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The Lifers' Club cover

The Synopsis

Alan Cadbury is a professional archaeologist: a digger of ancient sites and a man who likes to unravel the mysteries and meaning of the past. Most of the sites he dug were ahead of industrial development or new housing estates, gravel quarries, roads, etc. The people who did the work were down-to-earth. Some were students, others were professional diggers – but they all knew what they wanted from life and were prepared to work long hours, for very low pay. In the seventies to nineties, Alan and his colleagues lived in abandoned houses or camped out on the edges of industrial estates. They were always covered in mud, were deeply suntanned and drunk (or stoned) on their days off. They were feared by respectable citizens. They were known as Circuit Diggers because they worked the 'circuit', moving from one excavation to another, as new sites were opened, right across Britain.

Like others on the circuit, Alan Cadbury is obsessive: he won’t let problems lie, even when he’s slumped drunk in a lonely bedsit, somewhere in the Fens. But there’s another side to him, too: he enjoyes solving mysteries. In the late ‘90s he helped to give a forensic archaeology course and there met Richard Lane, now a senior detective in the Leicestershire force. DCI Lane helps him tackle new cases. But this is his first big one: it involves an 'honour killing', which happened eight years ago in Leicester. Most of the action takes place in the Fens, where Alan has lived all his life. It’s a dark tale of past wrong-doing and modern criminality – on a very large scale. And it’s not without violence and rapid action. Alan’s life may be harsh and at times unpleasant, but it’s not likely to be very long, either.

The Excerpt

The building shook. Windows rattled. Just outside in the quarry, five tons of stone smashed into a dumper truck. Next another, and another, then the turbo-charged diesel screamed into life, as the laden dumper pulled away, passing them close by. Mugs of tea rippled. But nobody in the stuffy Portacabin took any notice. For them, it was routine.

For weeks the rain had been pouring down. Outside, on site, the ground was wet and slimy. Lethal. Inside, water had seeped through the door and formed a little puddle, which slowly drained through a crack in the floor, where the doormat should have been. Condensation ran down the windows, two of which were boarded-up after an attack by vandals the previous week. But as site-huts went, it was pretty good.

Alan Cadbury and his twelve diggers were sipping hot drinks, their hard-hats and hi-viz waterproofs hanging, dripping on a row of pegs by the door. One or two read newspapers. No-one said much. They all just wanted to dry off for a few minutes and relax in the steamy warmth, while outside, in the gravel pit’s washing plant, more stones thundered into yet another dumper, which revved-up and roared away, to shed its load round the back, in the flooded area quarried out the previous year.

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The Author

Francis Pryor was born in London in 1945. After studying archaeology at Cambridge he emigrated to Toronto where he joined the staff of the Royal Ontario Museum. Using the Museum as a base, he began a series of major excavations (1971-78) in England, at Fengate, on the outskirts of Peterborough. Here he revealed an extensive prehistoric landscape, culminating in the discovery, in 1982 of Flag Fen, one of the best preserved Bronze Age sites in Europe. His books include his 'Britain' series (for HarperCollins): Britain BC, Britain AD, Britain in the Middle Ages and The Birth of Modern Britain. Two were filmed for Channel 4. In 2010 he published (with Penguin) The Making of the British Landscape. He has appeared frequently on Time Team and has presented a number of programmes for Radio 4. The Lifers’ Club is his first work of fiction.


The Rewards

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An exclusive tour of Flag Fen Bronze Age site with its discoverer, Francis Pryor

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