in a feeble attempt to save her life.

There is so much to like about this new series from Kate Ellis. Detective Inspector Joe Plantagenet is a multi-faceted character who's a bit different from your run-of-the-mill copper because he originally studied for the priesthood. His boss, Detective Chief Inspector Emily Thwaite, is a good match for him, and since she's also a wife and mother, she has a lot of history to bring to this literary plate.

When you've finished savoring the characters, there's the history of York that pervades the book (where it's thinly disguised as "Eborby"):

"He walked under Canons Bar, catching a strong whiff of urine, and looked upwards at the wooden teeth of the ancient portcullis poking out of their stone slit like the fangs of some sleeping animal-- a reminder of Eborby's warlike past. When he emerged from the shadows he saw the cathedral's golden towers looming above the crazy maze of narrow medieval streets...."

Is there a copycat killer on the loose in Eborby? This is what Joe and Emily have to investigate after the body of a young girl is found in Singmass Close, "a place that dogs refused to enter at night." All the evidence found at the scene shows an intimate knowledge of the murderer known as the Doll Strangler, a man who killed women in the exact same area in the 1950s and was never caught. Moreover, Joe and Emily are also trying to find a missing girl and an escaped convict. There won't be much sleep for any of the police in the area until all the cases are solved.

As in her Wesley Peterson mystery series, Ellis shows how talented she is at weaving together several plot threads and imbuing them with a sense of the history of the place.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
By Sires
I was telling a friend recently that at some point fictional serial killers and their antics get a bit silly. (I was thinking at the time of an American author whose serial killer kidnapped strippers and made them-- under threat of death-- pole dance until exhaustion then killed them anyway.) However, that was pretty much my feeling about The Doll Strangler who left mutilated Victorian doll beside his dead mutilated victims.

There was some potential in the supernatural in this book-- the Ragged School and the idea of the pathetic ghosts of starved Victorian children buried in and around the building, disturbed by renovation is quite creepy. But Ellis' Diocesan Expert on Creepy Things would be eaten for lunch by Phil Rickman's Merrily Watkins. In fact, I'm not sure why he even appeared because no one wanted his help.

Joe Plantagenet is remarkably bland despite having an appropriately angsty background-- dead wife, dead former partner. His boss, DCI Emily Thwaite, gets the role of the detective who can't get home to see her family that Wesley Peterson carries in Ellis' other series as well as DI Gerry Heffernan's weight problem. That just leaves Plantagenet with commitment issues.

I was also not impressed with the resolution-- there is a high degree of coincidence involved and a shocking degree of lock picking by the police. While I know that English law does not accept the Fruit of the Poisonous Tree doctrine, the amount of breaking the close by the police to move the plot along was pretty unbelievable.

I went to some trouble to get the audio version read by Gordon Griffin. I was not impressed. Mr.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting story for the second book March 7, 2011
#2 DI Joe Plantagenet mystery set in fictional Eborby, UK--modeled after the city of York. A young girl is found dead in a dark close, strangled and then with a strange mutilation--her big toe of her left foot is severed, and an old porcelain doll is laid next to her with its toe also removed. When one of the constables brings to Joe and his boss DCI Emily Thwaite's attention a book he's reading about historical murders that contains an excerpt about the Doll Strangler of Singmass Close, they realize the strong similarity to the strangulation of four women back in the 1950's. The toe mutilation was never reported anywhere, so whoever is doing this now must have some connection to the first killer. Another case involving a missing girl intersects with the murder case.

I enjoyed this second entry in this series although there seemed to be way too many red herrings and a lot of huge coincidences happening in order for things to fall into place as they do. Still, I am looking forward to the next in series and also to trying the author's other long-standing mystery series.
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More About the Author

Kate Ellis was born in Liverpool and studied drama in Manchester. Kate has twice been nominated for the Crime Writers' Association Short Story Dagger and has alse been nominated for the Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year. Visit her at

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