The Water Clock (Philip Dryden Series #1)by Jim Kelly
"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… See more details below
"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.
"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)
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The Water Clock
By Jim Kelly
Dorchester PublishingCopyright © 2002 Jim Kelly
All right reserved.
Chapter OneTHURSDAY, 8TH NOVEMBER THE GREAT WEST FEN
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.
Excerpted from The Water Clock by Jim Kelly Copyright © 2002 by Jim Kelly. Excerpted by permission.
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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.
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