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Peter Ackroyd: First Light

This novel is unusual for Ackroyd, in that it is set outside London. The story concerns an archeological dig in Dorset of a Neolithic site. It starts, dramatically, with the appearance of an ancient night sky. The dig is being carried out under the supervision of Mark Clare. The locals, of course, have their ideas about the site and are not too happy with it being disturbed. The cast of characters also includes Joey Hanover, a former music-hall star, and an astronomer, Damian Fall. Mark and his wife, Kathleen, want to adopt a child and the people from the adoption agency also get involved. So when the dig is sabotaged, there are plenty of suspects.

Of course, this is Peter Ackroyd, so, even though it is not in London, we know that the past is going to come crashing into the present, causing problems for at least some of the characters, not least when they find a burial chamber, with a dead body in it. How the characters relate to each other and to the dig and who wants to stop the dig is what makes the book. And maybe it is Aldebaran the ancient star that has the last word.

Publishing history

First published 1989 by Hamish Hamilton