Thursday, August 12, 2021

"Down Among the Dead" by Damien Boyd

The Battle of Sedgemoor (1685) has the distinction of being the last battle ever fought on English soil. James Scott, the Duke of Monmouth, had rebelled against his uncle, James II and was aiming to seize the throne. The terrain was boggy, foggy, and crisscrossed by streams and ditches. The battle, such as it was, was joined when a shot was unexpectedly fired, warning the royalist troops. What is called a battle ended in wholesale slaughter. Many of those who survived were transported as slaves to the West Indies. 

The battle has long held the interest of British mystery writer Damien Boyd, who uses the battle and its possible modern repercussions in the tenth D.I. Nick Dixon story, Down Among the Dead. Boyd writes great mysteries, and this one has his trademarks of a gripping, engaging narrative and a thrilling climax.


Fifteen years previously, Daniel Parker was convicted of being the serial killer known as The Scytheman. Several people, mostly young men, had disappeared, but a mother and her teenaged daughter were the victims whose murders resulted in Parker’s apprehension and conviction. D.I. Dixon’s chief was the young arresting officer, but he was never convinced that Parker was the real killer. Yet the killings had stopped after Parker’s apprehension. All of the killings were in the lands adjacent to the old Sedgemoor battleground. 


Damien Boyd

Parker is making an appeal for a retrial, his lawyer submitting new evidence that wasn’t available at the time. It’s unlikely, though, that the high court will allow a new trial. That is, until D.I. Dixon, put in charge of looking at all the evidence, discovers that Parker may indeed be innocent. And then a body of one of the missing teens is found by an archaeological crew. The problem is that the post-mortem shows the body had been buried at most nine months before. Parker couldn’t have done it, since he was in prison.


The Scytheman still walks. And soon there’s another murder.


Boyd uses his own experience as a legal solicitor and a member of the Crown Prosecution Service to frame his stories, and then infuses considerable research in just the right way. In the novels, Dixon had been a promising young barrister, until he chucked it all and joined the police. As it is, he’s one of the youngest detective inspectors in the Avon and Somerset police force; he’s also the most brilliant at solving cases which look unsolvable. Like this one.


Down Among the Dead is an excellent police procedural with an added bonus – telling the story of the Battle of Sedgemoor.



My review of Damien Boyd’s As the Crow Flies


My review of Damien Boyd’s Head in the Sand.


My review of Damien Boyd’s Kickback.


My review of Damien Boyd’s Swansong.

My review of Damien Boyd's Dead Level.


My review of Damien Boyd’s Death Sentence.


My review of Damien Boyd’s Heads or Tails.


My review of Damien Boyd’s Dead Lock.


My review of Damien Boyd’s Beyond the Point.


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