Detective Sergeant Andrew Carter has just walked in the door of the Harrogate Division of the West Riding Police in Yorkshire. Newly transferred from London, Carter is looking forward to his first day on the job. But it turns out to be a completely unexpected first day.
He’s greeted by his new boss, Detective Chief Inspector Oldroyd, who promptly tells him there’s not time to fill out forms; they’re on their way to a murder scene. A body has been found in a cave system in the Yorkshire Dales National Park. The extensive limestone caverns are enormously popular with cavers, and it was a caving team that stumbled over the body.
The victim is one Dave Atkins, himself an experienced caver. The problem is that he’s wearing no cave equipment and his body is two hours from the nearest entrances. Not only do the police have to find a murderer; they have to figure out how a body got to where it simply couldn’t get to.
The police also have to deal with an overabundance of suspects. Atkins liked to seduce married women, and from all accounts, he was highly successful. He also was involved in several questionable investment deals, and the investors always seem to lose their money. As Oldroyd, Carter, and their team investigate, they discover plenty of motives. But whose motive was strong enough to kill? And then another caver calls Oldroyd, saying he has information about who the murderer might be. Unfortunately, he, too, is killed before he can disclose what he knows.
The Body in the Dales by J.R. Ellis is the story of the investigation. It’s also a dip into Yorkshire history (an antiquarian book will be a key role in unraveling the puzzle) and an introduction to the cave system associated with the Yorkshire Dales.
Ellis is a retired teacher with a lifelong interest in all things Yorkshire. The Body in the Dales is the first of five in the Yorkshire Murder Mystery series; the others are The Quartet Murder, The Murder at Redmire Hall, The Royal Baths Murder, and The Nidderdale Murders. He also writes poetry, ghost stories, and biography, and has completed a screenplay about the poet Edward Thomas and is working on a memoir about growing up in Yorkshire.
The Body in the Dales is an engrossing story of tangled relationships and murderous motives, played out against the backdrop of cave exploration.