Having spent the last hour or so stoking a bonfire, getting rid of old files, with Paloma Faith on the iPod, I drifted into that sublime state of contentment where the world doesn’t get any better. My thoughts wandered firstly to all the work which had created this mass of paper; all the people I’d met, all the meetings I’d attended, the dozens of reports I’d read and written, the years that had passed by. The flames drew me back to an article I’d read recently about how difficult it is to dispose of a body in a fire. It seems that, with the exception of a crematorium furnace, it’s almost impossible to get sufficient heat in a fire to break down flesh and bone to the necessary fineness of ash. Not that I have anyone in mind, of course, except perhaps a victim in a future storyline, but it doesn’t hurt to be prepared.
There are probably dozens of novels where the villain digs a shallow pit in the woods, douses the corpse in petrol and sets it alight, then he/she bounds free with all traces of the dastardly deed destroyed. With modern forensic techniques, however, anything less than total destruction of the skeletal remains just won’t be sufficient. Luckily, my hero, Inspector James Given, is active in the late 1930s so he may have his work cut out at some point in the future.
ps I know I should have been disposing of the papers environmentally but the pile was literally a foot thick and they were confidential so several hours of shredding would have been the only alternative.