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The Way, The Truth and The Dead

Alan Cadbury is back in the thrilling sequel to The Lifers' Club by Francis Pryor

This book is fully funded, but you can still support it!


The Synopsis

Alan Cadbury is one of the luckiest men: his work is his passion. He’s a field archaeologist who excavates historic sites in the Fens of East Anglia. In his first adventure, The Lifers’ Club, he unravelled the background to a violent death on a dig in Leicester. The Way, the Truth and the Dead is his second adventure. Like The Lifers’ Club it is set in the Fens, but this time in the black peatlands of the south, around the glorious cathedral city of Ely. It’s a watery landscape where the many ancient dykes, drains and rivers conceal dark secrets. It’s a landscape where local communities retain long memories – some extending back to Cromwell’s time and the English Civil War.

In this novel Alan finds himself the Director of an important Roman and early Medieval excavation at the little hamlet of Fursby, not far from Littleport. But shortly before he starts work, he is contacted by his old friend, Detective Chief Inspector Richard Lane, who now works for Fenland CID. Lane needs Alan’s help because a body has been found in a river near the dig. And the dead person is an archaeologist, an old friend of Alan’s. It soon becomes clear that this is will be no ordinary excavation: the remains are of national importance and their preservation is outstanding. So it comes as no surprise when the major television series, Test Pit Challenge, decides to adopt it as a flagship project. We journey behind the cameras, and discover the complex personal rivalries of a modern ‘live’ television shoot. And to make matters even more difficult, the dig is open to the public, who flock to the site in their thousands.

Meanwhile, although deeply immersed in the archaeology, Alan finds himself drawn ever deeper into Lane’s investigations, where he uncovers dark secrets at the heart of this rural community…

The Excerpt


Bert Hickson had seen many mutilated corpses, but few as bad as this. When he was young he would have felt sick, but not now; not after ten years on the streets of Belfast in the 1970s. . As he looked down on the shattered limbs and shreds of skin and cloth caught up in barbed wire at the river’s edge, instinctively he did what they’d told him back then: deep breaths; head back; eyes closed; clear the brain. Relax. Thirty years ago it used to work. But now his brain wasn’t so easily fooled. He could sense the panic rising. He felt in his pocket: no pills. He’d left them at home. His shaking hands grabbed at his phone. Somehow he dialled 999 and spoke. Then oblivion. He never heard the reply.

It was Detective Chief Inspector Richard Lane’s first call-out since his transfer back to Cambridgeshire, and Fenland CID. That had been back at the start of the week, but it could have been years ago. All evening he’d been kicking his heels in his office in Ely, supposedly familiarising himself with his new GDMPs (Grievance and District Management Procedures), when the desk sergeant downstairs got the call. At the time, every uniformed officer had been called out to deal with an end-of-week booze-fuelled disturbance in the City Centre. They weren’t that common in this quiet Fenland City, so the police turned out in force to nip it in the bud. By four o’clock Lane had waded-through enough management jargon and his head was reeling. So he decided to go home: a bad case of migraine, or so he muttered as he returned his key at the desk. The Sergeant was putting the phone down and Lane could see the frustration on his face. He shot him a questioning glance.

‘That’s all we bloody need, Sir: an emergency call and everyone out…’ His voice tailed off. There was a new email on the screen below the desk.

‘What’s it about?’ Lane asked, despite himself.

‘Control said the caller reported he’d found a body by the river…’

Again he broke off, and was looking at the screen.

‘Which river?’

Anything, even a possible body in a river, was more interesting than GDMPs.

‘The caller didn’t say, Sir, but the phone co-ordinates put it near Fursby.’

‘That’s Littleport way, isn’t it?’ Lane broke in. The sergeant, who was still reading his screen, nodded. ‘Well, it’s on my way home. I might as well call in.’

‘I’ve got some more information here, Sir. They say the phone belongs to a Mr. Bert Hickson, He just said he’d found a body. Then silence.’

Lane frowned.

‘That’s all?’

‘So it seems. But he didn’t hang-up and they’ve just sent through a better fix. It says here it’s lying just downstream of Smiley’s Mill in the Mill Cut, at Fursby.’

‘That’s off the Padnal Delph, isn’t it?’

‘Yes Sir, and I don’t need to remind you that the rivers are very swollen after all the recent rain. So do please be careful.’

‘I’ll be . I’ll let you know immediately, if I need help.’

Lane strode rapidly across the car park and as he put the magnetic flashing blue light on his car’s roof he caught a glimpse of his face in the mirror. He was smiling.


The Author

Francis Pryor was born in London in 1945. After studying archaeology at Cambridge he emigrated to Toronto where he joined the staff of the Royal Ontario Museum. Using the Museum as a base, he began a series of major excavations (1971-78) in England, at Fengate, on the outskirts of Peterborough. Here he revealed an extensive prehistoric landscape, culminating in the discovery, in 1982 of Flag Fen, one of the best preserved Bronze Age sites in Europe. His books include his 'Britain' series (for HarperCollins): Britain BC, Britain AD, Britain in the Middle Ages and The Birth of Modern Britain. Two were filmed for Channel 4. In 2010 he published (with Penguin) The Making of the British Landscape. He has appeared frequently on Time Team and has presented a number of programmes for Radio 4. in 2014 Unbound published Francis' first work of fiction, The Lifers' Club, and Penguin published his HOME: A Time Traveller's Tales from Britain's Prehistory.

Questions & Answers

Mike Hatfield Mike Hatfield asked:

I'm in Canada. If I pledge, are there extra costs for shipping?

Unbound Unbound replied:

Hi Mike,

Thanks for getting in touch. Yes, there is a shipping charge to courier your book to you. This is added at the checkout once we know your delivery country. If there is anything else we can help you with please get in touch via

Best wishes,

Caitlin - Community Coordinator

Sarah Freck Sarah Freck asked:

Dear Dr Pryor
I loved your book Lifer's Club so much it inspired me to have a go at your other non-fiiction books too. I've read Home and I am part way through AD. I've learned loads through reading them. I am fascinated by your emphasis on continuity rather than major changes by invasion etc. I've re-discovered a love of archaeology in recent years ( I used to conduct "archaeological digs" in the garden as a child!) and volunteer at a really interesting site -
I'm fascinated as the site seems to show some kinds of continuity of occupation from mesolithic through to medieval with geophysics indicating the likelihood of a muti-phase occupancy iron age site. then it has evidence of Roman occupation (including tantalising glimpses in finds of a high status Roman building - as yet undiscovered) and a medieval chapel where the original single cell is thought to be pre 1066! It seems to fit so well with your emphasis on community and continuity.

Anyway- this isn't so much a question as a thank you for what you have written so far - I couldn't find anywhere else on-line to contact you so I hope you don't mind. I'm going to sponsor the next Alan Cadbury adventure!

Francis Pryor Francis Pryor replied:

Dear Sarah, you're too kind. I think it's worth remembering that we humans have always tended to live in nice places. Hence continuity. Very often continuity of place leads to continuity of DNA, too. I do wish geneticists would focus-in on local patterns rather than the wholesale population movements that currently obsess them! Keep up your interest. It's such FUN. Francis x

Mark Miller Mark Miller asked:

Francis, as a Cambridgeshire Fenlander born and bred I'd like to thank you for not only you're great books but also bringing the rich history of this area to life. I'm looking forward to seeing what dark deeds have been committed near Littleport - although from what little research I've done us Fenlanders were not above skullduggery through the ages. Having had opportunity to see the well preserved log boats at Must Farm and your interview about your musings for your third installment I was wondering if this dig may also appear next to Flag Fen in the book? I don't expect you to give the game away - so even if you can't/ don't want to answer that - thank you for all your great work in showing people there is more to this landscape then flat fields and sky.

Francis Pryor Francis Pryor replied:

Thanks Mark. You're very kind. I'm planning to have the third Alan Cadbury book set at Flag Fen, but that's a secret.... And as for the Must Farm boats, I suspect we may just predate their discovery. But let's see what happens. My brain is still grappling with it all. And yes, I agree: there is FAR more to our landscape than flat land and sky. Still, don't tell anyone or they'll all come flooding out of London to join us! Cheers, Francis

Peter Baldwin Peter Baldwin asked:

I have enjoyed Lifer's and look forward to your next effort. I subscribed very early on.

I'm just watching you and Maisie on a TIme Team recording looking for a causewayed enclosure and creating wooden bowls. My question is.... Have you read George Monbiot's great book "Feral". Just read and would love to hear your view as a fellow history loving and country dwelling "big thinker".
Cheers Peter Baldwin, Near toDartmoor another sheep and heather obsessed national park.

Francis Pryor Francis Pryor replied:

No, can't say I have read it. One to add to the list. Thanks! Francis

Hi Francis,
Have pledged for this latest Alan Cadbury adventure. A couple of questions! How did you come up with the name - it just flows - I write myself but I can never quiet make a name sound anything other than lumpy!! Secondly, I read and enjoyed Lifers' - the ending I thought was very clever - I only came across it after unbound had published it, so I was wondering how I go about getting a signed copy! By the way, I could see Lifers' as a 2 parter on the small screen, would you ever write a screenplay?
Waiting with great anticipation for The Way, The Truth and The Dead!
Best Wishes
Chris :)

Francis Pryor Francis Pryor replied:

Hi Chris. To be honest the name AC came to me one day when taking a walk. It just seemed right. So it stuck. Personally I wouldn't agonise: names are never 'wrong', but sometimes they can sound slick and mannered. I'd love to sign your Lifers. You could come to Seahenge (hint, hint) or my garden tour. Or maybe take it to Unbound and I'll mail it back to you. Just a thought. All the best, Francis.

My daughter is a young but extremely keen archaeologist and YAC member and would be really excited to be given the seahenge tour pledge as a gift. Do you have a lower age limit and would I need to double pledge so I could bring her?

Unbound Unbound replied:

Hi Hannah,

Thanks for getting in touch. There isn't an age limit and we'd love to have your daughter and yourself with us, but if your daughter is still in school that would be something we'd need to bear in mind when organising the date. Please can you email me via so we can discuss the best options for you?

Many thanks,

Caitlin - Community & Events Manager

Any updates on the book?

Francis Pryor Francis Pryor replied:

Hi Stan,

The manuscript and copy editing was finished three months ago. I expect to receive proofs shortly. The current aim is to print the book in the new year. If you're a subscriber, you should receive your copy in March.

I trust that answers your question.

All the best,


The Rewards

This book is now in production. You can still pledge, but you won't get listed as a supporter in the back.

E-book edition.
📖 Pledge $15 147 pledges
1st edition hardback and the ebook edition
📖 Pledge $25 262 pledges
Signed 1st edition hardback and the ebook edition
📖 Pledge $65 83 pledges
Garden Tour
Two places on a guided tour with Francis Pryor round his beautiful Fenland garden* followed by tea and homemade cake. Plus a signed first edition hardback, ebook and your name in the back of the book. *In partnership with the National Garden Scheme (September 2016)
Sold out
Tour of Seahenge
One place on an exclusive tour of Seahenge Bronze Age site with Francis Pryor, plus 1st edition hardback and the ebook edition Numbers Strictly Limited
Sold out
Launch Party
Two tickets to the launch party plus signed 1st edition hardback and the ebook edition
📖 Pledge $190 4 pledges