A dead house in medieval history was a building next to a church where the dead could be laid out to await their funeral. The story begins with a corpse, an attractive girl, hair washed, bathed and dressed in white. She is found in a dead house next to a small church in Pen-y-Cae, tucked away in the lonely Welsh valleys.
DC Fiona Griffiths from South Wales CID is the only police officer available; following driving with her boss DI Morgan to the scene of a major traffic incident in Brecon. She relishes the journey up into the mountains on a cold October night.
Fiona Griffiths, has an empathy with the dead, or is it a weird obsession? She spends the night with the body. She ponders as to why the dead girl has been laid out with such great care? Fiona, who cannot resist the mysteries of a corpse, is fascinated, and she will not let this one go. Her investigation takes her to a tiny, enigmatic monastery hidden in a remote valley, and onto the wider world, and then to a vast underground cave system.
Fiona finds that the murder victim is not the first, but it will take more than her single-minded determination to solve the case. She faces danger and discomfort as well as potentially becoming a victim herself as she investigates.
The story is told in the first person by Fiona, giving it immediacy and intimacy. Bingham’s Cop is an original and complex character; a different kind of policewoman. She seems to get away with conduct that is at times somewhat unorthodox, though the plot carries you on, twisting, turning and in ways that could be termed unexpected.
As we journey with Fiona through the case as well as her life, we meet a plethora of characters, all beautifully written with verve. The sense of place is convincingly drawn as the Welsh valleys have seldom been portrayed so menacingly.
The Dead House is book five in the series, though the first I have read, meaning I am tracking the previous four urgently, to find out more about Fiona Griffiths, a truly fascinating character.