Archaeologist Arnold Landon (Cock of the Walk, 1996, etc.) is once again exploring a promising site, this time in Northumberland’s ancient Pentire Woods. The late Maggie Cleugh, an Irishwoman seeking her roots, has left a bequest funding a university team that’s been investigating the peat bog edging into Wolfcleugh Woods. The last thing they expected to find was a desiccated body as dead as their patron. Shortly after the Cleugh team is joined by another one from Arnold’s Department of Museums and Antiquities, headed by Karen Stannard and her assistant Portia Tyrrel, the two teams find themselves in the middle of a dispute over the plans of Ken Stafford’s Shangri-La development company to put in a new road and build houses in the Wolfcleugh Woods, much of it owned by loner Steven Brand-Ruckley. An environmental group whose leader, activist Nick Semmens, has been camping in the woods, determined to fight those plans, becomes a target for some of Stafford’s roughnecks, who arrive with bulldozers but fail to vanquish the protesters. More trouble looms, however, after Arnold comes upon the body of Sally Burt, a young student from New Zealand with remote family ties to Brand-Ruckley. It takes some intense delving into the past and yet another death before motives and methods become clear.
Interesting background and convoluted plot, though not quite enough of likable, curmudgeonly Detective Chief Inspector Culpeper—and a bit too much of nebbishy Arnold.