Cover Missing



About the Book

Title Page



Eight Years Ago

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

The Present

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

Chapter 14

Chapter 15

Chapter 16

Chapter 17

Chapter 18

Chapter 19

Chapter 20

Chapter 21

Chapter 22

Chapter 23

Chapter 24

Chapter 25

Chapter 26

Chapter 27

Chapter 28

Chapter 29

Chapter 30

Chapter 31


Extract from The Restless Dead

About the Author

Also by Simon Beckett


About the Book

‘At first glance it could have been anything – a stone, a knotted root – until you looked more closely. Thrusting out of the wet earth, its bones visible through rags of flesh, was a decomposing hand …’

It was eight years ago that they found the body buried on the moor.

They were certain that this was one of psychotic rapist and multiple murderer Jerome Monk’s teenage victims. Which left just two more bodies to find.

But the search revealed nothing and ended badly. And with Monk safely behind bars, the momentum faltered. Resources were required elsewhere. For forensics expert David Hunter, and those others who were part of the recovery team, life moved on. And the dead left undisturbed.

But now Hunter’s heard some alarming news. A nightmare scenario unfurls. Monk has escaped and is targeting anyone involved in that ill-fated operation.

Lured back to the moors by a desperate call for help, Hunter begins to realize that neither the events unfolding now – nor those of eight years ago – are quite what they seem. And as the maniac’s violent trail edges ever closer, the past is suddenly anything but dead and buried …

Intelligent, authentic and menacingly exciting, The Calling of the Grave is the heart-in-mouth new crime thriller from this No.1 international bestseller.

Also by Simon Beckett

Featuring David Hunter

The Chemistry of Death

Written in Bone

Whispers of the Dead

The Calling of the Grave

The Restless Dead

Other novels

Where There’s Smoke

Stone Bruises


Simon Beckett

61–63 Uxbridge Road, London W5 5SA

Transworld is part of the Penguin Random House group of companies whose addresses can be found at


First published in Great Britain in 2010 by Bantam Press
an imprint of Transworld Publishers

Copyright © Hunter Publications Ltd 2010

Cover image © Neil Robinson / Getty Images

Extract from The Restless Dead copyright © Hunter Publications Ltd 2017

Simon Beckett has asserted his right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 to be identified as the author of this work.

This book is a work of fiction and, except in the case of historical fact, any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.

Every effort has been made to obtain the necessary permissions with reference to copyright material, both illustrative and quoted. We apologize for any omissions in this respect and will be pleased to make the appropriate acknowledgements in any future edition.

A CIP catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library.

Version 1.0 Epub ISBN 9781407083087
ISBNs 9780593063453 (hb)
9780593063460 (tpb)

This ebook is copyright material and must not be copied, reproduced, transferred, distributed, leased, licensed or publicly performed or used in any way except as specifically permitted in writing by the publishers, as allowed under the terms and conditions under which it was purchased or as strictly permitted by applicable copyright law. Any unauthorized distribution or use of this text may be a direct infringement of the author’s and publisher’s rights and those responsible may be liable in law accordingly.

1 3 5 7 9 10 8 6 4 2

For Hilary


One. Two. Eight.

The numbers of decay. That’s the ratio by which all organisms, large and small, decompose. In air, in water, in soil. Provided it’s the same climate, a submerged body will take twice as long to break down as one left on the surface. Underground it will take eight times as long. One, two, eight. It’s a simple formula, and an inescapable truth.

The deeper something is buried, the longer it survives.

Bury a body, and you deprive it of the carrion-feeding insects that thrive on dead flesh. The microorganisms that would normally digest the soft tissues can’t function without air, and the cooling insulation of dark earth further restricts the onset of decay. Biochemical reactions that would normally break down the cells themselves are slowed by the lower temperature. A process that would, under other circumstances, take days or weeks can last for months. Years, even.

Sometimes longer.

Starved of light, air and warmth, it’s possible for a dead body to be preserved almost indefinitely. Cocooned in its cold burrow, it exists in near stasis, indifferent to the passing of seasons above.

But cause and effect applies here, as anywhere else. Just as, in nature, nothing is ever truly destroyed, so nothing is ever completely concealed. No matter how deeply buried, the dead can still make their presence known. One. Two. Eight.

Nothing stays hidden for ever.

Eight Years Ago

The Present


‘What name is it?’

The policewoman’s face was cold, in every sense. Her cheeks were chapped and ruddy, and her bulky yellow jacket was beaded with moisture from the mist that had descended like an earth-bound cloud. She regarded me with what seemed barely restrained dislike, as though holding me responsible for the foul weather, and the fact that she was standing out on the moor in it.

‘Dr David Hunter. Detective Chief Superintendent Simms is expecting me.’

With a show of reluctance she considered her clipboard, then raised her radio. ‘Got someone here to see the SIO. A Mr David Hunter.’

‘It’s Doctor,’ I corrected her.

The look she gave me made it clear she didn’t care. There was a squawk of static from the radio and a voice said something unintelligible. Whatever it was didn’t improve her mood. With a last sour look she stepped aside and motioned me past.

‘Straight ahead to where the other vehicles are parked,’ she said, gracelessly.

‘And thank you,’ I muttered, driving on.

Beyond the windscreen the world was draped with curtains of mist. It was patchy and unpredictable, lifting one moment to reveal the drab, wet moorland before wrapping white gauze around the car again the next. A little further along a makeshift police car park had been set up on a relatively flat patch of moor. A policeman waved me on to it, and the Citroën bumped and lurched over the uneven ground as I eased it into a clear space.

I switched off the engine and stretched. It had been a long drive, and I hadn’t taken a break. Anticipation and curiosity had overcome any inclination to stop en route. Simms hadn’t given me many details when he’d called, only that a grave had been found on Dartmoor and he wanted me to be there while the body was recovered. It had sounded routine, the sort of case I could be called out on several times a year. But for the past twelve months the words ‘murder’ and ‘Dartmoor’ had been synonymous with only one man.

Jerome Monk.

Monk was a serial killer and rapist who had confessed to murdering four young women that we knew about. Three of them were little more than girls, and their bodies had never been found. If this grave was one of theirs, then there was a good chance the others were also nearby. It would be one of the biggest recovery and identification operations of the past decade.

And I definitely wanted to be a part of it.

‘Everyone’s always thought that’s where he got rid of his victims,’ I’d said to my wife, Kara, in the kitchen that morning as I’d rushed to get ready. We’d been living in the detached Victorian villa in south-west London for over a year, but I still needed her to tell me where things were. ‘Dartmoor’s a big place but there can’t be so many bodies buried out there.’

‘David,’ Kara said, looking pointedly at where Alice was eating breakfast. I winced and mouthed sorry. Normally I knew better than to mention the grisly details of my work in front of our five-year-old daughter, but my enthusiasm had got the better of me.

‘What are vic-tims?’ Alice piped up, frowning in concentration as she lifted a dripping spoonful of raspberry yoghurt. That was her food fad of the moment, having recently decided she was too grown up for cereal.

‘It’s just Daddy’s work,’ I told her, hoping she’d let it drop. There was plenty of time for her to learn about the darker aspects of life when she was older.

‘Why are they buried? Are they dead?’

‘Come on, sweetheart, finish your breakfast,’ Kara told her. ‘Daddy’s got to go soon and we don’t want to be late for school.’

‘When are you coming back?’ Alice asked me.

‘Soon. I’ll be home before you know it.’ I bent down and lifted her up. Her small body felt warm and ridiculously light, yet it never failed to amaze me how solid she was compared to the baby she’d been it seemed only minutes before. Do they always grow up so fast? ‘Are you going to be a good girl while I’m away?’

‘I’m always a good girl,’ she said, indignant. She still had the spoon in her hand, and a glob of yoghurt dropped off and landed on the notes I’d left on the table.

‘Whoops,’ Kara said, tearing off a piece of kitchen towel and wiping it up. ‘That’s going to stain. Hope it’s not important.’

Alice looked stricken. ‘Sorry, Daddy.’

‘No harm done.’ I gave her a kiss and set her down before gathering up the notes. The top sheet had a sticky mark from the yoghurt. I tucked them into a folder and turned to Kara. ‘I’d better go.’

She followed me into the hall, where I’d left my bag. I put my arms around her. Her hair smelled of vanilla.

‘I’ll call you later. I should have a better idea then how long I’ll be away. Hopefully only a couple of nights.’

‘Drive carefully,’ she said.

Both of us were used to my going away. I was one of the few forensic anthropologists in the country, and it was the nature of my job to go wherever bodies happened to be found. In the past few years I’d been called out to investigations abroad as well as across the UK. My work was often grim but always necessary, and I took pride in both my skill and my growing reputation.

That didn’t mean I enjoyed this part of it. Leaving my wife and daughter was always a wrench, even if it was only for a few days.

I climbed out of the car, treading carefully on the muddy grass. The air smelt of damp, heather and exhaust fumes. I went to the boot and pulled on a pair of disposable overalls from the box of protective gear I kept in there. Police forces usually provided them, but I liked to carry my own. Zipping up the overalls, I took out the aluminium flight case that contained my equipment. Until recently I’d made do with a battered suitcase, but Kara had persuaded me that I needed to look more like a professional consultant and less like a travelling salesman.

As usual, she was right.

A car pulled up as I began to make my way through the parked police vehicles. The bright yellow paintwork should have been a tip-off, but I was too preoccupied to pay it any attention until someone shouted.

‘Found your way, then?’

I looked round to see two men climbing from the car. One of them was small and sharp-featured. I didn’t know him, but I recognized the younger man he was with. Tall and good-looking, he carried himself with the easy confidence of an athlete, broad shoulders swinging with his characteristic swagger. I hadn’t expected to see Terry Connors here but I should have realized when I saw the car. The garish Mitsubishi was his pride and joy, a far cry from CID’s usual bland pool cars.

I smiled, although I felt the usual mixed feelings at seeing him. While it was good to find a familiar face among the impersonal police machinery, for some reason there was always an edge between Terry and me that never quite went away.

‘I didn’t know you were on the investigation,’ I said as they came over.

He grinned, cheek muscles bunching on the inevitable piece of gum. He’d lost a little weight since the last time I’d seen him, so that the square-jawed features looked more pronounced. ‘I’m deputy SIO. Who do you think put in a word for you?’

I kept my smile in place. Back when I first knew Terry Connors he’d been a DI in the Metropolitan Police, but we hadn’t met through work. His wife, Deborah, had gone to the same prenatal clinic as Kara, and the two of them had become friends. Terry and I had been wary of each other at first. Except for the overlap of our professions we had little in common. He was ambitious and fiercely competitive, a keen sportsman whose career was another arena in which to excel. His self-assurance and ego could grate at times, but the success of the few cases he’d steered my way hadn’t hurt either of us.

Then, just over a year ago, he’d surprised everyone by transferring out of the Met. I never did find out why. There had been talk of Deborah’s wanting to be closer to her family in Exeter, but exchanging the high-octane policing of London for Devon had seemed an inexplicable career move for someone like Terry.

The last time we’d seen them had been shortly before their move. The four of us had gone out for dinner, but it had been an awkward affair. There was a barely suppressed tension crackling between Terry and his wife all evening, and it was a relief when it was over. Although Kara and Deborah made a token effort to keep in touch afterwards it was a lost cause, and I’d not seen or spoken to Terry since.

But he was obviously doing well if he was deputy SIO on an investigation as big as this: I’d have expected that sort of responsibility to go to someone more senior than a DI. Given the pressure he must be under, I wasn’t surprised he’d lost weight.

‘I wondered how Simms got my name,’ I said. Although I was an accredited police consultant, most of my work came through recommendations. I just wished this one hadn’t come from Terry Connors.

‘I gave you a big build-up, so don’t let me down.’

I suppressed the flare of irritation. ‘I’ll do my best.’

He cocked a thumb at the smaller man with him. ‘This is DC Roper. Bob, this is David Hunter, the forensic anthropologist I told you about. He can tell more things from rotting bodies than you want to know.’

The detective constable gave me a grin. He had a snaggle of tobacco-stained teeth and eyes that wouldn’t overlook much. A potent wave of cheap aftershave came from him as he gave me a nod.

‘This should be right up your street.’ His voice was nasal, with the distinctive accent of a local. ‘Specially if it’s what we think it is.’

‘We don’t know what it is yet,’ Terry told him tersely. ‘You go on ahead, Bob. I want to have a word with David.’

The dismissal was borderline rude. The other man’s eyes hardened at the slight but his grin stayed in place.

‘Right you are, chief.’

Terry watched him go with a sour expression. ‘Watch yourself with Roper. He’s the SIO’s lapdog. He’s so deep in Simms’ pocket he could scratch his balls.’

It sounded as though there were some personality clashes, but Terry was always butting heads with people. And I wasn’t about to get involved in internal politics. ‘Is there some dispute about the body?’

‘No dispute. Everyone’s just falling over themselves hoping it’s one of Monk’s.’

‘What do you think?’

‘I’ve no idea. That’s what you’re here to find out. And we need to get this one right.’ He took a deep breath, looking strained. ‘Anyway, come on, it’s this way. Simms is out there now, so you’d better not keep him waiting.’

‘What’s he like?’ I asked, as we set off down the road towards a cluster of trailers and Portakabins.

‘He’s a humourless bastard. You don’t want to cross him. But he’s no fool, I’ll give him that. You know he was SIO of the original murder investigation?’

I nodded. Simms had come to prominence the previous year, making his reputation as the man who had put Jerome Monk behind bars. ‘That can’t have done his career any harm.’

I thought there was a touch of bitterness in Terry’s grin. ‘You could say that. Word is he’s got his sights set on the Assistant Chief Constable’s desk in a few more years. This could clinch it for him, so he’ll be expecting results.’

He isn’t the only one, I thought, looking at Terry. There was an almost palpable nervous energy coming off him. But that was hardly surprising if he was deputy SIO of something as potentially high profile as this.

We’d reached the Portakabins. They’d been set up next to a track that ran from the road. Thick black cables snaked between them, and the misty air was tainted by diesel fumes from the chugging generators. Terry stopped by the trailer housing the Major Incident Room.

‘You’ll find Simms out at the grave. If I get back in time I’ll let you buy me a drink. We’re staying at the same place.’

‘Aren’t you coming?’ I asked, surprised.

‘Seen one grave, you’ve seen them all.’ He tried to sound blasé but it didn’t quite come off. ‘I’m only here to collect some papers. Got a long drive ahead of me.’


He tapped the side of his nose. ‘Tell you later. Wish me luck, though.’

He clattered up the steps into the MIR. I wondered why he needed luck, but I’d more to think about than Terry’s games just then.

Turning away, I looked out across the moor.

Wreathed in mist, the barren landscape spread out in front of me. There were no trees, only patches of dark, spiky gorse. The year was still young, and patches of winter-brown fern and bracken sprouted amongst the heather and rocks and thick, coarse grass. Looking out from the road, the ground fell gently downhill before rising again in a long slope. Cresting it perhaps quarter of a mile away was a low, ungainly formation of rock that Simms had mentioned.

Black Tor.

Dartmoor had more impressive tors – outcrops of weathered rock that rose from the moorland like carbuncles – but Black Tor’s wind-sculpted profile was unmistakable against the skyline. It sat on top of a low escarpment, a broad, squat tower, as though a giant child had stacked flattened boulders one on top of the other. It didn’t look any blacker than any of the other tors I’d seen, so perhaps the name was down to some dark event in its past. But it sounded suitably portentous, the sort of detail the newspapers would gleefully seize on.

Especially if it was Jerome Monk’s graveyard.

After Simms’ telephone call I’d searched the internet for background to the case. Monk had been a journalist’s dream. A misfit and loner who supplemented his precarious living as a casual labourer with poaching and theft, he was an orphan whose mother had died during his birth, leading some of the more lurid tabloids to claim that she’d been his first victim. He was often described as a gypsy, but that wasn’t true. While he’d lived most of his life around Dartmoor in a caravan, he’d been shunned by the local traveller population as well as the rest of society. Unpredictable and prone to outbursts of terrifying violence, his personality matched his exterior.

If anyone looked the part of a murderer, it was Monk.

Freakishly strong, he was a physical grotesque, a sport of nature. The photographs and footage from his trial showed a hulk of a man, whose bald cannonball of a skull housed deep-set, sullen features. His black, button eyes glinted with all the expression of a doll’s above a mouth that seemed curved in a permanent sneer. Even more unsettling was the indentation on one side of his forehead, as though a giant thumb had been pressed into a ball of clay. It was disturbing to see, the sort of disfigurement that looked as if it should have been fatal.

To most people’s minds it was a pity it wasn’t.

It wasn’t so much the nature of his crimes that had been so shocking, though that was bad enough. It was the sadistic pleasure he seemed to take in selecting vulnerable victims from the Dartmoor area. The first, Zoe Bennett, was a dark-haired and pretty seventeen-year-old, an aspiring model who never returned home after leaving a nightclub one evening. Three nights after that a second girl disappeared.

Lindsey Bennett, Zoe’s identical twin.

What had been a routine missing persons investigation suddenly became front-page news. No one doubted that the same individual was responsible, and when Lindsey’s handbag was discovered in a rubbish bin, effectively ending any hope that the sisters were still alive, there was public outrage. Bad enough for a family to suffer that sort of loss once, but twice? And twins?

When Tina Williams, an attractive, dark-haired nineteen-year-old, went missing as well, it sparked the inevitable false alarms and hysteria. For a time it seemed there was a definite lead: a white saloon car was picked up on street CCTV cameras and reported by witnesses in the areas where both Lindsey Bennett and Tina Williams had last been seen.

Then Monk claimed his fourth victim, and for ever sealed his reputation as a monster. At twenty-five, Angela Carson was older than the others. Unlike them she was neither dark-haired nor pretty. There was also a more significant difference.

She was profoundly deaf and couldn’t speak.

Afterwards, neighbours described hearing Monk’s laughter as he’d raped her and battered her to death in her own flat. When the two policemen who responded to the 999 calls broke down her door they found him with her body in the wrecked bedroom, bloodied and crazed. They were big men, yet he’d beaten them both unconscious before disappearing into the night.

And then, apparently, off the face of the earth.

Despite one of the largest manhunts in UK history, no sign of Monk was found. Or of either the Bennett twins or Tina Williams. A search found a hairbrush and a lipstick belonging to Zoe Bennett hidden under his caravan, but not the girls themselves. It was three months before Monk was seen again, spotted by the side of a road in the middle of Dartmoor. Filthy and reeking, he made no attempt to resist arrest, or to deny his crimes. At his trial he pleaded guilty to four counts of murder, but refused to reveal either where he’d been hiding or what he’d done with the missing girls’ bodies. The popular theory was that he’d buried them out on the moor before going to ground there himself. But Monk just smiled his contemptuous smile and said nothing.

With the killer behind bars, the story faded from the public eye, the missing girls just more victims whose fates were unknown.

That might be about to change.

Standing out like a beacon on the drab moorland was a bright blue forensic tent. It was roughly halfway between the road and the rock formation, a short distance off to one side of the rugged dirt track that linked the two. I stood for a moment in the fine drizzle, breathing in the fecund scent of wet peat as I wondered what I’d find inside.

Then I set off along the track towards it.


A corridor of police tape had been strung from the midway point of the track out to the forensic tent. The moor had been churned into black mud by the constant tramp of feet, and my boots squelched as I walked between the parallel lines of flapping tape. The area around the tent had been cordoned off, and a uniformed dog-handler stood guard at the opening. He shifted from foot to foot to keep warm as he and the dog, a German Shepherd, watched me approach.

‘I’m here to see DCS Simms,’ I said, a little out of breath.

Before he could say anything the tent flap was thrown back and a man appeared in the gap. He was in his forties but seemed to aspire to be older. His face was remarkably unlined, and as if to offset the blandness of his features he’d cultivated a moustache that gave him a military bearing. The white overalls he wore somehow didn’t look right on him. He’d pushed back the protective hood, and the black hair beneath it had managed to stay so neatly combed it looked moulded.

‘Dr Hunter? I’m Simms.’

I’d have guessed as much even if I hadn’t recognized his voice. It was peremptory and officious, confident in its authority. His pale eyes flicked over me and in that moment I felt that, for better or worse, I’d been swiftly assessed.

‘We were expecting you half an hour ago,’ he said, before disappearing back inside.

Nice to meet you, too. The dog-handler moved aside to let me through, tightening his grip on the dog’s harness. But I was uncomfortably aware of the German shepherd’s unblinking stare as I went past them and into the tent.

After the open space of the moor it seemed cramped and crowded inside, a confusion of overalled figures. The diffused light from the blue walls had an ethereal quality. The atmosphere was moist and clammy, with a mustiness disconcertingly evocative of camping. Beneath it was another odour, of freshly turned soil and something far less benign.

The grave was in the centre.

Portable floodlights had been set up around it, steaming slightly in the damp air. Metal stepping plates had been put down around a rectangle of dark peat, framed by a grid of string. Someone I took to be a SOCO knelt over it, a big man who held his gloved hands poised in the air like a surgeon interrupted in theatre. In front of him, a muddy object was poking through the peaty soil. At first glance it could have been anything – a stone, a knotted root – until you looked more closely.

Thrusting out of the wet earth, its bones visible through rags of flesh, was a decomposing hand.

‘I’m afraid you’ve missed the pathologist, but he’ll be coming back when the body’s ready to be removed,’ Simms said, pulling my attention from the grave. ‘Dr Hunter, this is Professor Wainwright, the forensic archaeologist who’s going to be supervising the excavation. You may have heard of him.’

For the first time I took stock of the figure kneeling by the grave-side. Wainwright? I felt my stomach sink.

I’d heard of him, all right. A Cambridge don turned police consultant, Leonard Wainwright was one of the highest-profile forensic experts in the country, a larger-than-life figure whose name lent instant credibility to an investigation. But behind the donnish public image Wainwright had a reputation for being ruthless with anyone he considered a rival. He was an outspoken critic of what he dubbed ‘fashionable forensics’, which amounted to pretty much any discipline that wasn’t his own. Much of his ire had been focused on forensic anthropology, an upstart field that in some respects overlapped with his own. Only the previous year he’d published a paper in a scientific journal ridiculing the idea that decomposition could be a reliable indicator of time since death. ‘Total Rot?’ the title had crowed. I’d read it with amusement rather than annoyance.

But I hadn’t known then that I’d have to work with him.

Wainwright heaved himself to his feet, knees cracking arthritically. He was around sixty, a giant of a man with mud-stained overalls stretched taut over his big frame. In the white latex gloves his meaty fingers resembled overstuffed sausages as he pushed off his mask, revealing craggy features that might charitably have been called patrician.

He gave me a neutral smile. ‘Dr Hunter. I’m sure it’ll be a pleasure working with you.’

He spoke with the rumbling baritone of a natural orator. I managed a smile of my own. ‘Same here.’

‘A group of walkers found the grave late yesterday afternoon,’ Simms said, looking down at the object emerging from the soil. ‘Shallow, as you can see. We’ve probed and there appears to be a layer of granite no more than two feet below the surface. Not a good place to bury a body, but fortunately the killer didn’t know that.’

I knelt down to examine the gelid dark soil from which the hand protruded. ‘The peat’s going to make things interesting.’

Wainwright gave a cautious nod, but said nothing. As an archaeologist he’d be even more familiar than me with the problems presented by peat graves.

‘It looks as if rain washed off the top layer of soil from the hand, then animals finished unearthing it,’ Simms continued. ‘The walkers found the hand sticking out of the ground. Unfortunately, they weren’t certain what it was at first, so they dug away some of the soil to make sure.’

‘Lord protect us from amateurs,’ Wainwright intoned. It might have been coincidence that he was looking at me.

I knelt down on one of the metal stepping plates to examine the hand. It was exposed from the carpal bones of the wrist. Most of the soft tissue had been gnawed away, and the first two fingers, which would have been uppermost, were completely missing. That much was only to be expected – larger scavengers like foxes, and even bigger birds like crows or gulls, would have been more than capable of detaching them.

But what interested me was that, beneath the teeth marks left in the bone, the broken surfaces of the phalanges looked smooth.

‘Did any of the walkers tread on the hand, or damage it while they were digging?’ I asked.

‘They claim not.’ Simms’ face was expressionless as he looked at me. ‘Why?’

‘Probably nothing. Just that the fingers are broken. Snapped cleanly by the look of things, so it wasn’t done by an animal.’

‘Yes, I had noticed,’ Wainwright drawled.

‘You think that’s significant?’ Simms asked.

Wainwright didn’t give me a chance to answer. ‘Too soon to say. Unless Dr Hunter has any theories … ?’

I wasn’t about to be drawn. ‘Not yet. Have you found anything else?’ The area inside the tent would have already been picked clean for evidence by SOCOs.

‘Only two small bones on the surface that we think are a rabbit’s. Certainly not human, but you’re welcome to take a look.’ Simms was looking at his watch. ‘Now, if there’s nothing else, I have a press conference. Professor Wainwright will brief you on anything you need to know. You’ll be working under his direct supervision.’

Wainwright was watching me with an expression of mild interest. While the pathologist would have final say over the remains, as a forensic archaeologist responsibility for the excavation would naturally fall to him. I didn’t have a problem with that, at least in theory. But I knew of cases where interred bodies had been damaged by inept or over-enthusiastic excavations, and my job wasn’t made any easier when a skull had been shattered by a pickaxe or a spade.

And I’d no intention of being treated like Wainwright’s assistant.

‘That’s fine, as far as the excavation goes,’ I said. ‘Obviously, I’d expect to be consulted on anything that might affect the remains themselves.’

There was a silence inside the tent. Simms studied me coldly. ‘Leonard and I have known each other for a long time, Dr Hunter. We’ve worked on numerous inquiries together in the past. Very successfully, I might add.’

‘I wasn’t—’

‘You came highly recommended, but I want team players. I have a very personal stake in this investigation, and I won’t tolerate any disruptions. From anyone. Do I make myself clear?’

I was aware of Wainwright watching, and felt sure that Simms had been primed by the archaeologist. I felt myself bristle at his attitude, but I’d worked with enough difficult SIOs to know better than to argue. I kept my own face as studiedly neutral as his.

‘Of course.’

‘Good. Because I’m sure I needn’t tell you how important this is. Jerome Monk may be behind bars, but as far as I’m concerned my job isn’t finished until his victims have been found and returned to their families. If – if – this is one of them, then I need to know it.’ Simms stared at me for a moment longer until he was satisfied he’d made his point. ‘Now, if we’re done I’ll leave you gentlemen to your work.’

He brushed out through the tent flaps. Neither Wainwright nor I spoke for a moment. The archaeologist cleared his throat theatrically.

‘Well, Dr Hunter, shall we make a start?’

Time seemed suspended under the glare of the floodlights. The dark peat was reluctant to relinquish its hold on the body, clinging wetly to the flesh that gradually emerged from below the surface. Progress was slow. With graves dug in most types of soil, the grave shape or ‘cut’ is usually easily defined. The in fill soil that’s been removed and then replaced is looser and less compact than the undisturbed earth around it, making it relatively easy to identify the edges of the hole. With peat the demarcation is less obvious. It soaks up water like a sponge, so it tends not to break up like other soils. The grave cut can still be found, but it requires more care and skill.

Wainwright had both.

His sheer physical presence dominated the enclosed space within the gently billowing blue walls. I’d half expected to be delegated to the sidelines, but he’d been unexpectedly happy for me to help with the excavation. Once my pride had stopped stinging, I was forced to appreciate just how good the forensic archaeologist was. The big hands were surprisingly deft as they carefully scraped away the moist peat to expose the buried remains, the thick fingers as precise as any surgeon’s. We worked side by side, kneeling on the metal stepping plates laid out beside the grave, and as the body gradually emerged from the dark earth I found myself revising my earlier impressions of the man.

We’d been working in silence for a while when he used his trowel to scoop up two halves of an earthworm severed by a spade. ‘Remarkable things, aren’t they? Allolobophora. Simple organism, no brain and barely any nervous system to speak of. A myth that they grow back when you chop ‘em in half of course. Just goes to show you shouldn’t believe everything you’re told.’

He tossed the worm into the heather and set down the trowel, wincing as his knees cracked loudly. ‘This doesn’t get any easier with age. But then what does? Still, you’re too young to know about that. London man, aren’t you?’

‘Based there, yes. You?’

‘Oh, I’m a local. Torbay. Driving distance, thank God, so I don’t have to be put up in whatever fleapit the police have found. Don’t envy you that.’ He rubbed his lower back. ‘So how’re you finding Dartmoor so far?’

‘Bleak, from what I’ve seen of it.’

‘Ah, but you aren’t seeing it at its best. God’s own country, especially for an archaeologist. Largest concentration of Bronze Age remains in Britain, and the whole moor’s like an industrial museum. You can still find the old lead and tin mine workings dotted about like flies in amber. Wonderful! Well, to old dinosaurs like me, anyway. You married?’

I was having trouble keeping up. ‘Yes, I am.’

‘Sensible man. A good woman keeps us sane. Although how they put up with us is another matter. My wife deserves a medal – as she frequently reminds me.’ He chuckled. ‘Any children?’

‘A little girl, Alice. She’s five.’

‘Ah. A good age. I have two daughters, both flown the nest now. Enjoy them while they’re young. Believe me, ten years from now you’ll be wondering where your little girl went to.’

I smiled, dutifully. ‘We’ve a while yet before she’s a teenager.’

‘Make the most of it. And may I give you a tip?’

‘Go ahead.’ This wasn’t the Wainwright I’d been expecting.

‘Never take your work home with you. I’m talking figuratively, of course. But detachment is essential in our business, especially when you have a family. Otherwise this will suck you dry. No matter what you see, no matter how appalling, remember that it’s just a job.’

He picked up his trowel again and turned back to the remains.

‘Actually, I was talking to someone recently who knew you. Said you’d originally trained as a medic?’

‘I did a medical degree before switching to anthropology, yes. Who told you that?’

He frowned. ‘Do you know, I’ve been racking my brains trying to remember. My memory’s not what it was. I think it was at some forensic conference. We were talking about the new generation making their mark on the field. Your name was mentioned.’

I was surprised that Wainwright would admit even having heard of me. Despite myself I was flattered.

‘Quite a leap, anthropology from medicine,’ he went on, busily scraping the soil from around an elbow. ‘I gather you trained in the US? That research facility in Tennessee, wasn’t it? The one that specializes in decomposition.’

‘The Anthropological Research Facility. I spent a year there.’

It had been before I’d met Kara, after I’d switched careers and exchanged working with the living for the dead. I waited for the put-down. It didn’t come. ‘Sounds like quite a place. Although probably not for me. I have to confess I’m not a great fan of Calliphoridae. Disgusting things.’

‘I’m not a big fan myself, but they have their uses.’ Calliphoridae was the family classification for the blowfly, whose life cycle provided an effective clock for charting decomposition. Wainwright was obviously keen on Latin names.

‘I expect they do. Though not in this instance, sadly. Far too cold.’ He pointed with his trowel at the remains. ‘So, what do you make of it?’

‘I’ll have a better idea once the body’s at the mortuary.’

‘Of course. But I’m sure you’ve already drawn some conclusions.’

I could see the mouth smile under the face mask. I was reluctant to commit myself, knowing how easily things could change once the remains were cleaned. But Wainwright was nothing like the ogre I’d been expecting, and it was just the two of us there. Given his past antipathy to forensic anthropology, it wouldn’t hurt to let him know he wasn’t the only expert there.

I sat back on my heels to consider what we’d uncovered.

Peat is a unique substance. Formed from partially decayed plant, animal and insect remains, it’s an environment that’s inimical to most of the bacteria and insects that usually populate the earth beneath our feet. Low in oxygen and almost as acidic as vinegar, it can effectively pickle organic matter, tanning it like specimens in a lab jar. Whole mammoth tusks have been found in peat bogs, while human corpses buried hundreds of years before can emerge uncannily intact. The body of one man discovered in the village of Tollund, Denmark in the 1950s was so well preserved that at first it was thought he was a recent murder victim. Given the rope tied around his neck he probably had been murdered, though if so it was over two thousand years before.

But the same properties that make peat an archaeological gold mine can also make it a forensic nightmare. Determining an accurate time-since-death interval is difficult at the best of times: without the natural markers supplied by decomposition it can be all but impossible.

In this instance, though, I doubted it would be such a problem. About half of the body was now exposed. It was lying more or less on one side, knees roughly pulled up, upper body curled in a crumpled foetal position. Both the thin top that clung to the torso, through which the outline of a bra could be seen, and the short skirt were synthetic, and contemporary in style. And while I couldn’t claim to be an expert, the high-heeled shoe on the now exposed right foot looked to me like a relatively new fashion.

The entire body – hair, skin and clothes – was caked in viscous black peat. Even so, nothing could disguise the horrific damage that had been inflicted. The outlines of broken ribs were clearly visible beneath the muddy fabric, and jagged bones poked through the flesh of the arms and lower legs. Beneath the clinging mat of hair, the skull was crushed and misshapen, the cheeks and nose caved in.

‘Not much yet, apart from the obvious,’ I said, cautiously.

‘Which is?’

I shrugged. ‘Female, although I suppose there’s an outside chance it could be a transsexual.’

Wainwright made a scoffing noise. ‘God help us. In my day that would never have been an issue. When did things get so complicated? Go on.’

I was beginning to warm to my theme. ‘It’s difficult to say yet how long the body’s been buried. There’s some decomposition, but that’s probably explained by how close it was to the surface.’

Proximity to the air would allow aerobic bacteria to break down the soft tissues even in a peat grave, albeit at a slower rate. Wainwright nodded agreement. ‘So the right timeframe to be one of Monk’s victims? Less than two years, say?’

‘It could be, yes,’ I conceded. ‘But I’m not going to speculate just yet.’

‘No, of course. And the injuries?’

‘Too soon to say if they’re ante- or post-mortem, but she was obviously badly beaten. Possibly with some kind of weapon. Hard to imagine anyone breaking bones like that with their bare hands.’

‘Not even Jerome Monk?’ Behind his mask Wainwright grinned at my discomfort. ‘Come on, David, admit it. This does look like one of his.’

‘I’ll have a better idea once the body’s been cleaned and I can see the skeleton.’

‘You’re a cautious man: I like that. But she’s the right sort of age, you can see that just from the clothes. No one over twenty-one would dare wear a skirt that short.’

‘I don’t think—’

He gave a bass chuckle. ‘I know, I know, that isn’t very politically correct. But unless this is a case of mutton – or even ram – dressed as lamb, then we’ve got a teenage girl, young woman or whatever, who’s been savagely beaten and buried in Jerome Monk’s back yard. You know what they say, if it looks like a fish and smells like a fish …’

His manner grated, but he was only saying what I’d thought myself. ‘It’s possible.’

‘Ah, a palpable hit! I’d say probable myself, but still. Which leaves the question of which one of Monk’s unfortunate paramours this might be. One of the Bennett twins or the Williams girl?’

‘The clothes might tell us that.’

‘True, but this is more your province than mine. And I suspect you already have an inkling.’ He chuckled. ‘Don’t worry, you’re not on the witness stand. Humour me.’

He was a hard man to refuse. ‘I’d only be guessing at this stage, but …’


‘Well, the Bennett sisters were both quite tall.’ I’d learned that from my hurried research after Simms had called: Zoe and Lindsey had the willowy grace of catwalk models. ‘Whoever this is, she’s more petite. It’s hard to get an accurate impression of height with the body curled like this, but you can get enough of an idea of the femur’s length to make a pretty good guess. I don’t think whoever this was could have been more than five foot three or four at the most.’

Even when it was fully cleaned of soft tissue, which wasn’t the case here, the thigh bone was only a rough indicator of stature. But I’d developed a reasonable eye for such things, and even with the remains contorted and caked in mud I was reasonably sure they wouldn’t have been tall enough to be one of the Bennett sisters.

Wainwright’s forehead creased as he stared down at the uppermost leg. ‘Blast. Should have seen that myself.’

‘It’s just a guess. And as you say, it’s more my area than yours.’

He shot me a look that held none of the joviality of a moment ago. Then his eyes crinkled. He gave a booming laugh.

‘Yes, you’re quite right. So, the odds are that this is Tina Williams. Good.’ He clapped his hands together before I could say anything. ‘Anyway, first things first. Let’s finish digging her out, shall we?’

Picking up his trowel he set back to work, leaving me with the obscure feeling that the conversation had somehow been my idea.

We didn’t speak much after that, but we made good progress. The only interruptions came when a SOCO arrived to sift through the peat from the grave. Except for a few more rabbit bones, though, it held little of interest.

It was dark outside the tent by the time the body was ready to be removed. It lay at the bottom of the muddy pit, filthy and pathetic. Simms had returned as we were finishing, accompanied by the pathologist, who he introduced as Dr Pirie.

Pirie cut an odd figure. He couldn’t have been much more than five feet tall, so that his pristine overalls looked too big for his small frame. The face looking at me from beneath the hood was so fine-boned it could have belonged to a child, except that the skin was lined and wrinkled, and the eyes behind the gold half-moon spectacles were old and knowing.

‘Good evening, gentlemen. Making progress?’ His voice was precise and waspish as he came to the graveside. Next to Wainwright’s towering bulk the pathologist looked smaller than ever, a chihuahua to the archaeologist’s Great Dane. But there was no mistaking the authority he brought with him.

Wainwright stood back to give him room. Reluctantly, I thought. ‘Nearly done. I was about to hand over to the SOCOs to finish off.’

‘Good.’ The small mouth pursed as he crouched beside the shallow hole. ‘Oh yes, very nice …’

I wasn’t sure if he was referring to the excavation or the remains themselves. Pathologists were renowned for being an eccentric breed: Pirie was apparently no exception.

‘The victim’s female, probably in her late teens or early twenties, judging by her clothes.’ Wainwright had lowered his face mask now he’d moved away from the grave. His mouth quirked in amusement. ‘Dr Hunter thought she might be a transsexual but I think we can discount that.’

I looked at him in surprise. Simms gave a dismissive sniff.


‘You can see her injuries for yourself,’ Wainwright boomed, all business now. ‘Probably caused by either a clubbing weapon or someone with prodigious strength.’

‘A little early to say, I think?’ Pirie commented from beside the grave.

‘Yes, of course. That’s for the post-mortem to decide,’ Wainwright corrected himself smoothly. ‘As for how long it’s been here, if I was pushed I’d say less than two years.’

‘You’re sure?’ Simms asked sharply.

Wainwright spread his hands. ‘It’s only a guess at this stage, but given the peat conditions and the level of decomp I’m fairly confident.’

I stared at him, unable to believe I’d heard right. Simms nodded in satisfaction. ‘So this could be one of Monk’s victims, then?’

‘Oh, I’d say that was a distinct possibility. In fact if I had to hazard another guess I’d say this filly could well be the Williams girl. The femur’s far too short to belong to anyone as tall as the Bennett twins, but if memory serves she was, oh, five three, five four? That’d be about right. And the injuries certainly point to Monk after what he did to Angela Carter.’

Carson. Angela Carson, not Carter. But I was too angry to speak: Wainwright was shamelessly stealing credit for what I’d told him. Yet I couldn’t object without seeming petty. Pirie looked up from his position by the grave.

‘Hardly enough to provide an ID, surely.’

Wainwright gave a self-deprecating shrug. ‘Call it an educated guess. At the very least I think it’s worth seeing if this is the Williams girl first.’

He raised his eyebrows at Simms. The policeman looked energized as he slapped his hand against his thigh. ‘I agree. Dr Pirie, how soon will you be able to confirm if it’s Tina Williams?’

‘That all depends on the condition of the remains once they’re cleaned.’ The diminutive pathologist looked up at me. ‘It’ll be faster if Dr Hunter works with me? I expect skeletal trauma is more his field than mine?’

He had an odd, sing-song cadence. I managed a nod, furious and stunned by what Wainwright had done.

‘Whatever you need.’ Simms no longer seemed to be listening. ‘The sooner we can announce who this is the better. And if Monk buried one of his victims here it’s reasonable to assume the others aren’t far away. Excellent work, Leonard, thank you. Give my regards to Jean. If you’re both free this weekend perhaps you’d like to come over for Sunday lunch?’

‘We’ll look forward to it,’ Wainwright said.

Simms turned to me as an afterthought. ‘Anything you’d care to add, Dr Hunter?’

I looked at Wainwright. His expression was politely enquiring, but his eyes held a predatory satisfaction. OK, if that’s the way you want it


‘Then I’ll leave you to it,’ Simms said. ‘We’ll be making an early start in the morning.’


I was still fuming later that evening when I arrived at the pub I’d been booked into. It was a few miles from Black Tor, a place called Oldwich I’d been told was less than a twenty-minute drive away. Either the directions were overly optimistic or I’d made a wrong turning somewhere, because it was three-quarters of an hour before I saw the smattering of lights in the darkness ahead.

About time. It had been a long day and driving on the moor in the pitch blackness wasn’t my idea of fun. The memory of how I’d let Wainwright outmanoeuvre me still burned. Given his reputation I should have known better. A misty drizzle flecked the windscreen, refracting the glare from my headlights as I pulled into the pub car park. A flaking sign hung outside, the words The Trencherman’s Arms faded almost to nothing.