The Lifers' Club

By Francis Pryor

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Archaeology can be a dirty business

Publication date: July 2014
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About the book

Alan Cadbury is a professional archaeologist: a digger of ancient sites and a man who likes to unravel the mysteries and meaning of the past. Most of the sites he dug were ahead of industrial development or new housing estates, gravel quarries, roads, etc. The people who did the work were down-to-earth. Some were students, others were professional diggers – but they all knew what they wanted from life and were prepared to work long hours, for very low pay. In the seventies to nineties, Alan and his colleagues lived in abandoned houses or camped out on the edges of industrial estates. They were always covered in mud, were deeply suntanned and drunk (or stoned) on their days off. They were feared by respectable citizens. They were known as Circuit Diggers because they worked the 'circuit', moving from one excavation to another, as new sites were opened, right across Britain.

Like others on the circuit, Alan Cadbury is obsessive: he won’t let problems lie, even when he’s slumped drunk in a lonely bedsit, somewhere in the Fens. But there’s another side to him, too: he enjoyes solving mysteries. In the late ‘90s he helped to give a forensic archaeology course and there met Richard Lane, now a senior detective in the Leicestershire force. DCI Lane helps him tackle new cases. But this is his first big one: it involves an 'honour killing', which happened eight years ago in Leicester. Most of the action takes place in the Fens, where Alan has lived all his life. It’s a dark tale of past wrong-doing and modern criminality – on a very large scale. And it’s not without violence and rapid action. Alan’s life may be harsh and at times unpleasant, but it’s not likely to be very long, either.

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