DEAD SECRET by Roy Lewis
AN ARNOLD LANDON MYSTERY
Carroll & Graf Publishers, 2001
Ken Stafford has invested a bundle in building a hunting development but he needs an access road. He'll do just about anything to put the road through, including running through an ancient woods and disturbing an archeological trove. The University archeologists, University functionary Arnold Landon, environmentalists, and the woods' owner all oppose Stafford, each for their own reasons.
Most of the novel, DEAD SECRETS, consists of this background. The peat bog itself is fascinating, with its anerobic ability to preserve dead bodies for hundreds of years. And bodies there are. Including at least one body that isn't quite so ancient. Likewise, the University politics with which Landon must cope are every bit as petty and realistic as any office politics--yet author Roy Lewis (see other BooksForABuck.com reviews of novels by this author) manages to make them interesting.
While the bog and woods have a horrible history, there is plenty of conflict in the present. The real estate development is one, but there are personal conflicts as well--conflicts that just might escalate to murder. With the bog so handy, it would be no great difficulty to bury a body and plan on it not emerging for thousands of years to some future archeology team.
The mystery itself plays a relatively small (perhaps too small in my opinion) role in this interesting novel. The death itself occurs well into the second half of the novel. Arnold Landon fails to show any great perceptiveness even when the clues literally thrust themselves on him. Certainly relatively few mystery readers are likely to be fooled by any of the transparent red herrings.
Lewis writes with an approachable style. Landon is a believable and likable character (except when he fails to put together obvious clues near the end of the novel) caught in the midst of power struggles within the University and in the greater world around him, yet doing his best to maintain his center. DEAD SECRET is a very pleasant read.
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