He leaves the house trembling with excitement – the adventure beginnings.
Stepping out into the twilight world he sees a street filled with glowing orange orbs, afloat in a miasma of Victorianesque fog, like something out of a Conan-Doyle novel. The world is silent and beautiful and it is fitting that his Cheltenham adventure should start with such filmic raptures.
He leaves the sanctity of the storm-porch.
It’s not a Victorian fog; it’s rain.
He clatters down the street, the wheels from the suitcase sending a volley of ack-ack fire into all the surrounding houses. The echoes bounce back intensifying the sound. After about 200 yards and a street full of angry neighbours he decides that the vibrations from the case are probably not going to be doing his laptop any favours. He picks it up and puffs his way further down the road as the rain slowly plasters his hair to his forehead. The romanticism is slowly departing this tale.
At the next junction imagination and imagery soar. The world has moved from Doyle to Rankin. The Victorian lamps have become cold sodium pools, scant comfort in this isolated early morning as the occasional car purrs past on slick tyres. Headlights cause hundreds of thin shadows to creep towards him from the decaying corpses of fallen leaves. The shadows stretch forward distending like evil claws – then the car passes and they melt away their source, once again, an urbane symptom of the season.
Now Rankin, in turn, gives way to Graham as our adventurer turns into Butchers Baulk (that most Midsomer of alleyways). A kilometre of claustrophobic alleyway hemmed in by over-reaching trees, which act as a barrier to a graveyard on one side and playing fields the other. At least it will provide shelter from the rain. The fine mist that is enveloping the upmost canopy is slowly working it’s way down the bark of the trees like the creeping sweat of a high fever. It is collecting in leaves and dripping slowly down the tree leaf at a time, each drop getting heavier with every mini descent. He finds he is getting wetter here than he was out in the open. If Barnaby is likely to investigate anywhere else before he retires it should be here.
At the station he collects his thoughts.
Stepping off the train we are now in PD James territory. The world is waking up as Cambridge station offers its usual myriad of students, tourists and commuters. The sinister cawing of corvids summons images of a body soon to be found, soon to become the painstaking project of Cordelia Grey. They wheel in a flat slate grey sky, which dissipates the first of the dawn light uniformly without hierarchy or differentiation. This is in direct contrast to the town and gown it sits heavily upon.
No time to contemplate any further as the train to Birmingham approaches and suddenly Cordelia Grey feels more like Marple about to take a train to another unsuspecting village due to be stricken by a plague of murders.
It’s at about this point that my brain went dead and I stared out if the window for hours until Birmingham New Street.