Welcome to the official website of the author Kate Ellis

Welcome to the official website of Kate Ellis

Kate Ellis is the author of two exciting series of crime novels, two historical novels and many short stories.

February 2018

I’d like to begin by wishing everybody a belated Happy New Year. I hope you all had a good Christmas with lots of lovely crime novels in your Christmas stockings.

I can’t believe time passes so quickly these days. I finish a novel and before I know it, it’s out there on the shelves of bookshops and libraries. I received my author copies of THE MECHANICAL DEVIL about ten days ago – and very fine they look too.

It’s hard now to believe that the entire book began with a newspaper article about the Smithsonian Museum in Washington DC loaning a sixteenth century robot to the Science Museum in London for an exhibition (alongside a photograph of a small wooden figure with the most sinister face I’ve ever seen). This began a process of research that was to end with the creation of Wesley Peterson’s twenty second investigation.

The ancient robot whose photograph caught my attention was just fifteen inches high, made of wood and iron and dressed in the robes of a friar. It had been made by a Spanish clockmaker on the orders of King Philip II of Spain (of Armada fame) to provide instant prayer at the turn of a key and, once wound up, the ‘little friar’ as it was known walked forward moving its lips in prayer and raising and lowering its arms as its eyes followed the movement. Its purpose was to ‘pray’ for Philip’s son, Don Carlos (the subject of Verdi’s famous opera), who had suffered a life threatening fall. Incidentally, Carlos did recover on that occasion but the ‘little miracle worker’s’ effect didn’t last; the prince was later imprisoned by his father and died in solitary confinement.

My first impression was that its painted wooden face, with its hooked nose and articulated mouth reminiscent of one of those creepy ventriloquist’s dummies, looked very creepy. Although it was designed to provide comfort to the sick Don Carlos, I felt there was something distinctly evil about it and the image of its face stuck in my mind as I started to write THE MECHANICAL DEVIL.

The story begins when a small lead coffin is found by workmen digging up the road near a medieval church on Dartmoor; a coffin that turns out to contain a small robot (not unlike King Philip’s). But what is it doing buried there in an isolated Dartmoor village? And could this strange find have a connection to a manor house destroyed by fire during the reign of King Henry VIII; a house that once stood in the very field where two strangers have just been found dead, possibly the victims of a professional killer? With the disappearance of an MP’s teenage daughter and a series of disturbing events at Wesley’s home, the police have to deal with a case that’s both sensitive and baffling. And as the investigation continues things turn very dark and the lives of those close to Wesley are put in danger.

mechanical devil

I do hope you enjoy THE MECHANICAL DEVIL – and that you don’t have nightmares about fifteen inch high robots taking over the world!

And I’d like to finish by thanking everyone who’s borrowed my books from libraries this year. It’s so good to know that my work’s been enjoyed so much. THANK YOU.


December 2017

I can’t believe Christmas has come round again so soon; the time when I spend more time writing Christmas cards (and the accompanying letters to friends I only manage to catch up with once a year) than I do writing crime fiction.

Much of the month has been taken up with things that make it difficult to concentrate on writing – I’ve had a horrible infection in one of my teeth which has resulted in a lot of pain, root canal work and the consumption of some particularly nasty antibiotics which bear a dire warning that under no circumstances must you consume any alcohol (it makes you violently ill apparently). This means no drinks over the Christmas period and for a crime writer – we’re known as a convivial bunch – this isn’t good. In fact I can feel my inner Scrooge emerging already! However, I’ll try and fix a smile to my (swollen) face at the festivities as I sip my alcohol free wine and plot some nice cheerful (purely fictional) murders...I think Agatha Christie killed off a dentist in One Two Buckle my Shoe, didn’t she?

A good piece of news is that my editor loved The Boy who lived with the Dead and his changes won’t prove very daunting. That’s something I’ll tackle in the New Year, along with constructing Wesley Peterson’s next case, and I must say I’m looking forward to it.

A lot of people have said that The Mermaid’s Scream is on their Christmas list and I’m pleased to say that it won’t be long before The Mechanical Devil is published at the beginning of February. More about that next time.

mechanical devil

In the meantime I’d like to wish all my readers a wonderful Christmas and a very happy New Year. Cheers!!!

November 2017

There’s always a feeling of relief when I finish a book and press the key which will send it whizzing off through the ether to my editor. When I first started writing sending a manuscript to my publisher involved traipsing down to the post office with a heavy parcel, weighing it and then paying a fortune in postage. Now the process couldn’t be simpler but there’s still the same feeling of euphoria and fear (until my editor gets back to me with his changes, of course, then the work starts again). I’ve got my fingers crossed that he’ll like The Boy Who Lived with the Dead, the second in my Albert Lincoln trilogy.

During the period between letting go of the book and having to work on it again, I always take the opportunity to write a short story or two and that’s what I’m doing at the moment. I’ve also started to plan my next Wesley novel but it’s far too early to say much about it yet as I’ve only just started working out plot strands (and doing some historical research into the diaries of Samuel Pepys and the medieval belief that the restless dead have to be prevented from ‘walking’ – enough said for the moment!).

Talking of short stories, I was delighted when mine was selected for the latest Crime Writers’ Association Anthology Mystery Tour. My story’s entitled The Naked Lady of Prague and is based on something I actually witnessed when I was visiting Prague a few years ago. I was having a meal outside in a little square with my husband and some friends when a woman appeared, prancing through the square without a stitch of clothing on (it even silenced a Welsh rugby club who were sitting on a table nearby!) I’ve no idea what she was doing there but in my story I’ve imagined a rather sinister story behind her escapade.

Since I last wrote this diary I’ve had the good fortune to visit several libraries including Poynton, West Kirby and York. At York I presented my murder mystery Death at the Dig and I must say the brave library staff who acted the parts with such aplomb deserved Oscars. It was great fun.


Wirral Bookfest at West Kirby Library


"Death At The Dig" York Library Big City Read

October 2017

I haven’t written this diary for a while because there’s been a lot happening, good and very bad.


Ruth Smith 1954 - 2017

I’ll begin with the very bad. My close friend, Ruth Smith tragically died of pancreatic cancer shortly before I was due to set off for Devon. Ruth was a wonderful, talented person, loved by all who knew her (the crowds at her funeral bore witness to that). She always read through all my manuscripts and at the start of my writing career she was the person who encouraged me to carry on even when I was on the verge of giving up. I happen to be a bell ringer and, as Ruth was a great crime fiction fan I rang ‘the nine tailors’ before her funeral (as in Dorothy L Sayers’ famous novel) - six tolls of the bell plus one for each year of her age - in her honour. I’ll miss her wisdom and her friendship so much and the book I’m writing at the moment with be dedicated to her memory.

As a result of this my subsequent visit to Devon was rather clouded by sadness. However if was lovely to meet the staff and readers at Waterstones Plymouth and the new Waterstones Torquay as well as speaking to a great audience from the WI at Cornworthy (although there were some gentlemen there too). I’ve used a thinly disguised Cornworthy (blended with a couple of nearby villages) in a few of my books so it was good to meet everyone and spend some time there.

WStonestTorquayS ConworthyWIs

Once home I took part in a wonderful panel in my home city of Liverpool discussing the role of women in crime fiction with Sarah Ward, Cath Staincliffe and Margaret Murphy (aka AD Garratt). Our panel was called ‘Deadlier than the male’ and we enjoyed a lively discussion about our influences and favourite authors as well as the role of women in our own books. I’m glad that my own personal favourite, Josephine Tey, got a good mention.

With recent events I’ve found it quite hard to concentrate on writing but I’m pleased to say that The Boy Who Lived with the Dead is on its fifth draft now and coming on nicely. Watch this space.  

August 2017

I never thought I’d suffer from writers’ block and when it happened I started to panic. Then I realised it wasn’t writers’ block (I still had plenty of ideas for my Wesley Peterson series), rather it was ‘second novel syndrome’. This may seem unusual, after all I’ve clocked up twenty seven books at the last count (with the twenty eighth, The Mechanical Devil, out next February), but when the time came to tackle the second book in my Albert Lincoln trilogy, The Boy who Lived with the Dead, I encountered several false starts when the words just didn’t seem to flow as they normally do.

My problem was finding the right voice. I wrote A High Mortality of Doves partly from the point of view of a young woman who had been a volunteer nurse in the First World War and whose father was now frustrating her career ambitions. In the second novel in the trilogy there is also a young woman, a schoolmistress with a secret, and at first I wrote sections from her point of view. However, I felt uneasy about this and finally realised that it wasn’t working so in the end I followed my initial instincts and started to write some sections from the point of view of the eponymous boy. His name is Peter and he lives in a cemetery lodge and he’s connected to Albert Lincoln by one of his old cases: Peter’s twin was murdered in 1914 (something that’s mentioned briefly in A High Mortality of Doves) but Albert failed to catch his killer. It was a challenge to write from the point of view of a damaged child who lives in a world of fantasy and imagination but as soon as I started the whole thing fell into place and I’m now on the fourth draft, which is a great relief. It just shows you when you write it’s best to obey your instincts and keep scrapping drafts until it feels right. I hope The Boy who Lived with the Dead will shape up to be a worthy successor to A High Mortality of Doves. The cover’s been designed already (publishers are always quick off the mark) and it’s stunning. Hope to reveal all in a future bulletin!

Next week I’m off to Devon where I’m speaking to the Cornworthy WI, signing copies of The Mermaid’s Scream in Dartmouth and Plymouth and meeting readers at Torquay Waterstones. Do join me in Torquay on Friday 8th (11.30 – 1.00) if you’re in the area!

mermaids scream

June 2017

Hello again and many apologies for neglecting this diary over the past month and a half. The truth is, May was hectic because A High Mortality of Doves came out in paperback and this meant I spent a lot of time out and about celebrating.

On publication day itself I visited two libraries in Lancashire – Bolton and Bury – where I spoke to lovely audiences who were happy to celebrate with me! The next few weeks saw me signing copies of my books at two Waterstones stores nearby and then a visit to Didsbury Library and talks to local groups. After all this I attended CrimeFest in Bristol which was very enjoyable. I moderated a panel on historical crime and took part in another on ‘scaring your readers to death’ which was great fun (with sound effects provided by our wonderful moderator Elly Griffiths!).

After CrimeFest came a lovely (crime-free) break in Vienna with friends – it’s a wonderful city and I heartily recommend it to anyone who loves history, music, art . . . and cake!

Then last weekend I took part in Alibis in the Achives at Gladstones Library in Hawarden near Chester. I’ve heard a lot about this fantastic residential library but I’ve never visited before and it turned out to be a real treat. The library itself is beautiful and it was great fun speaking there and presenting a murder mystery which paid tribute to the ‘golden age’ of crime fiction.

GladstonesLibyS GladstonesKateS 

There’s just one problem with doing all these events and that is that it’s hard to get any writing done. However, I have managed to begin the follow up to A High Mortality of Doves (the first in a trilogy). At the moment what I’ve written is very much a first draft and not fit for anyone to see but at least I’ve made a start.

Next week I’m returning to my home city of Liverpool to take part in Liverpool Noir at Waterstones, Liverpool One with fellow compatriots Barry Forshaw, Lucca Veste, David Jackson and Robert Ryan. It should be a good night.

One good piece of news is that I’ve made the shortlist for the Dagger in the Library and the winner will be announced shortly. Fingers crossed!

March 2017

Finding names for characters in my books is always a thorny problem. Like many authors I have nightmares about being contacted by someone who shares the name of one of my more unpleasant characters (and in a crime novels a high proportion of my characters are bound to be creepy, dishonest, murderous or all three) and is threatening legal action. Usually I just pluck names out of thin air with no real knowledge of how they popped into my head. However, I recently discovered an article in the paper listing surnames that have died out in the UK (or are about to die out). I’ve already made use of this by giving one of the nastiest suspects in my next Wesley Peterson novel an obsolete name. Job done.

And talking of names, I was delighted when the children’s cancer charity CLICSargent asked me to take part in their annual Get In Character auction again. A gentleman called Paul Whitcombe won but, rest assured, he’ll be one of the more sympathetic characters in Wesley’s twenty second investigation, The Mechanical Devil – you heard the title here first!

Since I last wrote this diary I’ve visited libraries in Retford, Disley and Hucknall (in Hucknall I also managed to visit to Lord Byron’s tomb which was an experience I’ll never forget). It was really lovely to meet such lovely and enthusiastic readers and I’m looking forward to visiting more libraries in the near future. On May 4th I’m celebrating the paperback publication of A HIGH MORTALITY OF DOVES with a double visit in the Lancashire area – Bolton Library in the afternoon and Bury Library in the evening. Then on May 11th I’m speaking at one of my local libraries, Didsbury in Manchester (where I take my little granddaughter who’s becoming rather obsessed with books – obviously granny’s influence!)


Kate with the staff at Disley Library

I’ve just started writing the second book in the Albert Lincoln trilogy and it’s good to be continuing Albert’s story after the dramatic events described in A HIGH MORTALITY OF DOVES (no spoilers!) but more about that next time.

Incidentally if anybody is in Edinburgh on Sunday 23rd April (the birthday of a certain Mr Shakespeare) I’ll be at Blackwell’s taking part in Dates with Dangerous Authors at 2.30. If you’re in the area come in and say hello (we authors aren’t that dangerous...honestly) It would be lovely to see you there.

February 2017

The start of this month saw the publication of THE MERMAID’S SCREAM, Wesley Peterson’s twenty first investigation.

THE MERMAID’S SCREAM begins with an author visit to a library (something very close to my heart!) by a young writer who’s working on the biographer of Wynn Staniland, a reclusive author who took the publishing world by storm back in the 1980s and then cut himself off from the world after his wife’s mysterious death. The young biographer later goes missing and his disappearance appears to be linked to the apparent suicide of a middle aged couple at a caravan park. Then Wesley finds that Wynn Staniland is the connection between his two cases. The historical case lurking in the background is the Victorian cause celebre (acted out by a group of sinister nineteenth century puppets) that inspired Wynn Staniland’s most famous work.

mermaids scream

I dedicated the book to ‘all library staff everywhere’ but, unfortunately the dedication was accidentally left out of the hardback. However, it is in the e-book and I’m assured that it will be in the paperback (out in August).

Talking of libraries, a couple of weeks ago I was thrilled to receive an email telling me that I’ve been longlisted for the CWA Dagger in the Library award. This was extremely exciting for me because I’m a great supporter of libraries (I’ve got many library visits lined up already this year – see my events page for details) and to be considered for this particular award is very important to me.

Another piece of good news is that I’ve had the go ahead to write the next two books in the Albert Lincoln trilogy. A lot of you have told me how much they enjoyed A HIGH MORTALITY OF DOVES and it will be satisfying to continue Albert’s story. A HIGH MORTALITY OF DOVES is out in paperback on 4th May and I’m visiting Bolton and Bury libraries that day to celebrate the occasion.

I was delighted to be asked to take part in CLICSargent’s ‘Get in Character’ auction again this year (in which the winner has a character in my next book named after them). I’ve just sent a signed copy of THE MERMAID’S SCREAM to last year’s winner, Julie Shepherd (who became a very nice librarian for the purposes of the book – I hope she enjoys her ‘role’) If you’d like to see your name in my next book please go to  http://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/401280842933 and make a bid. CLICSargent is a children’s cancer charity so it’s for a very good cause!

Better get back to Wesley’s next case now.

January 2017

Happy New Year everyone.

Hope you enjoyed the Festive Season and have now recovered fully from the feasting and enforced sloth. Not sure I have yet but there’s a manuscript squatting on my desk waiting to be rewritten. It’s the fourth draft but I’m still not happy with it. My office is looking extremely tidy (which is unusual and somewhat disconcerting) because my cousin and his partner came to stay so I was forced to clear out all the accumulated rubbish (and scraps of paper with notes on – eg victim was already dead at 4pm so can’t have been seen in pub at 5pm or how does suspect go from being goodie two shoes pain in the neck to femme fatale two pages later with no explanation? – my first few drafts are always a dreadful mess!!!) so they could actually see the spare bed. However, in spite of this strange, unnatural neatness I’m sure I’ve already managed to get some work started.

Christmas was good apart from a serious turkey malfunction (the less said the better but the day was saved by a large ham!) and a Christmas morning visit from The Anti-Santa. On Christmas morning I noticed my car door was ajar. Someone had broken in and searched the car thoroughly (which must have disappointed him because the most valuable thing I keep in there is a rusty half-used can of de-icer). I can only assume he thought there might be presents in the boot (hence the title of The Anti-Santa). My husband (being a bit of a technical wizard) had installed CCTV so we trawled through it and eventually found the culprit – a middle aged man in work clothes who used an electronic device to open the door at 5am on Christmas morning. There was no damage to the car and nothing taken but, being good citizens we captured some clear images of the thief from the footage and sent them to the police by email (just for their information in case there was a pattern of thefts from cars in the area). However, the police didn’t seem particularly interested – so much for using our initiative to ‘help the police with their inquiries’. As someone who writes crime novels for a living I found this sadly disappointing and I resolved that Wesley and Gerry would never be so ungrateful (after all, in one of my books there would almost certainly be a murder in the next street and the thief would be either a suspect or a vital witness – probably later found brutally murdered himself of course). Once a crime writer, always a crime writer!

AHMDhr mermaids scream

So what does 2017 have in store? Well, I already have a few talks and conferences booked (see my events page) and Wesley’s 21st case THE MERMAID’S SCREAM is out in hardback in early February. Also A HIGH MORTALITY OF DOVES will be out in paperback in May. I’m delighted that it’s been so well received and now I need to get my publisher’s go ahead to continue with the intended trilogy. Fingers crossed.

Once again let me wish you all a Happy New Year. I do hope 2017 will be a good year for all of us.

December 2016

At last I’ve managed to find a moment to write this diary! I assure you my absence hasn’t been due to sloth (although writers are often tempted by that particular deadly sin!) but rather to the fact that it’s been a busy time.

First there was the launch of A HIGH MORTALITY OF DOVES to organise. It was a wonderful event and more than fifty people – family and friends but mostly readers – gathered at Simply Books, an award winning independent bookshop in Cheshire, to celebrate. I began by speaking about how I came to write the book (which is a departure from my two crime series) and how the idea had nagged away in the back of my head for a few years before I began to write. After my talk I did a reading before everyone retired upstairs for a convivial get together.



I was joined at the launch by three fellow members of the Murder Squad – Martin Edwards, Margaret Murphy (who writes as AD Garrett) and Chris Simms (see below).


I always find historical research absorbing but researching A HIGH MORTALITY OF DOVES turned out to be a very moving experience. I discovered how wounded servicemen were treated during the First World War and visited a reconstructed military hospital at Dunham Massey in Cheshire several times. Shortly after this I found a couple of letters amongst my late mother’s belongings. They were from the Matron of a base hospital (a military hospital near the French coast that received casualties from the trenches prior to them being shipped back to England . . . if they survived). The Matron told the soldier’s mother that he was gravely ill and close to death. Fortunately, that soldier miraculously survived to become my grandfather but many weren’t so lucky. I read out these letters at the launch, a tribute to all those brave men who fought and gave their lives or suffered grave injuries.

A HIGH MORTALITY OF DOVES deals with the aftermath of war – how people came to terms with returning to everyday life after such a traumatic time. The story begins when a small Derbyshire community is still reeling from the losses of war and then a series of bizarre deaths once more throws the village into turmoil. When Inspector Albert Lincoln is called in from Scotland Yard, he uncovers a web of pain and intrigue that leads to a gripping and shocking conclusion. I’m delighted to say that the book has been really well received and has been featured as Book of the Month by the Crime Writers’ Association and also named as ‘In Search of the Classic Mystery’ book of the month

After the excitement of the launch it was back to work again, rewriting Wesley Peterson’s twenty second case (to be published in 2018). I then took a break to visit York for a few days (a great place for Christmas shopping and visiting St Nicholas Fair). While I was there I kept having ideas for a new Joe Plantagenet book – it’s just a matter of finding the time.

THE MERMAID’S SCREAM (Wesley Peterson’s next case) will be published in February and I think it’s one of his most intriguing cases yet. I’ll put all the details on this website nearer the time.

So now I’ve written all my Christmas cards and there are only a few more presents to buy, I can start thinking about 2017. I already have several events and conferences arranged and I was delighted to be invited to speak (and present a Murder Mystery) at a conference at Gladstones Library near Chester to be held in June (watch this space for details).

I hope all my readers have a wonderful Christmas and a very happy New Year – and I look forward to ‘meeting’ you in 2017! 

October 2016

During the past month I’ve been working on 2018’s Wesley Peterson mystery. I’ve completed the first draft but I won’t say too much about it yet as I still need to spend months polishing it into shape. It’s early days but I can reveal that it’s mainly set on Dartmoor and features a sixteenth century robot! However, enough of that for now as THE HOUSE OF EYES hasn’t been out that long and there’ll be another Wesley Peterson novel published in February (entitled THE MERMAID’S SCREAM)

Since I last wrote this diary I’ve spoken at Ashton Libraries Fun Palaces Day (where I met a bee keeper who gave me a brilliant idea for a murder method) and a few days later I visited Chester Lane Library in St Helens. Many thanks to the brilliant library staff who helped to organise the events. In fact I’ve dedicated The Mermaid’s Scream to all library staff everywhere. Libraries really need and deserve our support.

StHelensLibys At St Helens Library

Last week I had a break from writing and travelled to Spain to visit Seville, Cordoba and Granada. It’s strange the way memories are triggered – in the Alhambra at Granada (the most spectacular Moorish palace you could ever imagine) I couldn’t help remembering a trilogy of novels I’d absolutely loved as a teenager – Jean Plaidy’s Castile for Isabella, Spain for the Sovereigns and Daughters of Spain – all about Ferdinand and Isabella of Spain and their daughters (in particular Catherine of Aragon, the first wife of Henry VIII, and her sister, Juana the Mad). Catherine herself played in the stunning gardens of the Alhambra and she was to recall this happy time during her later troubles, something I found incredibly touching. As well as this I was awed to find myself in the very room where Queen Isabella had presented Christopher Columbus with the money that enabled him to discover America. The trip culminated in a visit to the chapel where Ferdinand, Isabella and Juana were buried, along with Juana’s husband Philip the Handsome. After Philip’s death Juana carried his coffin around with her everywhere she went...a juicy fact bound to appeal to a teenage girl who was later to become a crime writer!

Alhambras La Alhambra

So now it’s back to work but there’s still one major event to mention. I am delighted to be launching A HIGH MORTALITY OF DOVES on Tuesday 15th November at 7.30 at Simply Books, an award winning independent bookshop in Bramhall near Stockport, Cheshire. It’s a free event so do come along if you can (but email the bookshop first so they know how many people to expect). I’m really excited about A HIGH MORTALITY OF DOVES and I hope my readers will be too. It would be wonderful to see you at the launch.  http://www.simplybooks.info/headline-events/4587367589