Fiction Jim Kelly The Water Clock

ISBN 13: 9780141009339

The Water Clock

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9780141009339: The Water Clock

Time is running out for Philip Dryden . . . In the snowbound landscape of the Cambridgeshire fens, a body is discovered, locked in a block of ice. High on Ely Cathedral a second corpse is found, grotesquely 'riding' a stone gargoyle. Journalist Philip Dryden knows he's onto a great story when forensic evidence links both victims to one terrifying event in 1966. But the murders also offer Dryden the key to a very personal mystery. Who saved his life two years ago? And, more importantly, who left his wife to die? The answer will bring Dryden face to face with his own guilt, his own fears - and a cold and ruthless killer . . .

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Review:

"A great story--at last," remarks newspaper journalist Philip Dryden, as he considers the mutilated body of a man found in the trunk of a car pulled from the frozen River Lark in England's watery Cambridgeshire Fens district. After spending most of his career reporting on national politics and other contemptible doings in hectic London, Dryden--the protagonist in Jim Kelly's debut novel, The Water Clock--deserves a break from his more mundane rural assignments, writing about flower shows and golden wedding anniversaries. However, he doesn't know just how consuming this "great story" will be--or that it will soon connect to the finding of a second, older corpse, this one wrapped around an ancient cathedral gargoyle, and lead back to an unsolved, 1966 filling-station robbery, during which a woman was shot and blinded.

Kelly, an education correspondent for Britain's Financial Times, deftly captures the quirky staffing and droll provinciality endemic to country weeklies, such as Dryden's The Crow. ("[T]he day after press day was plagued by serial whingers who'd spotted tiny mistakes, and occasional whoppers. Dryden’s favourite ... had been the week they’d included the death notice of Albert Morris in the 'Used Cars' column.") It's Dryden himself, though, who is best rendered in these pages. An irrationally exuberant ink-slinger and "dedicated physical coward of extraordinary range," he’s encumbered by guilt for having left his wife, Laura, in a coma after a foggy-night accident sent their car into a river. Some unknown person dragged Dryden to safety, but abandoned Laura. The reporter now refuses to drive, instead being squired about by a taciturn cabbie, and makes regular, if increasingly hopeless visits to his wife's bedside. But when a cop on the outs with his bosses asks Dryden to falsify a story in order to expose a murderer, the newsie sees an opportunity to bargain for information about what really happened the night of that car crash--giving little thought to how the killer might strike back at him, or the defenseless Laura.

The Water Clock's plot is confusing on occasion, and the climactic drama here is undercut by too much mystery-solving dialogue. Still, this first installment of a new series is confidently composed and makes excellent use of its singular setting. Dryden seems destined to find many more great stories in the future. --J. Kingston Pierce

About the Author:

Jim Kelly is a correspondent for the Financial Times. He lives in Ely. His second novel, THE FIRE BABY, which also features Dryden, will be published in March 2004.

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