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by Jim Kelly
St Martin's Minotaur, December 2003
303 pages
ISBN: 0312321430

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Philip Dryden is senior reporter on The Crow, a Cambridgeshire weekly newspaper. His wife has been in a coma for the last two years, ever since he drove into a ditch one night. Some stranger found Phil and dropped him near the emergency room of the local hospital, but left his wife in the car, with disastrous results.

It's early November but winter comes early to the Fens, and bodies of water are beginning to freeze at night. Dryden is called to the River Lark, a tributary of the Ouse, which was frozen. A car has been found under the ice which formed the previous afternoon. When the new car was winched out of the river, a nearly decapitated body, with gunshot wounds, is discovered in the boot.

Another body, one that has been in place on a gargoyle for many years, is discovered on the roof of Ely Cathedral. It has been there for 30 years or more, as evidenced by the lichen joining it to the gargoyle and the roof. It has been undiscovered because it is on a piece of roof that cannot be easily seen either from the ground or from above, so in all those years, no roofer has noticed the skeleton cuddled behind the gargoyle.

Dryden discovers that both bodies might be related to an horrific robbery with menaces that took place in the 1960s. But three men were involved in that crime, so there is at least one still around the area.

The action takes place over a week, by the end of which, Dryden has not only discovered who did the deed 30 years earlier but also who was responsible for not rescuing his wife. Will she come out of her coma?

Kelly has created good characters and the flood-prone Cambridgeshire fens become an integral part of the story. Dryden is tied to his comatose wife. Will his situation change in later books? This is a first crime novel by Kelly, who is the education correspondent for the Financial Times. It's an excellent first effort.

Reviewed by Barbara Franchi, November 2003

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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