This week we are excited to release the new title in Kate Ellis' Wesley Peterson crime series – The Jackal Man. This is the sixteenth book in the series and they just keep getting better and better. With a fantastic mixture of the contemporary world of rural Devon set against the mysterious world of ancient Egypt, Kate Ellis explains why both settings bring her inspiration and how this is DI Wesley's most dangerous case yet. . .
To a writer of crime novels there’s something rather compelling about Ancient Egypt with all those dusty mummified corpses and strange, animal-headed gods watching over the dead. So I suppose it’s hardly surprising that in my latest book, The Jackal Man, DI Wesley Peterson encounters a case with disturbing Egyptian connections.
I’d already done quite a bit of research on the subject when I wrote a short story called Bringing the Foot for the Mammoth Book of Egyptian Whodunnits back in 2002. This research was particularly fascinating but once I’d finished the story I had to push Ancient Egypt to one side for a while to work on other things. However, a few years later a chance conversation with my son’s girlfriend – who was studying Archaeology at Liverpool University at the time – gave me the intriguing idea that was eventually to inspire The Jackal Man.
So how did this powerful yet tentative idea become a crime novel? And how did I come to use Devon – a county not exactly renowned for its jackal headed gods and mummification rituals – as a setting for my macabre tale? Well, the answer lies on Dartmoor…at a place called Castle Drogo, to be precise.
A couple of years ago I was lucky enough to be asked to speak at Bideford Library and our route there took us over Dartmoor, not far from Castle Drogo. As I love looking round historic houses we stopped off at the castle and immediately my first vague idea and the dramatic setting of Castle Drogo came together in one of those eureka moments all writers hope for.
Castle Drogo is a great, granite fortress that looks from a distance as though it has stood there in the landscape for centuries. It was designed by the famous architect, Sir Edwin Lutyens in the early twentieth century, just at the time when interest in Ancient Egypt was at its height because of Howard Carter’s discovery of Tutankhamen’s tomb. As far as I know the real owners of Castle Drogo had no interest in Egyptology whatsoever, but in my imagination the house became Varley Castle, home in the Edwardian period to a fanatical amateur Egyptologist who housed his vast collection of antiquities in the house: mummy cases, statues, funerary items, all there in that forbidding place, watching over each new generation. Mix in a governess and John Varley, the Egyptologist’s son who was alleged to have killed a number of local women in the manner of a bizarre Egyptian ritual, and I had my historical background.
As for dark deeds in modern day Devon, Wesley has the urgent task of finding a killer who appears to be copying John Varley’s crimes. Is there a connection with Varley Castle…or could there be a link to the smuggling of Egyptian antiquities? Wesley needs all his ingenuity to solve this one…and his efforts put those close to him in considerable danger.
All in all, this is one of Wesley’s most challenging and sinister cases yet. I do hope all my readers enjoy it!
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