A deathbed confession leads to tragedy.
Maggie Beck, riddled with cancer and waiting for death in Ely’s Tower Hospital, deep in the Fens, has a special favor to ask of Philip Dryden, whom she’s come to know during his nightly visits to his comatose wife Laura, lying in an adjacent bed since a car accident four years before. Maggie, who has just enough strength left to tape her memories, wants Dryden, feature writer for The Weekly Crow, to make sure the tapes reach her daughter Estelle and her Yank boyfriend. Dryden soon finds that Maggie’s tapes not only rewrite the outcome of a 1976 plane crash at the US air base in nearby Mildenhall, but also upend Estelle and Lyndon’s romance. They also lead Dryden to the trail of illegal immigrants carted around the countryside in lorries—and to an abandoned WWII pillbox where pornographic pictures of underage girls have been filmed. As Laura struggles to emerge from her coma, Dryden and his minicab driver Humph uncover two horrific murders and almost perish in a fireball before all of Maggie’s secrets are laid to rest.
Kelly (The Water Clock, 2003) manages to elevate soap-opera situations by means of crisp writing. Still, Dryden, a hero in every sense of the word, deserves a stronger plot.