Digging a drainage ditch on the property of Sir Edward Driffield, Terry Butcher startles the English village of Tolland by his discovery of a long-buried skeleton. The job of identification is simplified for Detective Inspector Keith Tyrell when the police surgeon discovers a pair of dog tags buried with the bones bearing the name of Benjamin Gordheimer, an American soldier reported AWOL just before D-day. Soon another corpse, this one buried in the grave of recently deceased Fred Slade, is unearthed by Fred’s feisty widow Elsie. Taking over the village hall for their investigation, Tyrell and his staff are soon joined by arrogant Chief Inspector Whittaker and his nasty aide Pete Simons. The corpse of more recent vintage is eventually identified as Mehmet Orhan from Birmingham. He’s apparently an innocuous middle-class factory worker, but some intense police work uncovers another side to him: a Birmingham video factory he ran with his friend Halam Kemal that trades in child porn that sends DS Simons on a fatal mission. Solving Ben Goldheimer’s murder will require delving into every household in the village before Ben’s aged sister and brother arrive to give him a proper funeral. The solution to the even more baffling murder of Orhan lies in still another Tolland tragedy.
Debut novelist Davies kicks off her series with a splendid evocation of village life, offbeat family portraits, a pair of complex puzzles, and a believable, low-key hero in Keith Tyrell. A winner.