First Line: A vase of blue African lilies, Diana's favourites, filled the church alcove.
Does Cal McGill really want to be the "Sea Detective"? Soul-weary from unceasing requests from bereaved parents begging him to locate the bodies of their children lost at sea, Cal has come to a remote area on the northwest coast of Scotland to reevaluate his life. There he sees a young woman standing on the beach, staring out to sea.
Soon he is compelled to investigate the twenty-six-year-old mystery of another young woman who stood on that very same beach, then walked into the sea and was never seen again. Cal's going to be brought face-to-face with a tight-knit coastal community that's hellbent on keeping its secrets.
I'm glad to report that The Woman Who Walked into the Sea did not meet my expectations-- it exceeded them. Expecting to read the second book in a mystery series featuring the same cast and location as in the book before it, I found something new. Yes, Cal McGill is still with us, thank goodness, but he's set down in the midst of a brand-new locale and a secondary cast filled with memorable characters.
The author brings his setting to life, so much so that I could almost smell the sea air and hear the crash of the waves and the cry of the birds. With the village being promised new life due to a proposed offshore wind farm, there's an ecological element to this second mystery, too, reminding those of us who have read The Sea Detective of Cal's strong beliefs on the subject.
Douglas-Home is so very adept at weaving together a complex story without bogging down the pace or the readability. He explores many questions relating to a complicit village whose residents always seem willing to believe the worst. He shows how secrets can twist in upon themselves and fester, and with surgical precision, he shows how love can be unbelievably cruel.
This complicated tale is carried on the strong shoulders of a vivid cast of characters: the heartsick Cal, Violet who wants an end to secrets, Mr. Anwar who only wants to do what's right, the malevolent Mrs. Anderson, the vibrant little Anna, and Ross Turnbull-- perhaps the most surprising character of them all. The setting, the story, the characters, are all woven together so tightly and so beautifully... definitely one of my best reading experiences so far this year.
Since the author seems to be avoiding any real kind of formula for writing his books, I can't wait to see what he's done with book number three: The Malice of Waves. How lucky I am to have found these books!
The Woman Who Walked into the Sea by Mark Douglas-Home
Penguin Books © 2016
Paperback, 384 pages
Amateur Sleuth, #2 Sea Detective mystery
Source: Purchased from the Book Depository.