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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…
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.
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.
- 20th December 2016 Your Last Chance to ASSURE YOUR LEGACY!
I know it has been quite a drawn-out process, but the production of Alan Cadbury’s second adventure, The Way, The Truth and The Dead, is now well in hand. The editing process is finished and the manuscript (or rather its digital equivalent) must now be finalised, in every detail, ready for sending to the printer in the new year. Subscribers should receive their copies in May. So I have done my level…3rd October 2016 October update
It’s been quite a busy summer. Some non-horticultural readers of this blog might have found my obsession with the two National Gardens Scheme Open Days a bit obsessive – and I suppose I ought to apologise to them. But I’m afraid I won’t. This blog reflects the chaos that is life, although I do try to see longer-term patterns that are of more general interest and applicability. In the case of the Open…10th March 2016 The Production Schedule
Dear subscribers, as things currently stand, we have arranged that I’ll send a fully tweaked and edited manuscript of The Way, The Truth and The Dead to my editor, Liz Garner, at Unbound, by March 20th, the day we start lambing. Then she can work on it, while I slip into my ovine charge-nurse role. Once lambing’s over, I’ll have to respond to Liz’s edits, which will probably take a week or two.…11th September 2015 Think archaeology is all digging & finding things? Think again...
When authors publish extracts they are often taken from early on in the book, as I did previously, but this time I thought I’d find something further on, when the plot was starting to darken – and thicken. At the same time I wanted to dispel the common myth that archaeology is just about digging and finding things. It isn’t: most of a professional archaeologist’s time is spent on the phone, filling…17th June 2015 An exclusive extract from The Way, The Truth & The Dead
Several people have asked me if I could give them a flavour of Alan Cadbury’s filming scenes in his new adventure, The Way, The Truth and The Dead. Now obviously I don’t want to give away the plot, but here’s an extract which describes the film crew arriving on site and the start of the very first sequence. At this stage Alan’s dig was being filmed and recorded, to be edited into a documentary later…30th April 2015 A bit more about Alan Cadbury
My books about the exploits of Alan Cadbury are based on a series of informal interviews or discussions between him and me. In the case of The Lifers’ Club nearly all our talks happened several months after the events I describe in the book. The only exception was the episode that started me writing the book in the first place. I happened to bump into Alan, purely by accident, in a pub in Crowland…9th March 2015 Eschew the Formulaic: Avoid the Predictable!
At last, a truly mind-numbingly obscure title – something that all editors will immediately recognise and delete, forthwith. The thing is, that writing has its rules and only very rarely will unfettered streams-of-consciousness actually make good books. The obvious exceptions are Proust and my personal favourite, Tristram Shandy, by Laurence Sterne. Others would claim Joyce: what about Ulysses and…1st February 2015 Alan Cadbury’s Abbey: Crowland
The Fens are open, flat and full of myths. One persistent myth is that Fenland is all the same; that there is no regional distinctiveness or identity. Outsiders cannot get beyond the straight roads, the even straighter dykes and the all-enveloping, level horizon. But the people are very different: yes, they do see themselves as Fen folk first and their county comes a distant second, whether it be…21st January 2015 Dark Evil in the Black Fens
What could be more gorgeous than Ely Cathedral in all its stunning Norman majesty? But this fabulous building, known to Fenmen as The Ship of the Fens, has recently been revealed to have concealed some dark secrets, both in the days of its founder, St Etheldreda, and today, in the 21st Century. My second book featuring the archaeologist and amateur sleuth Alan Cadbury, The Way, The Truth and The…
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