The Skeleton Man
St. Martin’s, Jan 2008, $24.95
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.