Most of the roads we travel on these days that connect our large towns and cities, have been there for centuries. The few exceptions are the major motorways, highways and other multi-lane routes that gauge a direct line across from one side of a country to another. These are more often, just large transport veins, that bypass smaller, slower, meandering, routes, and bottle-neck towns.
Britain and Ireland are criss-crossed, especially in rural areas, with old stone roads, that these days are the preserve of hill walkers and ramblers. Their original function apart from taking livestock and crops to markets, was also for the conveyancing of the dead to consecrated burial grounds. These roads are known in England and Ireland as corpse roads, and as coffin roads in Scotland. This month’s second book review features an old burial road, the book is Corpse Road by David J Gatward, published by Amazon in December 2020.
When Detective Chief Inspector Harry Grimm, is awoken in the middle of the night, by his second in command Sergeant Matt Dinsdale, he knows it won’t be good news. There’s been a body found by Mountain Rescue in the Yorkshire Dales and being part of the Mountain Rescue team, Dinsdale is one of the first on scene to realise the victim hadn’t met their demise by accident. The victim’s has been viciously attacked and there’s blood everywhere, also there is a name scrawled in the victims blood on the side of the tent, which isn’t hers, and strange little balls inside and out. Over the next twenty-four hours Harry and is team, made up of detectives and Community Support officers (Special Constables or part-timers), quickly discover the victim’s marriage was in freefall, but after an eventful visit with the husband, things go awry when he suddenly disappears. This is all while Harry is trying to deal with an overbearing Chief Superintendent who doesn’t hide his contempt for him and a crisis in his personal life involving his father and brother. Is there more to this savage murder or was it just a crime of passion committed by a controlling husband?
I really got into this book from the first page. Which isn’t strange considering I, like many people living in Ireland and England, love the simplicity of rural crime stories and TV dramas. such as Midsomer Murders, Heartbeat and Bergerac for example.
Ok, so Bergerac was based on the Channel Islands, but that is rural to an extent. Suburban and inner-city crime dramas usually have fast cars, flashy offices, and advanced technology, while the rural ones are more likable because, the prevalence of heinous crimes, drugs, gangland killings, and the like are rare and shatter the peace and tranquillity of country life. Also, the equipment and means by which a country copper or detective can solve a crime are a lot more rudimentary than his city and suburban counterparts.
This is what you get with a Corpse Road, a very simple, but modern tale of murder and mystery set among the windswept but beautiful hills and moors of the Yorkshire countryside. Gods own country, as it is often stated, is not immune to crime.
To prove how simple things in his neck of Yorkshire are, Harry and his team’s base of operations is a community centre, not a purpose-built police station, where they share one laptop between them, one step above pencil licking, while taking notes and wearing bicycle clips.
Meanwhile, Gatward’s descriptions of the surrounding countryside and the quaint grey stone buildings of the local towns and villages, are what enable you to really get immersed in this story. If unlike me you’ve never been to this part of country, then when you do eventually get to visit Yorkshire (I personally recommend visiting there and the Peak district, albeit once the pandemic has subsided) you’ll see how immersive and detailed they are.
Harry as a character stands out initially because of his surname, as well as being a blow-in to the local area. Thus having read none of Gatward’s previous Grimm books, I felt we had something in common.
This is English author David J Gatward’s (www.davidjgatward.com) Third Harry Grimm novel, the others are Grimm Up North (2020) and Best Served Cold (2020). He’s also the author behind the Padre series of books – featuring a Military Padre fighting supernatural forces. As well as writing numerous young adult books and teaching creative writing courses around England. He now lives in Somerset, South West England, where he pursues a huge number of hobbies when not writing including caving, camping, climbing, archery, shooting and music.
At two hundred and eighty pages, and the rate at which David seems to produce these books, you know from the start you are not getting a meandering tale but a gripping as well as tightly scripted and well researched thriller. I could have read this in one day if I’d had a long train or plane journey. But this helped me endure a couple of very Irish, wet, sleety days as we headed towards to backend of winter and promised brighter evenings of spring.
So, order or download your copy online, which under the current Covid restrictions is the best way to follow Government guidelines. Then prepare to join DCI Harry Grim in the wilds of Yorkshire as he attempts to overcome the fish out of water feeling, while solving crime in Britain’s answer to “Big Sky Country”.
Reviewed by Adrian Murphy
This book review is part of a Random Things Blog Tour, to see what the others thought, visit their sites listed below. Then if you get a copy, comeback and tell us what you thought. We would really appreciate the feedback.