A temenos (Greek: τέμενος; plural: τεμένη, temenē) is a piece of land cut off and assigned as an official domain, especially to kings and chiefs, or a piece of land marked off from common uses and dedicated to a god, such as a sanctuary, holy grove, or holy precinct.
This is the fourth book in a series featuring Norfolk copper DCI Greg Geldard, but author Heather Peck (left) wastes no time in providing all the back-story we need. Geldard is divorced from his former wife, Isabelle, who is a professional singer. She has now remarried a celebrated orchestral conductor, with whom she has a child, while Geldard is in a relationship with one of his colleagues, DS Chris Mathews. When he gets an early morning ‘phone call from Isabelle saying she and her son have been threatened by a foreign criminal connected to one of Geldard’s previous cases, he is forced to stay at arm’s length, but is disturbed to hear from a colleague that Isabelle may be making the story up.
With this at the back of his mind, he has to focus on human remains found during an archaeological dig. Not unusual, you might think, but this skeleton has modern dental work and was buried with a 1911 silver thruppence in its mouth. After mining down into HOLMES, the national police database, Geldard’s team discover more cases that seem to be similar, and when part of the cliff near Hemsby collapses in a violent storm, another skeleton is revealed, along with its now obligatory coin. Meanwhile, in a series of short episodes which she calls ‘Entr’actes’, Peck introduces us to the man we presume is the killer, but these paragraphs are, at first, enigmatic, and only make sense towards the end of the book when the killer becomes a person of interest to the team.
Geldard’s relationship with Chris Mathews comes under a strain as she resents what she sees as his lingering affection for his former wife, and she is equally unhappy about his working relationship with DI Sarah Laurence. Do real-life coppers get into relationships with close colleagues? I don’t know, but other fictional social partnerships I recall were Tom Thorne and Helen Weeks in the Mark Billingham books, and Peter Robinson’s DCI Banks and his feisty on-off partner Annie Cabbot.
Eventually, the killer makes a big mistake and is pulled in, Geldard’s only problem being to convince the CPS that he is fit to stand trial and plead. There is to be no celebratory night in the pub, however. Heather Peck has kept the sub-plot featuring the foreign gangster gently simmering in the background, but right at the end she turns up the heat – and leaves us with a cliffhanger worthy of Scheherazade’s tales.
I loved the Norfolk setting of this story, and as a former resident, I can vouch for its authenticity. Greg Geldard is pleasantly ‘normal’ for a fictional senior detective, and Heather Peck relies on her mastery of modern police methods to hold our interest and keep the story ticking along. The Temenos Remains is published by Ormesby Publishing and is out now.
Heather Peck is certainly a busy woman. As well as writing novels, she has been a farmer, chaired an NHS Trust, has worked on animal welfare, sailed a boat on the Broads, volunteered in Citizens Advice and the Witness Service and vaccinated humans against Covid. To find out more, go to her website.