It was plain enough, at least to the two detectives, who these people were. Greene introduced himself and Waters, and the woman stepped forward and shook hands with them – a no-nonsense sort of handshake as she said, ‘I wish we could have met under happier circumstances.’

She was smiling and this seemed to be if not a joke then a light-hearted comment – perhaps it was the sort of thing forensic archaeologists are trained to say to break the ice at exhumations. Then she added, ‘Professor Lindsay, from Cambridge. Alice to my friends. And this is Robin, one of my PhDs. They will be assisting me this morning.’

Waters looked around for the others but none had appeared – and then he understood. Robin still had their arms full of equipment, making no attempt to put it down in order to shake hands. The look on their face was not defensive but rather said, if you’re going to be boring I’d rather not get to know you. Waters said hello and received a nod of acknowledgement.

Greene went around the group, introducing them one by one; he had remembered not only their names but their roles, which Waters thought an impressive feat of memory – he hadn’t seen the detective inspector write anything down. Professor Lindsay greeted them but gave no sign of wanting to shake hands with everyone. Behind her, Robin was already laying out the equipment on the short grass of the path.

The professor said, ‘And Reverend Gray? The priest of this parish?’

She has, Waters thought, an unerring instinct for something, if it’s only trouble. Gray said curtly that he was that person, and then the woman said, ‘Before we begin, Reverend, could we have a private word?’

The two of them walked back together along the path towards the church. An odd couple, the vicar in his best robes and the dumpy woman in her ill-fitting jeans and charity-shop jumper. They went far enough to be out of earshot. Greene approached Robin and asked whether they could assist in any way, but Waters kept one eye on the unheard conversation. The professor did most of the talking at first, asking questions – when Gray began to say a little more, she listened intently, her head cocked to one side like a plump little bird. Then she spoke again and Gray was nodding. When she placed a hand on his arm as she asked one final question, Waters realised for the first time that Professor Alice Lindsay was probably a genius.

An excerpt from

Missing Pieces

A Kings Lake Investigation

Coming this December