An ancient legend, an all-too modern murder, and Chief Superintendent Wycliffe must find the link between them …Every year, at Halloween, high on the Cornish cliffs, a life-sized effigy of a man is strapped to a blazing wheel and run into the sea – a re-enactment of a hideous old legend where the figure had been a living sacrifice. And now Jonathan Riddle, well-known and respected local builder and undertaker, has disappeared – and it seems all too likely that his corpse has gone the way of the historic ‘scapegoat’. As Chief Superintendent Wycliffe begins to investigate, more and more unpleasant facts emerge until he is left with an incredible, and seemingly impossible, solution . . .
Like Winston Graham’s Poldark, Wycliffe found national fame when he came to the national screens via ITV; overall they broadcast 31 episodes covering all the books and then further adaptations. Reading The Scapegoat will give us a chance to get back to the characters that Burley himself had in mind.
The idea of bonfires around the harvest is as old as time. Julius Caesar referred to the druidic practice of burning a willow effigy of a man as a sacrifice and similar examples can be found all around Europe. To explore more about the history of the Wicker Man, click here.
WJ Burley was never well known or discussed, despite the success of his character on television. In this article Martin Edwards discusses some of the reasons why this may be so.
Get a feel for the story by going along to one of the great bonfires around the county. Hopefully not quite so gruesome as in the book! Click here for details of the Bonfire Night event at Heartlands
Get a feel for the area with this wonderful cliff walk around Penzance. Lots of great photos if you can’t make it in person. Click here.
Wycliffe and the Three Toed Pussy (The first Wycliffe novel)
The Bar on the Seine – George Simenon (One of Burley’s favourite authors, featuring the famous detective Maigret)
The Cold Calling – Will Kingdom (also known as Phil Rickman) – A supernatural whodunit.
Get your copy
Grab a copy and join in. You can borrow a copy from your local library buy a copy from your local bookshop or online at Hurley Books