The Sea Detective by Mark Douglas-Home
This is a pacey, gripping read that opens with the main character, Cal McGill being impaled by a wooden fence as he escapes the alarms and sirens sound around him. The fence surrounds the home of a Scottish Minister: parliamentary not religious. Cal has trespassed for a noble cause – to raise awareness of climate change. He is a pretty nerdy guy who is obsessed with ocean currents, and subsequently global warming. Cal is the so-called sea detective; he is also the only UK expert in global current movements (he is in the midst of a PhD on the topic) and he soon becomes engaged in a mystery. A mystery, that is both intriguing and gruesome: feet, still encased within shoes, are washing up on various parts of the Scottish coast and Cal is trying to identify the location at which they started to drift in an effort to solve the obvious Who? question
Cal’s obsession with drifting objects has been fuelled by family folklore. His maternal grandfather went overboard on a ship during the second world war, somewhere in the waters between Scotland and Norway, but his body was never found. Cal’s family can be traced to a remote island with its own trunk of stories, decades old rivalry and mistruths to be exposed. And Cal the detective dives into the small town politics headfirst fuelled by a desire to work out just where his grandfather’s body may have ended up.
There are several mysteries in this story that are all resolved simultaneously, which adds to the intrigue of the story and I think contributes to the success of the book. You never know quite how they all fit together and, indeed, if they will fit together. The twists and turns are not anticipated and yet believable. There are some inevitable television drama characters – a hedonistic macho senior police officer; a lonely and unlikely crime solver; and some clichéd baddies. But Cal himself is believable, true to his values and will be a hero detective that readers will enjoy meeting in the subsequent books. And there are already subsequent books. This is the first in the series and was originally published 2011 by a small Scottish publishing house, Sandstone Press, and is now released worldwide by Penguin Books.
I’m not usually a big fan of crime novels, and although the content of this at times is disturbing, the way it is written is not. It is a great whodunit and gripping story that I did not want to put down.
REVIEWER: Gillian Whalley Torckler
TITLE: The Sea Detective
AUTHOR(S): Mark Douglas-Home
PUBLISHER: Penguin Random House