The Water Clock is the first in a series of mysteries with journalist Phillip Dryden as an investigator. I found the backstory on the journalist almost more interesting than the central mystery. He’s working for a local paper, somewhat of a comedown, from his former job in London. Phillip has taken this job because his wife has been in a coma for the past two years ever since a traffic accident that he barely survived. Unfortunately, his unidentified rescuer (and the cause of the accident) did not realize that Phillip’s wife had been in the back seat. Phillip feels guilty about Laura being left behind. He also is beginning to acknowledge his feelings that he’d almost rather have her not recover than for her to need constant care for the rest of her life.
Phillip hasn’t driven since the accident. He has a long-term driver, Humphrey Holt or Humph, to take him to various accidents and interviews. Humph is strange character and pretty anti-social, but backs up Phillip when necessary. The discovery of a murdered body in the trunk of a car in a frozen river starts off a chain of events. Phillip doesn’t have much faith in Detective Sergeant Stubbs, who is assigned to the case, and begins investigations on his own. Evidence implicates an unsolved robbery from more than twenty-five years prior as central to the current crime. Phillip’s investigations put Laura at risk, but also offer him bargaining power with Stubbs in his hope to obtain the sealed documents about his own accident.
The story is set in the Fens of England. Water very much plays a role in Phillip’s life as he was rescued as a child from a frozen river, his father died of ‘misadventure’ during a flood, Laura and his car ended up in a ditch during their accident, and, as the identity of the murdered becomes clearer to Phillip, the Fens are threatened by a severe flood. I think astute readers will be able to solve the mystery before the end of the book, but I didn’t. I’m looking forward to reading the next few books in the series to find out what happens to Phillip and Laura as well as Humph.