Jaine Blackman wonders whether a replacement for Morse and Lewis has been found

When a far from popular land- owner is found with a pitchfork through his neck in a quiet Cotswold village not many people are surprised or inclined to mourn him.

The plot thickens when DCI Guillermo Downes, investigating the murder, recognises the victim as Frank Hurst, a man he suspected of crimes years before after two girls went missing and Frank’s wife was found dead in the couple’s swimming pool.

Plenty of twists and turns follow as half Argentinian, half English Downes – a man with a past – probes the crime.

Author James Marrison went to school in Oxford and was raised in Kirtlington but now lives in Buenos Aires which goes some way to explaining his creation’s unusual ethnic mix.

Marrison, a journalist, had also previously written about the real-life Meon Hill – the site of the fictional killing – where a notorious murder took place on Valentine’s Day, 1945, when a local man was despatched by means of a pitchfork.

Back to the fiction, Downes – known by his colleagues (but not to his often grumpy face) as Shotgun – is an interesting character; and joining him in Moreton-in-Marsh is recently assigned Sergeant Graves, who has left his Oxford posting under a cloud.

Graves, who is missing his old, terminally ill, partner has made short work of the previous two officers tasked to work with him.

Will Graves fare any better?

Well, what do you think?

It’s hard not to wonder whether Marrison had in mind the success of previous Oxford/Oxfordshire detective fiction transferred to screen when he created his dark, complicated DCI and his educated debonaire sidekick sergeant.

I’d certainly watch a Downes and Graves television series. Bring on the bodies!

The Drowning Ground by James Marrison, published by Michael Joseph, £16.99 hardback