The Water Clock (Philip Dryden Series #1)

The Water Clock (Philip Dryden Series #1)

by Jim Kelly

View All Available Formats & Editions

In the bleak, snowbound landscape of the Cambridgeshire Fens, a man's mutilated body is discovered in a block of ice. High up on Ely Cathedral a second body is discovered, grotesquely riding an ancient stone gargoyle. The decaying corpse, it seems, has been there for more than thirty years.

Philip Dryden, lead reporter for the local newspaper The Crow,


In the bleak, snowbound landscape of the Cambridgeshire Fens, a man's mutilated body is discovered in a block of ice. High up on Ely Cathedral a second body is discovered, grotesquely riding an ancient stone gargoyle. The decaying corpse, it seems, has been there for more than thirty years.

Philip Dryden, lead reporter for the local newspaper The Crow, knows he's onto a great story when forensic evidence links both victims to one terrifying crime in 1966. But the story also offers Dryden the key to a very personal mystery. Who saved his life after a car crash one foggy night two years ago—-and who left his wife, Laura, in a ditch to die? As he continues his painful visits to Laura, who has been locked in a coma ever since the accident, Dryden's search for the truth takes on ever increasing urgency. The answers will bring him face to face with his own guilt, his own fears—-and a cold and ruthless killer.

This brilliant and evocative murder mystery, which was shortlisted for Britain's John Creasey Award for the best first crime novel of the year, marks Jim Kelly as the new master of suspense.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Sometimes a book takes up residence inside my head and just won't leave. The Water Clock did just that....This is a beautifully written novel that made me think and feel. I found it hard to believe so accomplished a read is a debut, and I can't wait to read more from Jim Kelly." - Val McDermid

"The mystery is intriguing, with a tense denouement, but the success of the novel lies in the characters, with the fascinating relationship between the reporter and his silent companion, the cab driver who takes him from place to place, at the centre." - Sunday Telegraph (UK)

The Washington Post
… Kelly enlivens his tale with a richly atmospheric setting, sharp contemporary characters and an often biting knack for capturing the essence of people. A subplot involving his wife adds a nice level of introspection to the story. The Water Clock is highly recommended to fans of contemporary British crime fiction or police procedurals. — Katy Munger
Publishers Weekly
British author Kelly's strong debut introduces Philip Dryden, a reporter for a weekly newspaper in Cambridgeshire, England. Reporters are always in the thick of things when crimes happen in a small town, but Dryden is more involved than normal because he has made a deal with the devil. To help a policeman in trouble, he writes a not-quite-true news story, in exchange for the official report of the auto accident two years earlier that nearly killed Dryden and left his wife in a coma. Obsessed with finding out who rescued him but not his wife and then disappeared, he goes to dangerous lengths for answers. A masterful stylist, Kelly crafts sharp, crisp sentences so pure, so true, they qualify as modern poetry. The cold, bleak landscape of the fens seems to seep through the paper and chill the fingers turning the pages. Less impressively, the police report on the accident, when Dryden finally gets his hands on it, is anticlimactic, and he seems largely unaffected by what he learns. And the story concludes with one of those improbable "you might as well tell me everything before you shoot me" conversations between protagonist and killer, a mild disappointment from a writer of Kelly's skill. On balance, however, this is a solid mystery from a promising new talent. Agent, Faith Evans. (Dec. 8) Forecast: Shortlisted for a CWA John Creasy Award, and with endorsements from Colin Dexter and Val McDermid, this should sell a lot better than the average first mystery novel. Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
The mystery debut of water-traumatized reporter Philip Dryden, who must confront his demons and worse in the flood-ravaged Cambridgeshire Fens. Crashing through the ice in a childhood skating accident left Dryden mortally afraid of water. Years later, as his wife Laura slept in the back seat, he barely escaped when another car sent his tumbling 20 feet into the Harrimere Drain. Ever since, Laura has lain comatose in the Tower Hospital, where Dryden visits her every day, hoping for signs of movement. None come until he begins investigating the frozen body hauled out of the river Lark for The Weekly Crow (circ. 17,000 and falling). When he connects it to the desiccated corpse that's been languishing among the Ely Cathedral gargoyles for 30 years, the last time the roof was inspected, and ties both fatalities to the horrific "Crossroads" robbery of 1966 and dishonor amongst thieves fallen out, Laura begins moving. Is her apparent progress a subtle threat: Leave the story alone or your wife's a goner? Prodding DS Andy Stubbs for information and relying on minicab driver Humph for transport and backup, Dryden resolves old and new mysteries while the Fens are submerged under torrents and Laura lies deathly still in the Tower. Intriguing characters and locale and wryly believable newsroom background from Financial Times correspondent Kelly. One quibble: Why would water-phobic Dryden choose to live on a superannuated 1930s naval inshore patrol boat? Agent: Faith Evans

Product Details

St. Martin's Press
Publication date:
Philip Dryden Series , #1
Edition description:
First Edition
Product dimensions:
5.66(w) x 8.62(h) x 1.12(d)

Read an Excerpt

The Water Clock

By Jim Kelly

Dorchester Publishing

Copyright © 2002 Jim Kelly
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-0-8439-6000-6

Chapter One


Out on the Middle Level midnight sees the rising flood nudge open the doors of the Baptist chapel at Black Bank. Earlier the villagers had gathered for a final service loaded down like Balkan refugees with suitcases and bundles. Now the water spreads across the Victorian red-brick floor; a creeping congregation, lifting the pews which shuffle forward to press against the altar rail. Finally the wooden lectern lifts and tips its painted golden eagle into the chocolate-colored flood. But no one hears the sound, all are gone. Outside, below the flood banks, fenceposts sucked from the sodden peat pop to the surface. On what is left of the high ground hares scream a chorus from an operatic nightmare.

The flood spreads under a clear November moon. Cattle, necks breaking for air, swim wall-eyed with the twisting current. At Pollard's Eau, just after dusk, the Old West River bursts its bank, spilling out over the fields of kale and cabbage. A dozen miles away the lookouts in the lantern tower of Sutton church take the noise for that of a train on the line to King's Lynn. They wait, fatally, for the fields to reflect the stars, before raising the alarm.

Burnt Fen Farm, now a ruin, stands on its own shrinking island.

Philip Dryden climbs the stairs of the farmhouse in which he was born.

His knees crack, the damp air encouraging the rheumatism which waits in the joints of his six-foot-three-inch frame. He stops on the landing and the moonlight, falling through the rafters, catches a face as expressionless as a stone head on a cathedral wall.

He leans on the twisted banisters and feels again the anxieties of his childhood-welcome by comparison with the present and approaching fear.

Will the killer come?

Outside the ice creaks on the Old West River. Unheard, small voices of perfect terror rise with the approach of death. Rats dash in synchronized flight to beat the flood, crowding into the steep pyramids of winter beet.

Shivering, he walks through the hallway and pushes open the slatted door to the attic stairs. He climbs again to the old schoolroom where he was the only pupil. The view from the dormer window frames a snapshot of memory; his father, sat in a pool of midsummer sunlight in a blue-striped deckchair, dozing under a wide-brimmed cherry picker's hat.

Outside the wind brings the slow crash of a tree subsiding into the flood. A dying cow bellows and briefly, with a gust of heavenly sound, church bells ring the alarm too late from Littleport. The lightning cuts a gash across the night and Dryden sees the serried rows of waves marching south.

Waiting for a killer on Burnt Fen. A single, double, killer, coming.

On the horizon occasional car lights thread to Quanea. Locals, quitting at the nicely judged last moment, speed to the high ground. One stops, the headlights swing round, and the car idles beside the Eighteen Foot Drain. A false alarm: it executes a three-point turn, a dance of light from yellow to red, leaving Dryden's heartbeat rattling. He shivers now in judders which make it difficult to hold the torch.

Another car on the fen. So quickly is it there his eyes struggle to focus on the headlights as they snake nearer. He's come from the south, along the drove. He's almost here and Dryden's underestimated him. Threading through the fields along the narrow banks of the lodes.

Half a mile away the car stops. The headlights die.

They sit and wait. A trickling minute passes. Then five. Sitting, watching, water rising. He's answered a message from a dead man. Dryden examines the roar of the flood for other, lethal, noises.

The moon finds a cloud, the wind drops, and in the sudden suffocating silence a car door closes without a slam.

He's coming.


Excerpted from The Water Clock by Jim Kelly Copyright © 2002 by Jim Kelly. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

Jim Kelly is the education correspondent for The Financial Times in London. He lives in Ely, Cambridgeshire, with his wife, biographer Midge Gillies, and their daughter Rosa.

Customer Reviews

Average Review:

Write a Review

and post it to your social network


Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See all customer reviews >