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The Skeleton Man

The Skeleton Man

4.0 1
by Jim Kelly

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For seventeen years, the English hamlet of Jude's Ferry has lain abandoned, used only for army training exercises. Before then, the isolated, thousand-year-old community was famous for one thing---having never recorded a single crime. But when local reporter Philip Dryden joins the army on practice maneuvers in the empty village, its spotless reputation is


For seventeen years, the English hamlet of Jude's Ferry has lain abandoned, used only for army training exercises. Before then, the isolated, thousand-year-old community was famous for one thing---having never recorded a single crime. But when local reporter Philip Dryden joins the army on practice maneuvers in the empty village, its spotless reputation is literally blown apart. Artillery fire reveals a hidden cellar beneath the old pub, and inside the cellar hangs a skeleton, a noose around its neck. No one knows---or will say---who the victim was.

Two days later, a terrified man is pulled from the reeds of a nearby river, with no idea of who he is or how he got there. The only name he can remember is "Jude's Ferry."

As Dryden searches for the secret history of the dead town, he is also witnessing a kind of rebirth: Seven years after the accident that nearly killed her, his wife, Laura, is finally emerging from coma and paralysis to begin a semblance of normal life. But will that semblance be enough for her---or for Dryden?

Editorial Reviews

Marilyn Stasio
Ever since the days of Agatha Christie, the great divide in the British detective story has been between plot and character. But even as the taut puzzle plot of the traditional mystery shrinks in importance and the character of the hero gains ground, readers keep sighing for the ideal balance to be struck. Which is why the novels of Jim Kelly are something of a find. His series hero, Philip Dryden, a small-town reporter, may be overburdened with personal issues…but the sensibility he brings to his sleuthing is refreshing.
—The New York Times
Publishers Weekly

Series hero Philip Dryden pits his wits against the scattered former residents of an abandoned British village in his dramatic fifth outing (after 2007's The Coldest Blood). After an ancient hanged body is revealed in a pub cellar during artillery practice, Dryden, a skilled investigative journalist, finds that other things in the deserted village are not quite right. Why is an old tomb partly open? What happened to the cellar's owner in the evacuation? Dryden soon bypasses the police and launches his own investigation, putting his safety at risk. The large number of interviewees and suspects can be confusing; many appear only once or twice and their characters are vague, but they supply vital information for the careful armchair sleuth. Kelly's evocative descriptions of the flat and misty fenlands meander through a revealing look at the deterioration of contemporary village life under the stress of large-scale agriculture and rural depression. (Jan.)

Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
Library Journal

Amid heavy army shelling of an abandoned English village famous for never having recorded a single crime in its 1000-year history, a skeleton with a noose around its neck is discovered in the cellar of a pub. Who the dead person was and why he was left hanging lead reporter Philip Dryden into the world of the British military and the locals who were forced to give up their homes when the Ministry of Defense took over the village for maneuvers several years earlier. Kelly, winner of the 2006 British Crime Writers' Association Dagger in the Library Award, writes convoluted plots peopled with incredibly complex characters. This one should please readers who like British mysteries that delve deep into modern life. Kelly lives in Cambridgeshire, England.

—Jo Ann Vicarel
Kirkus Reviews
Village secrets are blasted open when an abandoned church becomes a war-games target. Reporter Philip Dryden, on assignment for the newspaper The Crow, is on hand when Major John Broderick instigates the training bombardment of Jude's Ferry, a tiny hamlet the army emptied of residents 17 years ago so its soldiers could use it for artillery practice. Some of the material, however, misfires, landing in a cellar not marked on any ordinance map in which a desiccated corpse is found hanging. Before it can be identified, a tomb nearby is rifled, a small grave is dug up and refilled and an amnesiac is found floating in the river-a man who, later in the hospital, has flashes of Kathryn, a woman he loved in Jude's Ferry. As DI Peter Shaw, a forensics specialist, and Dryden try to piece together the puzzle, they focus on local candidates who might have been the hanged man, but their task is complicated by letter bombs and dognappings by an animal rights group. As they examine each of the men's stories, they uncover more village secrets, including illegitimacy, family disputes and murder passed off as suicide. Keeps peeling away layers until all that remains is the sad, misguided core of village solidarity, and the conviction that Kelly (The Coldest Blood, 2007, etc.) is a master of the psychological mystery. Agent: Faith Evans/Faith Evans Associates

Product Details

St. Martin's Press
Publication date:
Philip Dryden Series , #5
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Read an Excerpt

“This isn’t a war zone, Philip Dryden told himself, it’s a military exercise. And I’m not a soldier, I’m a reporter. . . .

“‘This is our target,’ said Major Broderick, stabbing a finger at the heart of the Fen wasteland shown on the map. ‘The lost village of Jude’s Ferry.’ ”

Meet the Author

Jim Kelly, whose father was a detective at Scotland Yard, previously worked as a journalist and education correspondent for the Financial Times. He lives in Ely with the biographer Midge Gillies and their young daughter. His debut, The Water Clock, was shortlisted for the Crime Writers' Association John Creasey Memorial Dagger for the best first crime novel of 2002, and in 2006 he won the CWA Dagger in the Library, which is awarded to "the author of crime fiction whose work is giving the greatest enjoyment to readers."

Jim Kelly, the son of a Scotland yard detective and winner of the Crime Writers of America Dagger in the Library award, lives in England. His books include Death Wore White and The Skeleton Man.

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Skeleton Man 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
harstan More than 1 year ago
The military exercise focuses on the abandoned small village of Jude¿s Ferry off of Whittlesea Mere. Reporting on the war games is The Crow journalist Philip Dryden, who has learned the ghost town had never reported any official crime in its millennium of existence. Following the artillery shelling, a shocking sight surfaces when a grave underneath the cellar of what had been a pub has been opened. The skeletal remains of a person hung to death are found. Not expecting much from the police on this cold make that frozen case, Dryden cannot resist learning the truth about the ancient skeleton and who uncovered the tomb and why. However, the former residents are not only scattered those he interviews remain reticent not offering him much in the way of useful information. However, Dryden obstinately keeps digging until someone begins to think he is getting to close and plans on him being the second victim in the history of Jude¿s Ferry. --- This complex somewhat convoluted investigative tale is a superb whodunit as Dryden struggles with finding a nano clue at a time. The support cast is in the quadrillions with most providing cameo appearances in response to the reporter¿s inquiry. This makes it difficult to keep score yet for those who relish solving the case, they are each critical in what may seem incognizant as a puzzle part, but the whole is needed for lucid resolution. Although how Jim Kelly kept track is beyond me, THE SKELTON MAN is a terrific look at rural England where local talk is not a repression but a depression. --- Harriet Klausner