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…
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.
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.’
‘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.Read more...
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