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The Water Clock
Dryden Mysteries – Book I
BY Jim Kelly

Allison and Busby
21 November 2019/ ASIN: B07THNW6QF
Mystery/Contemporary

Reviewed by Rachel Hyde 

UK AMAZON || US AMAZON

During a particularly cold January in the Fens, a car is found in a frozen river with a body inside. Not long afterwards, another body is found in rather more bizarre circumstances – set on a gargoyle high up on Ely Cathedral. The first body is recent; the second possibly dates from 1966. Back in that year, while millions watched and listened to the winning world cup match, there was a robbery at a local garage that went disastrously wrong. Could the two bodies be linked to that? Local reporter Philip Dryden is on the case and possibly finding links to his own life-shattering experience two years earlier…

This novel was written back in 2003 and parts of it already make it seem quite historical, showing how things have changed since then (particularly related to technology). It is the first in the series and introduces us to the melancholy Dryden, a former top Fleet Street reporter who has taken a job on the tiny local paper, The Crow, to be near his wife. She is in hospital in a coma following an accident, and the area is where Dryden grew up.

For me the best feature of the novel was the author’s wonderfully tangible descriptions of the Fens, an eerie drowned landscape like no other. Wrapped in an icy winter and struggling with rising water levels, it provides the perfect backdrop to a convoluted tale of old sins casting long shadows, cold cases gone unpunished and a tangle of intertwined stories. Apart from the landscape, the other theme running through the book is how virtually everybody -- apart from the protagonist -- is hopeless at their job, a darkly comic thread at times, but which also seems a bit forced. Dryden is a moody loner who has a low opinion of just about everybody, a modern Fenland equivalent of a ‘40s gumshoe. I didn’t find myself warming to him, and his elephantine taxi driver sidekick, Humph, never becomes more than a list of quirks. However, the story and setting alone make it a rather impressive series debut, so I would read another and can see why it has been reprinted. Worth a look.

UK Reviewer: Rachel Hyde's work can be found in The Bead Magazine, Making Jewellery and www.craftsuprint.com/rachel-a-hyde/
Reviewed 2019
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